To push forward innovative high-risk, high-impact research, Northwestern University seeks philanthropic investment in basic research in the physical and life sciences. Philanthropic investments in basic research drive innovation by providing the opportunity to pursue promising new ideas.
Focus of the Discover Fund: The Discover Fund for the Physical and Life Sciences will provide initial funding to launch bold new fundamental research programs. Seed funding for basic research allows scientists to pursue promising new findings through the inherently non-linear process of scientific experimentation. The freedom to take risks and follow up on promising, often unexpected, results leads to big, even serendipitous discoveries, such as the ones that led to the development of penicillin, X-rays, or the Big Bang model of the formation of the universe. The return on investment can be dramatic: top scientists who receive seed funding to pursue a promising new idea often go on to win federal funding at ten or more times the initial investment. The Discover Fund will be used flexibly to meet the most pressing needs of high-priority innovative research, including student research stipends, graduate and postdoctoral fellowships, travel to collaborating institutions, conferences, materials and reagents, workshops, and visiting scientists.
Structure and Process: Faculty of all ranks, from junior faculty starting a new lab to the senior investigators making radical changes in their research directions or forging new partnerships, will be encouraged to apply for funds for basic research ideas that expand beyond the realm of the traditional. In addition, in order to foster Northwestern’s renowned interdisciplinary culture, teams that cross disciplines will also be encouraged to apply, with the ultimate goal of enabling our faculty to follow their curiosity and take risks that offer the potential to lead to new discoveries. The Discover Fund will provide tiered levels of competitive funding as follows:
- Seed Fund ($50,000–$100,000): Support for single investigators or a limited number of collaborating investigators, renewable for up to 3 years.
- Team Fund ($200,000–$500,000): Support for interdisciplinary teams, renewable for up to 3 years.
- Infrastructure Fund ($500,000–$1,000,000): Support for critical research infrastructure in shared facilities.
To learn more about the program, view the Northwestern University Full Description.