Exploratory research is the seed corn from which the next generation of discoveries grows.
In today’s world, it is the PhD students and postdoctoral research fellows at universities who are planting these seeds and becoming the next generation of innovators. Perhaps the best known success story comes out of Stanford University, where two PhD students forged a new collaboration that would revolutionize the Internet (Google). But there are other examples closer to home, including local energy storage startups EnerG2 and Soluxra, which grew out of a PhD project and postdoc research.
Unfortunately, in the current climate, traditional funding sources are both limited and increasingly risk-averse. As a consequence, those organizations that have the capability to pursue some “proof-of-concept” research – to plant their own seeds – are more likely to successfully compete for follow-on research investments to grow that seed to the point where it can eventually be transitioned to the private sector.
The goal of this program is to support graduate and undergraduate student education at the University of Washington by providing scholars the freedom to explore novel, high-risk/high-reward research topics. The projects seed new collaborations in research and education that increase the prospects for future support from federal funding agencies and other large-scale collaborative grants.
The program is currently being reviewed, with renewal pending availability of funding. Please check back for details in 2018.