A post to Exponent Philanthropy's blog

Why Academic Research Should Be Part of Every Giving Portfolio

Benefunder is fueling innovation by providing a marketplace for researchers and philanthropists to come together to solve some of the biggest problems facing our world. Consider these statistics:

  • 50% of wealth creation in the U.S. since WWII can be directly attributed to a research grant.

  • Research impacts all cause areas: environment, life sciences, technology, education, and humanities.

  • Research funding has declined by 20% in the last decade. Traditional funding sources are no longer sustainable.

The Internet, MRI, lasers, Google, silicon chips and countless lifesaving medicines were all born out of academic labs. The widening gap between available funding for research and the demand for those funds not only threaten American competitiveness, but also our health, economy, security, and overall well-being. These innovations are crucial to economic growth as new companies and industries are born, creating jobs, cures, and treatments.

Consider the National Institutes of Health, which has experienced stagnant funding for the past 10 years. Today, the NIH issues grants to about one in six applicants (17%). Meanwhile, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology reports that only 2% of 3,700 scientists surveyed last year could find private funds to subsidize the lack of federal grants. 18% of respondents considered continuing their research abroad in countries like China, South Korea, and Singapore—all of whom are significantly increasing funding for research.

Less than 4% of philanthropic dollars were allocated to research last year in the United States. When compared to the outcomes of research: 50% of wealth creation—not to mention the social impact of the breakthrough discoveries—this epitomizes the definition of market inefficiency.

Philanthropists have the opportunity to deliver outsized impact and contribute to long-term systemic change by increasing allocations within their giving portfolio to research.

For example, mental health issues disproportionately impact homeless populations situated around our country. By funding diagnosis, treatment, and public policy linked to mental health, we can significantly reduce occurrences and the ensuing human suffering of homelessness. The aforementioned approach to research funding is applicable to all and any cause area of donor interest.

Examples of researchers making a difference:

  • Darren Lipomi: The state-of-the-art flexible solar technology that Dr. Lipomi of University of California, San Diego is working on is called the “solar tarp”—an inexpensive, extremely lightweight, portable solar module that could be installed anywhere in the world for a small fraction of the cost of current solar technologies. Skin-like semiconductors have numerous applications for our future energy needs, such as significantly reducing the costs of manufacturing, installing, and repairing solar panels on a massive scale.

  • Farhana Sultana: Dr. Farhana Sultana, Associate Professor of Geography at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, has long been interested in how the global water crisis affects different communities and the ways to solve water problems. Her award-winning research investigates the ways to ensure everyone has safe clean water and how water affects people’s abilities to live full lives, engage in development and social progress, and the critical role water plays in all aspects of our lives: from urban planning, international development, and economic policies to political strife, ecological sustainability, and people’s cultural practices and sense of self.

  • Peter Stacpoole: The scientific team led by Dr. Peter Stacpoole at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, has connected a number of disease states to their potential treatment with the drug dichloroacetate (DCA). DCA stimulates PDC, increasing its ability to promote cellular energy production. DCA has shown promise in treating several life-threatening diseases, including cancer, pulmonary arterial hypertension, and congenital PDC deficiency (PDCD) in children.

These are only three of the 750+ vetted researchers on the Benefunder platform representing 55 top institutions from across the U.S.

Benefunder was built to solve a specific problem encountered by my family and me. The bureaucracy, expense, and time commitment required to fund research inspired me to develop Benefunder, a marketplace that matches the funding needs of leading researchers with impact-minded philanthropists who share the drive and ambition to address America’s most pressing educational, environmental, scientific, and social needs.

Please contact me at christian@benefunder.com or visit www.benefunder.com for more information.

Christian Braemer’s background spans the entrepreneurial, social venture, financial services, non-profit, sales, hospitality, and military sectors. Prior to co-founding Benefunder, Christian started Joe Media, one of the first national, free WiFi networks, which later merged with OpenEye Global, a leading digital out-of-home agency. Before that, Christian was a financial advisor with one of the largest firms in the U.S. while also volunteering his time as President of the Swedish American Chamber, co-founding Hunger at Home, and sitting as Entrepreneur-in-Residence with Connect. Christian was a sergeant/section commander with the Danish Army’s 1st Infantry Division where he was elected vice national spokesman for enlisted personnel.

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