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Philanthropic Efforts Expand University Research, Entrepreneurship in U.S and Canada

April 27, 2011

Generous individuals and foundations are stepping up to support university-based initiatives designed to expand research and encourage young people to create high-growth jobs at a time when operating budgets for higher education are facing drastic funding cuts across the U.S. Colleges in Michigan and Ontario will establish endowed chairs in medical research and entrepreneurship with funding from individual donors, and a 23-year-old former student of the University of Waterloo is launching a $1 million seed fund for student startups.

On the foundation front, a private-equity firm will donate $3.6 million to initiate an entrepreneurship network with North Carolina universities to mentor startup companies around Research Triangle Park and a $10 million gift to Drexel University will be used for a biomedical translational program. Details on the aforementioned funding commitments are highlighted below.

  • After years of decline during the recession, charitable giving seems to be on the rise. The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently reported that contributions in the first quarter of this year for the Fidelity Fund reached the second largest first-quarter total in 20 years. The fund allows donors to create personal charitable accounts and recommend how the money is spent.
  • The University of Michigan (UM) recently received $56 million to endow a medical research institute to further stem cell research and fund researchers seeking treatments for various diseases. The individual donor previously gave $22 million to set up the medical research institute at UM in support of one of the nation's first clinical trials using stem cells to treat ALS patients, reports The Detroit News. The institute, which originally supported one researcher, now funds 14 other UM scientists, according to the article.
  • A private donation of $1.5 million will establish an endowed chair at Georgian College, the first endowed chair at an Ontario college, and provide funding to create an entrepreneurship center to support education and encourage innovation. The $1 million Entrepreneurship Chair will be filled by a business faculty member who will also lead the soon-to-be created entrepreneurship center funded with the remaining $500,000, according to a press release.
  • Another charitable Canadian recently donated $1 million to support University of Waterloo student entrepreneurs by setting up a seed fund for startup companies. The gift from the 23-year-old former student and high-tech entrepreneur will support VeloCity, a residence-based startup incubator. Over the next several years, the fund will provide at least 30 students with $25,000, four months of office space, incorporation services, and mentoring. Read the blog post.
  • The Blackstone Charitable Foundation and Research Triangle partners announced this week an initiative to spur high-tech job creation in North Carolina through a partnership with the state's universities. The foundation will provide $3.6 million to establish a network of veteran entrepreneurs to identify marketable innovations out of area universities and pair them with regional startups. The network aims to mentor 30 new startups each year over a five-year period and is part of an overall $50 million commitment to the Startup America initiative. Read the news release.
  • Drexel University received a $10 million donation from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation to be matched with university funding for the creation of a $20 million endowment establishing the Coulter Translational Research Partnership program. The program will work to accelerate biomedical discoveries to the marketplace. Read the article.
  • Earlier this month, the Kauffman Foundation announced a challenge grant to donate $800,000 for regional expansion of the popular PIPELINE program for entrepreneurs, and Duke University and its foundation partners announced a $20 million endowment for biomedical engineering research.
entrepreneurship, foundations, international, higher ed