Private Funding for Basic Science Totaled $2.3 Billion in 2016

U.S. research institutions received more than $2.3 billion in private funding for basic science research in 2016, a report from the Science Philanthropy Alliance finds.

Based on survey responses from forty-two universities and research institutions, the 2016 Survey of Private Funding for Basic Research (summary report, 5 pages, PDF) found that foundations, corporations, grantmaking public charities, and individuals awarded $1.9 billion, or 84 percent of the total, to research in the life sciences, $300 million (13 percent) in the physical sciences, and $80 million (3 percent) in mathematics. For the twenty-six institutions that completed the survey in both 2015 and 2016, private funding in those three areas increased 31 percent, from $1.19 billion to $1.56 billion, while funding for basic research in all areas — including  behavioral and social sciences and the arts and humanities — increased 28 percent, from $2 billion to $2.56 billion.

Now in its second year, the survey was created to establish a baseline for private funding for basic science research as federal funding for such research declines. Private funding for basic science research is also a fraction of total private funding to higher education institutions, which totaled $41 billion in 2016, according to the Voluntary Support for Education (VSE) survey conducted by the Council for Aid to Education.

"While philanthropists and private sources cannot fill the gap that the government is leaving, they are uniquely suited to make an impact on basic research," said Marc Kastner, president of the Science Philanthropy Alliance. "They have the ability to support endeavors which the government may be hesitant to start, they can be more nimble and innovative, and they can support the collaboration of many different types of scientists."