12 march 2009

Futurist pledges $50m in matched funding


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A visionary entrepreneur has pledged to give the University of Oxford $50m in matched funding to encourage others to continue giving through the global financial downturn.

In an announcement today in Oxford, Dr James Martin will offer to match donations of at least $1 million and up to a total of US$50 million for gifts made between 12 March 2009 and 12 March 2010. If enough pledges are received in the year, those gifts plus his matching funding will total $100m.

Dr James Martin who has donated $50 million to the 21st Century School.
Dr James Martin who has pledged to match gifts of up to $50m

Dr Martin said: ‘My view is that while we may be distracted by today’s credit crunch, we must not forget the bigger picture – that we need to safeguard a future for the generations that follow us. We urgently have to work towards solutions to critical global challenges like climate change, world population growth and the impact of the Singularity in computing. That’s why I want to inspire further financial support and new kinds of collaboration with my offer of matching funds. It’s a great way to invite more people to become part of the 21st Century’s School’s extraordinary vision and provide the funding needed to research these pressing issues.’

James Martin’s matched funding challenge applies to donations for the 21st Century School, which tackles the toughest global challenges of the 21st century. The School’s 15 interdisciplinary research institutes work on a wide range of topics including ageing populations, climate change, global health and emerging infections, and the frontiers of science and technology.

While we may be distracted by today’s credit crunch, we must not forget the bigger picture – that we need to safeguard a future for the generations that follow us.

Dr James Martin

The matched funding scheme will be named ‘The James Martin 21st Century School Challenge’. To mark its launch, a donation of nearly £1m from the Centre for Studies in Property Valuation and Management Trust, a charity that supports new developments in real estate education, has already been pledged to establish ‘The Oxford Programme for the Future of Cities’.

Dr Martin is the University’s most generous benefactor in modern times, providing the University of Oxford with $100m in 2005 to help set up the 21st Century School. The new $50m matched funding scheme aims to inspire other individuals, foundations and corporations to provide substantial gifts for research that can be undertaken by the School. Potential donors are invited to provide funding for projects that fit into the current research programme or fall within the School’s wider, overarching aims.

This initiative follows the launch of the Campaign for the University of Oxford in May 2008. To date, the University has raised £651m as part of a minimum £1.25 billion campaign to help sustain and enhance Oxford’s world-leading reputation.

Dr John Hood, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, said: ‘Dr James Martin’s great generosity shows that despite the global economic downturn, there are philanthropists who are willing to support the world’s leading universities. We are indebted to Dr Martin for his confidence in Oxford’s research endeavours focusing on the problems and opportunities now facing humanity.’ 

Dr Ian Goldin, Director of the 21st Century School, said: ‘The School is a unique enterprise that brings together some of the world’s best scholars and practitioners to focus on projects of global significance. Whether it is cancer therapy, conflict or carbon reduction, our mission is to support and harness their cutting-edge research and to engage with critical challenges of the 21st century. Although much has been achieved over the past three years, the pledge of $50m in matched funding opens new opportunities to meet the need for deep, innovative research to address global challenges.’ 

Dr Martin has been described as ‘Britain’s leading futurist’ by the Sunday Times; and called the ‘Guru of the Information Age’ because of his written work on the social and commercial ramifications of computers and technology. He has written over 100 books and is a Pulitzer nominee for his book The Wired Society (1977). His latest book, The Meaning of the 21st Century (2006), has recently been made into a film, narrated by Michael Douglas. He is an Oxford alumnus and has honorary doctorates from universities on all six continents.