Recent donations reveal important roles served by foundations in TBED

Foundations, in almost all of their stripes, represent an underutilized but often willing partner to encourage regional innovation. Relationships may take time to nurture, but the resulting collaborations can be of critical importance for advancing your local TBED agenda. To spur your thinking, the six examples below from the past three weeks alone show the various ways foundations are stepping up to help support regional innovation and entrepreneurship. On the principal or endowment management side of a foundation, they can be and have been willing partners for seeding or co-investors in a local early stage equity capital fund.

Kapor Center, Gates Foundation launch $1M grant competition to diversify tech sector

The Oakland-based Kapor Center, a nonprofit focused on leveling the playing field in tech, has announced the Tech Done Right (TDR) Challenge with funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. With an emphasis on growing opportunities for women and people of color in the sector, the challenge will fund organizations with innovative solutions to building diverse, inclusive, and thriving tech ecosystems. Awardees will receive one-time grants beginning at $100,000. The challenge is now open and accepting applications here, with a submission deadline of Tuesday, May 7.

$24M Foundation gift to U. Arkansas transforms commercialization, economic development

Late last year, the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation announced a $23.7 million investment to strengthen technology-based economic development efforts at the University of Arkansas. Additional details on this investment became clearer this week, as the university announced three subsets of its Chancellor’s Fund, which invests in strategic initiatives under the direction of the vice chancellor for research and innovation.

Corporate Foundations Announce Partnerships to Support Active, Hands-on STEM Education

As the school year kicks off, several corporate foundations have announced new commitments to support hands-on K-12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) experiences for children across the country. These new partnerships continue a trend of corporate funders bypassing funding for STEM curriculum development to focus on active learning experiences that are shown to have positive impact on STEM retention. Among the corporate foundations making announcements include Microsoft Philanthropies, Motorola Solutions Foundation, and Qualcomm.

MacArthur Foundation Announces ‘100&Change’ Grant Competition

The Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation, best known for its “genius grant” fellowships that finance creative endeavors, announced on June 2 a new grant competition called “100&Change.” The $100 million grant will be awarded to a single proposal that contributes to “solving society’s most pressing problems.”  Unlike other competitions, such as XPRIZE moonshots, the foundation is not defining what societal challenge or issue it wants to address, but instead it has purposefully created 100&Change to challenge the notion that foundation grants tend to be too small for solving such problems, and to create “another space” with the award that will cover institutional blind spots and address a common problem in funding – obtaining money to take a good, proven idea that is either unnoticed or under-resourced and scale it up.

Foundations to Fund Moonshot R&D Initiatives at Universities in CA, IN, NY, PA, TX

As the 2015-2016 academic calendar comes to an end, several universities announced large financial contributions from foundations to address large societal issues including cancer and a variety of neurological disorders.  These large-scale initiatives will be undertaken at universities in California, Indiana, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) also announced the launch of its SPARK program, an online research initiative designed to become the largest autism study ever undertaken in the United States.

Wells Fargo’s Five-Year CSR Effort to Make Investment in Inclusive Innovation

Wells Fargo & Company released a five-year, company-wide corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy that includes significant commitments to inclusion, innovation, small business lending, and community investment. Its 2020 social commitment will target three commitment areas – diversity and social inclusion; economic empowerment; and, economic sustainability. Proposed funding includes:

JPMC To Invest $125M in Neighborhood Economic Revitalization

Last week, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPMC) announced the launch of PRO Neighborhoods, a $125 million, five-year initiative to promote economic opportunity in disadvantaged neighborhoods around the country. PRO Neighborhoods will invest in local collaborative partnerships and financial solutions, focusing on community lending, housing capital and high-quality data. Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) partnerships and collaborative efforts to provide capital to small businesses in distressed neighborhoods may be eligible for support. Learn more…

Huntington Bank Commits $25M for Comprehensive Economic Development Programming in Flint

As the water crisis in Flint, MI, continues to capture headlines, details on potential relief efforts are beginning to emerge. In January, President Obama granted $5 million in emergency funding to address the crisis, while the state has approved $67 million in funding since October. To provide for more immediate relief efforts, The FlintNOW Foundation, created by Flint-native Tom Gores, Chairman and CEO of Platinum Equity and the owner of the Detroit Pistons, seeks to deliver private sector support in the wake of the crisis. FlintNOW announced late last month that Ohio-based Huntington Bank would help to support the foundation’s mission for comprehensive economic development programming in the region, providing $25 million to support businesses, entrepreneurs, and residents.

Burgeoning Indiana Biosciences Research Institute Receives $100M in Grants

The Indiana Biosciences Research Institute (IBRI), first unveiled in May 2013, is a statewide public-private partnership advanced by BioCrossroads that considers itself the first industry-led collaborative life sciences research institute in the country. Late last month, the institute announced two new grants totaling $100 million that would support scientific innovation addressing metabolic disease and poor nutrition. 


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