28 april 2010

Oxford research funding scheme scores rapid $100m success

University

Caption: Funding boost for Oxford Thinking: Dr James Martin (r) with Oxford Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton (l).
Funding boost for Oxford Thinking: Dr James Martin (r) with Oxford Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton (l).

An ambitious initiative to raise major research funding at Oxford University has defied the economic downturn by raising $100m to support groundbreaking research on key global problems - and the challenge has been met well within the year deadline originally set.

Last year, Dr James Martin, one of the world’s most influential computer scientists and already a major benefactor of the University, issued a tough new pledge: he committed to donate up to $50m if other donors would match it. A year later, and in the face of the deep international financial crisis, the University has gained the full amount.

The new funding pledges will support nearly 20 critical projects on subjects as diverse as the future of cities, brain manipulation, and vaccine design. The research will explore urgent questions like: ‘How do we combat chronic disease in a growing and ageing global population?’ ‘What’s needed to ensure food and fuel security in the 21st century?’ and ‘How can we stop economic shocks happening in future?’

Thirty different donors (including individual philanthropists, charities, corporations and research bodies) have had their gifts to the University matched following Dr Martin’s pledge.

Dr Martin commented: ‘When the matched funding scheme was announced, many people said this is crazy timing as this is the worst economic crash in recent history. The Oxford Vice-Chancellor and I disagreed with them. Some foundations and wealthy individuals give money in bad times if the cause is exceptionally important. The James Martin 21st Century School at Oxford has demonstrated that it can identify the most serious dangers and opportunities of our future. Some great people from across the planet have been attracted to the School’s vision and this will lead to inspired thinking.’

James Martin and the donors whose funding he has matched have placed their confidence in Oxford University as the best place to tackle the global challenges of the 21st century.

Professor Andrew Hamilton, Vice-Chancellor

Dr Martin made the $50m pledge on top of an original donation made in 2005, to set up the James Martin 21st Century School with an endowment of $100m. The latest matching funding offer was to inspire new research and opportunities at the School for collaborative thinking to address the global problems and opportunities now facing humanity. Donors whose gifts have been matched by Dr Martin include George Soros and Adrian Beecroft.

Mr Beecroft, former Chief Investment Officer at Apax Partners, who is helping to fund research pushing the frontiers of computing, said: ‘I was excited by James Martin’s pledge and it provided me and the other donors with the incentive to raise $1million, the amount needed to qualify for the matched funding. We are delighted that the project we offered funding for is going ahead. Pushing the boundaries in computational science will benefit researchers in astrophysics as well as those working in climate science and medicine.’

The James Martin matched funding challenge has significantly contributed to the University’s fundraising campaign – Oxford Thinking – which recently passed the £800m mark.

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Professor Andrew Hamilton, said: ‘James Martin and the donors whose funding he has matched have placed their confidence in Oxford University as the best place to tackle the global challenges of the 21st century. I am delighted that their vision and commitment will enable more collaborative and high-impact research to be developed across Oxford.’

Dame Vivien Duffield, Chair of the Campaign, said: ‘James Martin’s pledge was an inspired way to spur philanthropists, charities and funding bodies to give to Oxford. I am also delighted that the Clore Duffield Foundation is a donor to the James Martin 21st Century School’s research programme. The University’s fundraising campaign – Oxford Thinking – now exceeds £800 million, a considerable achievement by any measure but particularly at time of such economic uncertainty.’

Director of the James Martin 21st Century School, Dr Ian Goldin, said: ‘These new resources will enable us to advance our capacity to tackle some of the biggest and most complex challenges of our time. These include climate change, financial crises, global demographic shifts, poverty and health.’