Peter Thiel of the Thiel Foundation in Stanford, Calif., wants to help independent scientists and early-stage companies develop their most radical ideas, as per his recently announced launch of Breakout Labs, a program designed to improve the way early-stage science and technology research is funded.
The Breakout Labs revolving fund seeks to address a gap in the venture capital model, which tends to award funds to later stage projects and businesses, which hold the promise of quicker development and commercialization – hence, quicker returns on investment. “Some of the world’s most important technologies were created by independent minds working long nights in garage labs,” Thiel said in a statement. “But when their ideas are too new, unproven, or unpopular, these visionaries can find it difficult to obtain support.”
Thiel said that through Breakout Labs, his foundation intends to create opportunities for revolutionary science by cultivating an entrepreneurial research model that prizes “extreme creativity and bold thinking.”
Three core conditions of Breakout Labs funding set it apart from traditional research dollars: first, that the the work it supports is entrepreneurial and fully independent from formal research institutions; second, this work is at an early stage, possibly even before proof of concept, but its success would mean a critical step toward a potential breakthrough that could dramatically change the world; and third, the work will support the acceleration of innovation through revenue-sharing and open access publication.
Unlike traditional foundation grants, which tend to be outright gifts, funding from Breakout Labs will come with the condition that a portion of funds awarded to successful projects will assign “a modest portion of resulting revenue” back to Breakout Labs. Projects from across the spectrum of scientific disciplines will be considered for support, and funding will typically range from $50,000 to $350,000, but may vary substantially.
Breakout Labs has already been considering proposals for its first round of funding and expects to announce recipients as early as December of this year.