Like niche crowdfunding sites for real estate, or crowdfunding sites for charities and nonprofits, crowdfunding has made its way to science. A handful of quality crowdfunding sites have emerged to help fund impactful scientific research that may otherwise not receive backing.
In terms of scientific research, a disconnect remains between startup culture and that of university researchers. University research and academia are still very much interested in status, which, according to TechCrunch, "tends to emphasize very specific areas of competition like funding grants and publication records that can make it difficult for a nascent startup to find footing." But all that seems to be changing.
Sites like Experiment.com and Consano are helping pair scientists doing cutting-edge research with individuals interested in backing their important work. Funding becomes less about status and more about capturing the minds and hearts of hundreds of individuals willing to donate.
Even though it's still early in its evolution, crowdfunding for scientific research may significantly change the way science evolves moving forward. Here are five scientific research crowdfunding sites (in operation as of March 2018) that are already a part of this evolution.
Experiment.com is an online platform for discovering, funding, and sharing scientific research. According to Experiment, they are a vehicle for enabling new scientific discoveries. "If it helps unlock new knowledge, then we can fund it. We have the technology to make that happen."
Researchers post scientific projects that require funding and share their projects to fundraise and spread awareness. If the projects hit their goals, backers are rewarded with seeing science unfold in front of them. Experiment.com has backed research in economics, physics, biology, medicine, and more.
Based in New York City and previously known as Microryza, Experiment.com took an investment in February 2014 from top venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz and Index Ventures. Since it was founded in 2014, Experiment has launched more than 760 projects and raised nearly $8 million in pledges from more than 41,000 backers.
Pricing: It is free to start a project. If a project is fully funded, Experiment charges an 8 percent platform fee, plus payment processing fees (roughly 3-5 percent).
USEED was founded in 2011 by two recent college grads passionate about helping student entrepreneurs increase funding for their ideas. Beyond the initial launch idea, the founders soon learned through their research that there was a bigger system in need of a fundraising facelift: the colleges and universities themselves.
Today, USEED works with institutions of higher education to help redesign philanthropy for research. USEED specifically funds experiential learning projects that range from taking part in international volunteer programs to launching a new software company to starting an on-campus club.
Fundable projects are approved by individual universities, which then share information about donation opportunities with their alumni. The donations are made to the university rather than to individuals.
Pricing: For pricing, contact USEED.com.
Consano lists a variety of research projects on its site and makes them available to patients and other conscientious backers to donate to projects they find compelling.
Consano was founded in 2012 by Molly Lindquist, a breast cancer survivor who wanted to provide researchers with alternatives to very large nonprofits that tend to fund general research. Her particular interest is in providing direct support to innovative researchers. According to Lindquist, Consano's differential is that it provides a platform that enables individuals to donate directly to specific medical research projects and programs, thus enabling medical progress and empowering individual action.
Consano is a microcosm of targeted funding. Backers can fund as much or as little as they want for such initiatives as treating new subtypes of lung cancer and advancing research for bringing ultrasound to the developing world.
Pricing: Each donation is subject to a 2.2 percent fee, plus $0.30 payment processing fee by PayPal.
MedStartr was founded in 2012 and focuses on crowdfunding projects related to medical and healthcare innovation. It is an all-or-nothing fundraising platform similar to Experiment.com. The site automatically matches mentors with projects, thus enabling researchers to take off at a fast rate. MedStartr provides a suite of services on an as-needed basis that may include video help, marketing, business design writing, reward creating, digital media strategy, and digital and traditional press introductions.
Pricing: Paypal takes about 2.9 percent of each contribution, plus $0.30 per contribution.
Kickstarter is an American public-benefit company based in Brooklyn, N.Y., that maintains a global crowdfunding platform that focuses on creativity. Founded in 2009, Kickstarter is one of the oldest sites of its kind and has received more than $1.9 billion in pledges from 9.4 million backers to fund 257,000 creative projects. These endeavors include films, music, stage shows, comics, journalism, video games, technology, and food-related projects. While focused on creativity, Kickstarter can also be used for crowdfunding research.
The grandfather of crowdfunding sites, Kickstarter is best known for its "Reading Room" project. The beloved kids' TV show became one of Kickstarter's earliest success stories with a $5,408,916 campaign to make a "virtual field trip" app for smartphones and tablets.
Pricing: There's an upfront 5 percent fee, plus payment processing fees (between 3–5 percent).
Crowdfunding Scientific Research
Crowdfunding sites like Experiment.com and MedStartr are changing the way science is funded. Crowdfunding is inclusive of patients and individuals to get total support from a community of individuals who are passionate about funding specific research.