HOW Science is funded by ALT-E Fund
In addition to providing an increase in funds that is critically needed for clean energy research, Alt-E Fund has developed a distinctive funding model that we believe will allow scientists to focus deeply on their work and achieve maximal innovation. The steps in our process are given below in written and graphical form, and would be familiar to any scientist. However, in each step Alt-E Fund takes an approach different from standard practice in the clean energy research arena in order to maximize the amount of science being done, and its impact. Click on each of the steps below to get more details on Alt-E Fund's approach.
ALT-E Fund'S 5 STEP PROCESS
STEP 1 Collect grassroots donations.
In step 1 of Alt-E Fund's process, we empower individuals to “vote with their wallet” and directly fund clean energy research. Alt-E Fund enthusiasts may support our work by giving in the following ways:
- General fund. Donations to the general fund will give Alt-E Fund and its scientific and technical advisors full discretion on how to place the funds based on the needs of the broader clean energy community.
- Technology-specific donations. Donations to support research into specific technologies, e.g., photovoltaics, wind, hydrogen generation, batteries, and biofuels, will allow Alt-E Fund's supporters to give to the technologies that they have read about and are excited to support.
- Endowment. Donations to the endowment will allow Alt-E Fund to build a base for continuing support and give out more grants due to higher funding stability.
Once $10 million has been raised in a given year, 10% of the funds raised after this point will go into the endowment, which will be invested in socially responsible funds. The principle will be left untouched and 60% of the interest in a given year will be used to fund research, with 40% reinvested.
STEP 2 Make a call for research proposals.
In step 2 of Alt-E Fund's process, we will receive unique research proposals that can improve energy production, generation, or use, but that is underfunded. Proposals must meet the following criteria to be considered:
- Propose a specific scope of work, with a schedule and budget.
- Postulate the long-term energy benefit, that is, the impact of increased efficiency, reliability, or lower cost of a given technology to the “big energy picture” that the proposed research will enable.
- Show how the research differs from what is known (results of a literature search).
- Focus on relatively fundamental research that can fill up the pipeline of research enabling commercialization efforts. In the jargon of the field, focus on low technology readiness levels (TRLs).
STEP 3 Evaluate and select proposals.
In step 3 of Alt-E Fund's process, proposals will be evaluated and the best ones selected for funding. The following metrics will be used to evaluate proposals
- The benefit of the proposed research, e.g., reduced greenhouse gas emission or pollution, reduction of conventional fuel or water use, or increased use of renewables sources of energy.
- The probability of the researchers meeting the goals of the proposal.
- The uniqueness and degree of innovation of the proposal.
- The ability of the proposing team to perform on scope and schedule based on requested budget.
- The strength of the proposing team's communication plan (publication, data sharing, disclosure to non-scientific public).
For this purpose, Alt-E Fund will recruit a team of scientists and energy experts to select the best proposals for funding. In general, Alt-E Fund will aim to fund research that has a potentially large benefit to the big energy picture, with more tolerance for risk in order to achieve maximally impactful research outcomes. In the figure above, we would tend to fund projects on the upper left more than those on the lower right. The upper right would be most ideal, but is usually not possible to achieve.
STEP 4 Disburse funds.
In step 4 of Alt-E Fund's process - disbursing funds - Alt-E Fund aims to support potentially high-impact research that will lead to a sustainable future, with minimal micromanagement. Alt-E Fund commits to:
- Awarding funds only after having received donations sufficient to fully fund the proposed research.
- Keeping the number of stage-gates and deliverables to a minimum in order to allow researchers to explore unforeseen developments.
- Rewarding research productivity, e.g., high-impact papers, with lower reporting requirements for the corresponding reporting period.
- Working with the researchers to make their results accessible to the public.
STEP 5 Scientists perform laboratory research.
In step 5 of Alt-E Fund's process, scientists will generate new knowledge that will lead to a clean, affordable, and sustainable energy future. Recipients must:
- Use the money in direct execution of the proposed scope of work.
- Agree to semi-annually publish results in open literature (including negative results), or, if work is proprietary, Alt-E Fund will negotiate a fair percentage of the intellectual property rights.
- Annually make a short YouTube video for the public explaining the work to non-scientists.