Skip to content

Applying technology to make society work better and solve some of the world’s toughest problems

Overview

Technology can and should play a greater role in addressing key challenges that the world faces in the 21st century. For example, in the United States, only 20 percent of low-income students are proficient in 8th grade mathematics, 36 million adults are reading at the third grade level or below, and many non-college educated workers are experiencing stagnant or declining real wages. We need to invest more in research, talent development, market-shaping initiatives, multidisciplinary collaboration, and evaluation to increase society’s capacity to solve these and other problem.

Schmidt Futures’ work in particular aims to increase the access, quality, and speed of discovery and invention; demonstrate the positive role that technology can play in solving some of our toughest societal challenges; and raise our level of collective ambition.

Approach

01

Promote the digital transformation of society

Although artificial intelligence and data science are transforming many sectors of our economy, these tools are having much less impact on our ability to achieve key societal goals such as improving K-12 education or reskilling America’s workforce. Schmidt Futures will support efforts by university researchers, non-profits and startups to develop, demonstrate and evaluate applications of digital technologies with significant potential to address a concrete social problem.

02

Build coalitions to achieve ambitious goals

Currently, only a handful of institutions are involved in the identification and pursuit of extraordinarily ambitious goals, such as eradicating polio, mapping the brain, and making humanity a multi-planetary species. Schmidt Futures will promote a “moonshot culture” – a world in which the leaders of foundations, businesses, universities, government agencies, and non-profits embrace the grand challenges of the 21st century.

03

Invest early-stage risk capital in high-potential people and ideas

Technology will change and improve our society in ways that are both clear and unclear. We must be willing to take risks and invest in new thinkers that challenge existing norms. Schmidt Futures will do just that, supporting nascent work at academic institutions, innovative young organizations, and high-potential people.

04

Advance public policy that sustains science and technology

Schmidt Futures will advance science and technology policies that strengthen America’s research enterprise, foster innovation and entrepreneurship, and harness S&T to tackle our most important problems.

Featured Investments

Laboratory for Innovation Science

The Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard is spurring the development of a science of innovation through a systematic program of solving real-world technical challenges while simultaneously conducting rigorous scientific research and analysis. Researchers at Harvard are increasing the use of crowdsourcing to solve important scientific problems, such as faster algorithms for precision medicine.

Frugal Science

Stanford bioengineering professor Manu Prakash is passionate about “frugal science” – the development and widespread availability of low-cost, easy-to-use tools for scientific discovery. These tools could be used for citizen science, student research, and research in developing countries. His lab has already developed a $3 microscope capable of imaging bacteria, he and his collaborators are currently developing a $150 scanning electron microscope capable of imaging viruses!

Maker-Centered Learning

Maker Ed is developing a set of online resources to help teachers and other educators embrace maker-centered learning. New tools and approaches are allowing the next-generation to design and make just about anything, learning how to identify and solve problems in the process. Engagement with making and project-based learning supports students to excel in design and STEM and increase their creative confidence and collaborative skills.

  • Laboratory for Innovation Science

  • Frugal Science

  • Maker-Centered Learning