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News Release

Benefunder to Launch New Funding Channel for Higher Education Research

San Diego, CA, September 10, 2014 -- Benefunder, a San Diego-based philanthropic research funding platform for higher education institutions, and the University of California, San Diego have signed a Memora­ndum of Understanding (MOU) to embark on a two-year pilot program. The long-term goal of the partnership between UC San Diego and Benefunder is to allow junior and senior faculty in diverse disciplines to create funding relationships with private supporters from across the country, and generate one-time and recurring donations to fund their work and vision.

The mission of Benefunder, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is to reduce the innovation deficit by directing more philanthropic funding towards research and innovation at leading universities and research institutes. This deficit comes as a result of stagnant or reduced government funding for academic research.

Benefunder’s new platform intends to increase the share of philanthropic funding that gets channeled to research.

Electrical engineering professor Gert Lanckriet from the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering is a Benefunder co-founder. Some of the original ideas that eventually grew into Benefunder came from Lanckriet’s own thinking about new ways to fund his research, which includes using artificial intelligence to improve the way we search for and discover music.

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Screen shot from Benefunder website.


Last year, total U.S. charitable giving topped $335 billion; nearly 87 percent of that came from individuals, bequests and family foundations according to Giving USA.

Benefunder targets major sources, including wealth management firms, private foundations, family offices for high net worth individuals and corporations. The goal is to match each donor with academic research that matters to them.

Benefunder enables donors to find, fund and follow researchers’ progress updates, findings, new ideas and other information. An overview of research currently featured can be found at benefunder.org.

“People and businesses make donations every year to causes and issues they care about,” says Sandra A. Brown, vice chancellor for research at UC San Diego. “Our researchers work on some of the most critical issues facing the world today. Benefunder is a way for donations to have a direct and powerful effect—to help understand and solve problems and enhance the quality of lives around the world. The hope is that working together we will actively expand funding opportunities for our researchers through new engagements.”

Benefunder’s CEO, Christian Braemer, adds, “Benefunder will be working with both Dr. Brown and the Office of Research Affairs at UC San Diego to on-board researchers in all areas of research including medical, technology, engineering, environmental sciences, social sciences, the arts and more to ensure this program’s success.”

Braemer notes that available causes will range from exploratory phases through basic and applied to research nearing commercialization, including cross disciplinary areas that are often overlooked by traditional funding sources.

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Electrical engineering professor and Benefunder co-founder Gert Lanckriet.

“Benefunder has the potential to have a huge impact on science and innovation,” said Benefunder co-founder Gert Lanckriet, who joined the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UC San Diego in 2005. “Personally, I hope it will also help to raise awareness of the important research that is happening at top universities and research institutes.”

Lanckriet is currently focused on collaborating with researchers at UC San Diego and other universities who are interested in leveraging Benefunder to boost and broaden their funding base.

“Projects like Benefunder offer an interesting opportunity for researchers to more actively connect with people who are passionate about their area of research,” said Lanckriet.

In addition to highlighting professors and their research labs, Benefunder will also create profiles to allow donors to directly contribute to causes like the Chancellors Associates Scholars program, various centers and other high level priorities.

“There is an enormous untapped opportunity to engage wealth management firms and family offices in research giving,” said Braemer. “Benefunder fosters one-time and long-term relationships between researchers and donors based on a mutual interest, intellectual pursuit or social cause. Moreover, the platform primarily focuses on new funding sources, and will directly integrate with these sources to channel donations to UC San Diego.”

The organization’s business model is designed to create a long-term donation pipeline that matches potential donors to research that interests them, giving UC San Diego researchers a wider reach and more diversified sources of funding in the future.

Jacobs School of Engineering Professors and Projects on Benefunder

Jacobs School of Engineering professors, labs and programs with Benefunder profiles include those listed below.

Shaochen Chen, NanoEngineering
“Printing Functional Human Tissue”

Shu Chien, Bioengineering and Institute of Engineering in Medicine 
Researching Cardiovascular Disease Through an Interdisciplinary Approach

Todd Coleman, Bioengineering Department
“Advancing Wearable Health with Smart Skin Sensors and Cloud Analytics”

Carlos Coimbra, Environmental Engineering
“Harvesting Reusable Energy through Solar Forecasting”

Distributed Health Labs, UC San Diego
“Transforming Health through Digital Connectivity and Human Action”

Sadik Esener, NanoEngineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering
“Targeting Cancer at its Core”

Drew Hall, Electrical and Computer Engineering
“Proactive Healthcare from Home”

IDEA Student Center
UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering

Tara Javidi, Electrical and Computer Engineering
“Getting There Quicker: Faster Network Flow”

Ryan Kastner, Electrical and Computer Engineering
“Extending the Limits of Human Exploration using Drones and 3D Imaging”

Scott Klemmer, Computer Science and Engineering / Cognitive Science
“Social and Psychological Design Excellence”

Gert Lanckriet, Electrical and Computer Engineering
“A New Spin on Music”

Darren Lipomi, NanoEngineering
UC San Diego Center for Wearable Sensors
“Wrapped in Solar Blankets”

Patrick Mercier, Electrical and Computer Engineering
UC San Diego Center for Wearable Sensors
“Wearable Healthcare”

The Moxie Center for Student Entrepreneurship
UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering

NanoEngineering Department’s Materials Research Center
UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering

Stefan Savage, Computer Science and Engineering
“Fast & Furious Cybercrime-Stompers”

Lawrence Saul, Computer Science and Engineering
“Ending Malware Mayhem”

Nuno Vasconcelos, Electrical and Computer Engineering
“Computers that See”

Media Contacts

Daniel Kane
Jacobs School of Engineering