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Inspiring Scientific Breakthroughs

Overview

Shaping the future of scientific research worldwide through the infusion of new technologies and empowering the next generation of leaders.

This should be a golden age for scientific discovery. Technologies such as optimization techniques and machine learning make possible levels of ambition, scale, and efficiency that were unimaginable 20 years ago. Every day, brilliant scientists worldwide are unlocking new breakthroughs to tackle society’s most challenging problems. On nearly every metric, the advancement of science and technology is making life better around the globe.

However, a variety of institutional and societal factors have combined to prevent us from reaping full potential benefits of this advancement.

Political considerations have turned scientific pursuits into objects of controversy and shed doubt on objective scientific fact. Constrained public sector budgets in many Western countries have left a hole in funding for certain types of scientific research that cannot realistically be filled by philanthropic, private, or other sources. Traditional silos too often organize efforts along scientific discipline lines that are increasingly obsolete and fail to reflect the multidisciplinary mindsets needed to tackle complex, multi-varied challenges. The promises of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science have permeated the scientific academy sporadically rather than institutionally. And incentive structures are aligned to support work that is safe and proven, creating a risk of aspiring young scientists either choosing to pursue tried-and-true paths or finding inconsistent and insufficient support for more exciting but unproven research.

The bottom line is that while a variety of scientific pursuits continue to thrive and deliver results for society, we are failing to achieve our full potential. Today’s breakthroughs do not match either the sea-changes of the Victorian and Industrial Revolution eras that modernized western economies, or the “golden age of innovation” that defined the post-World War II period and pioneered world-changing technologies such as electronics, nuclear power, modern computing, and the birth of the Internet. Instead, innovation today is too often defined by new use cases for existing technologies or refining previous advancements, rather than the creation of entirely new fields of discovery. Call it the “silver age” – rather than the “golden age” that we ought to be experiencing.

At Schmidt Futures, we believe in helping the next generation of scientific leaders excel. We believe that interdisciplinarity is the key to unlocking the next generation of scientific breakthroughs. We believe in investing in high-risk, high-reward research that others won’t invest in. And we believe in transforming the way science is conducted through the infusion of new technological advances such as advanced computing.

Approach

01

Create interdisciplinary networks and opportunities for the best early-stage talent

We seek to help the next generation of scientific leaders embrace a new mindset — one that emphasizes multi-disciplinarity and a broad knowledge and experience base. In particular, we support advanced training for individuals at the postdoctoral phase of their careers, with the belief that this stage is an inflection point for many young scientists and their involvement in research projects is critical in bringing new, innovative ideas to the fore.

02

Build shared advanced computing platforms to accelerate research, increase risk, and decrease cost

We work to identify looming scientific revolutions or salient problems, target great research groups to tackle them, and create shared computing platforms and AI-assisted workflows that speed platform uptake and transform the entire scientific field. We also partner with the world’s top universities to ensure that AI and advanced data techniques are fully embedded in scientific research by transforming how universities organize themselves and supporting their aspiring researchers.

03

Identify and fund risky, innovative research

We seek promising nascent research opportunities that remain too risky for traditional funding sources and/or misaligned with other funders’ incentives. We provide risk capital to support research that is untested, interdisciplinary in its focus, and led by researchers that are building their careers rather drawing on long established track records.

Featured Programs

Schmidt Science Fellows

In partnership with the Rhodes Trust, the Schmidt Science Fellows program is working to advance the next generation of leaders in the natural sciences, engineering, mathematics, and computing to tackle the world’s most challenging problems.

Israeli Women’s Postdoctoral Award

The Eric and Wendy Schmidt Postdoctoral Award for Women in Mathematical and Computing Sciences supports promising women who have recently received a doctorate and are pursuing research careers in mathematical & computational sciences or engineering in Israel.

AI-Powered Science Accelerator

Using AI and modern computing, we can now collapse the classic, serialized process of the scientific method into a fundamentally parallel process with experimentation happening in continuous loops – and, in so doing, essentially take on $100 million of scientific risks with $10 million of investment.  The AI-Powered Science Accelerator program seeks to promote this new way of conducting science through investments in groundbreaking and risky research projects that leverage the power of advanced computing techniques, and to expand the adoption of similar techniques in other areas through scientific convenings, training programs, and the development of AI-forward science policy.

Data Storage for Research

Most universities are unprepared for the data needs that come with conducting cutting edge research that relies on Big Data. Schmidt Futures has funded a project to provide a data storage alternative: open source and design, inexpensive, high-performance storage units that can be installed outside the campus network and connect to national networks. The National Science Foundation recognized the huge promise of this storage solution, announcing the Open Storage Network with an initial grant of $1.8 million to equip four regional Data Hubs with these units.

  • Schmidt Science Fellows

  • Israeli Women’s Postdoctoral Award

  • AI-Powered Science Accelerator

  • Data Storage for Research