Current Issue

Nov.4, 2009

Vol. 110, No. 4

Notebook

Schmidt fund to support big, high-risk ideas

By W. Raymond Ollwerther '71
Published in the November4, 2009, issue


Eric Schmidt ’76
Courtesy Google
Eric Schmidt ’76

Google CEO Eric Schmidt ’76 and his wife, Wendy, have donated $25 million to create an endowment to support ideas by Princeton’s faculty and research staff that could lead to technological breakthroughs.

“This fund will allow Princeton’s scientists and engineers to explore truly innovative ideas that need the creation or application of new technologies,” President Tilghman said as the fund was announced Oct. 13. “The intent is to fund risk-taking projects, understanding that with risk comes not only the potential for huge reward, but some frequency of failure.”

Schmidt, an electrical engineering major, was a University trustee from 2004 to 2008.

“I’ve always intended to make such a donation, and believe this is a good time for the University because the endowment has suffered in the past year,” he said in an e-mail to PAW. “I am happy to help.”

Faculty proposals will be accepted each year, with the first to be submitted by Dec. 18. Dean for Research A.J. Stewart Smith *66 will chair an internal peer review committee, and outside experts will review recommendations before they are sent to Tilghman for approval. Smith said he hopes the first awards will be announced by late winter.

Smith said that while other institutions have so-called innovation funds, most have narrower missions and stricter requirements. And existing funding agencies, he said, tend to shy away from high-risk proposals.

“We’re looking for the most exciting ideas that are feasible within the amounts of money we can give — if so, we’re going to bet on them,” Smith said.
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CURRENT ISSUE: Nov.4, 2009