Photo of Richmond skyline at night.
Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney said a new report highlights that “Richmond wouldn’t be the same without VCU, and VCU wouldn’t be the same without Richmond.” (Allen Jones, University Marketing)

VCU generates $9.5 billion in economic impact for Virginia

A new report reveals the significant, wide-reaching economic and social impact of VCU and VCU Health.

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Virginia Commonwealth University and the VCU Health System generate $9.5 billion in economic activity and create or support 58,000 jobs in Virginia, according to a new report by VCU’s Office of Institutional Equity, Effectiveness and Success; Innovation Gateway, a division of the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation; and the Center for Urban and Regional Analysis in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.

The report also found that VCU and VCU Health’s economic impact within the Richmond city limits is $3.9 billion with 33,000 jobs created or supported. In the Richmond metropolitan area, the impact is $6.3 billion and 44,000 jobs.

In addition to its significant economic impact, the report details how VCU and VCU Health advance transformative innovation, enhancing the economic and social well-being of the region through its investments in talent, place and innovation.

“As an urban institution committed to transformative innovation, VCU is in a unique position to influence the long-term economic, social and physical health and well-being of the communities it serves,” the authors wrote. “This report attempts to answer two questions – how are we doing and how can we do better?”

Shari Garmise, Ph.D., executive director for collective urban and regional impact in the Office of Institutional Equity, Effectiveness and Success at VCU, said the numbers tell only part of the story.

“The report shows the breadth and scope of VCU’s impact on the region including but not limited to advancing health, education, equity and cultural vitality as well as its commitment to not only maintaining that impact but making improvements,” she said. “It is not just a telling of our story but an invitation to the community to a dialogue with us on making us stronger, together.”

The impact that VCU, as a public research institution and health system, has on the state and its people is large and extraordinary, said Michael Rao, Ph.D., president of VCU and VCU Health.

“We are truly the commonwealth’s university — we’re helping to educate people to reach their fullest potential, solve problems and improve the human experience in ways that matter to the public, create healthy communities and provide jobs and job training that contribute to a thriving economy,” Rao said. “Our work advances transformative innovation and enhances the social and economic well-being of this region and its people. This report identifies ways we can do even more, and we’re already enthusiastically moving forward to continue this important work.”

Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney said the report shows how “Richmond wouldn’t be the same without VCU, and VCU wouldn’t be the same without Richmond.”

“The creativity, culture and well-being of the city and the university are inextricably linked,” Stoney said. “Our continued progress and upward trajectory are not simply driven by economics, but by a shared commitment as engaged community partners, focused on lifting up the residents and students who call our great city home.”

VCU has been analyzing its impact for the past 25 years, focusing in the early years on the impact of employment, purchasing and students on the local and state economy. In the most recent impact study in 2017, the analysis widened its scope to include VCU’s impact on innovation, service to the region, community development and moral leadership.

The new report, “Transformative Innovation: 2022 VCU Economic and Social Impact Report,” builds on the 2017 report by looking even more deeply into VCU’s social and cultural impact as well as the university’s economic impact.

The report’s section on talent explores how VCU is meeting the regional workforce needs and advancing equity and economic mobility for all Virginians. It provides information on who VCU students are, how they are doing and the importance of student success for the university, the Richmond region and Virginia. And it details how VCU advances workforce development opportunities.

A section on “place” documents the economic and community impact of VCU and VCU Health and how they influence the region’s “quality of place.” Among the highlights are the RTR Teacher Residency Program in the School of Education that trains teachers with expertise in high-needs areas and high-needs schools; the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU; and the priority of VCU and VCU Health to address social determinants of health, generating programs to focus on housing, food insecurity, workforce development, legal aid, homelessness as well as prevention education and health needs for VCU Health patients and other community residents.

The section on innovation, “From Research to Thriving Communities,” assesses VCU and VCU Health’s contribution to the innovation ecosystem. That work includes the scope of VCU’s research, its translation from the lab to the community, its promotion of entrepreneurship and business development among students, faculty, staff and regional employers and how the response to COVID-19 is advancing a whole new model of transformative innovation.

Leading that effort is VCU Innovation Gateway, a full-service technology transfer office charged with facilitating commercialization of university inventions, including providing support to VCU  start-up companies. In 2021, Innovation Gateway supported 160 new invention disclosures — a 20% increase over the previous year and a more than 50% increase in licensing revenues, at $3.7 million. In its support of entrepreneurship, VCU Innovation Gateway nurtured 14 start-ups based on university intellectual property, including seven that were formed last fiscal year.

“VCU research creates technologies and products that improve health and enrich the quality of life within our communities,” said Ivelina Metcheva, Ph.D., VCU’s assistant vice president for innovation and head of VCU Innovation Gateway. “We also know external partnerships are critical to our success, which is why we are focused on finding ways to collaborate with companies, investors, and entrepreneurial minds in our communities to nurture our IP and startups.”

The report also highlights several specific growth areas where VCU is committed to improve.

In the area of talent, these include a commitment to addressing inequities at the graduate level, especially in areas of medical, pharmacy and dental, by increasing the number of underrepresented minorities in those programs. Along with that goal is a commitment to increasing the number of underrepresented minority students who graduate with science, technology, engineering, math and health undergraduate degrees.

For place, it highlights the university’s commitment to increasing the number of female, minority and small vendors that contract with VCU. And for innovation, it includes the goal of increasing the number of underrepresented minority faculty startups.

The full report is available at