Crowdfunding Research Projects

Finding the funds for research through traditional channels is becoming increasingly difficult – which is why many researchers are turning to crowdfunding.

Most universities finance their research projects in conjunction with funding from the government, from agencies or from philanthropists (sometimes called Angel Investors). However, securing these resources isn’t always possible, and may prove particularly difficult to obtain in the case of very innovative ideas or controversial projects.

So what can they do?

Well, take the case of David Nutt, a professor at Imperial College London, who wanted to study the impact of the illegal drug LSD on the brain. For Nutt, crowdfunding was the perfect solution as his project scared off conventional research council funding but attracted huge interest from the general public, who donated more than £53,000 in two days.

With academics under increasing pressure to show that they are engaging with the public through their work, crowdfunding is a great way to get support for research topics with a broad public interest such as the environment, information technology or climate change. Some researchers who might be put off by crowdfunding for fear of lack of credibility in academic circles, tend to use it in conjunction with more traditional funding rather than as a unique source of funds, as it boosts the possibility for them to make full use of their network of contacts.  

Some Universities have their own crowdfunding platform while others use a general platform with a research section. Locally, ZAAR wants to create a specific Research section to give researchers the opportunity to co-finance their scientific projects and to reduce the gap between scientists and people by sharing progress, data and results. Researchers who decide to crowdfund through ZAAR will have the opportunity to find collaborators for new projects and also stimulate new and creative ideas by engaging with the wider public.

So if you’re a scientist or researcher who’s interested in crowdfunding your research project, remember that you have to present the material in an interesting and engaging way that captures the imagination of the public. A good video that explains the project in layman terms, as well as constant use of social media, will show potential investors how engaged you are as a researcher in sharing your process.

Studies have also shown that early stage research is more likely to raise money from crowdfunding because it is less expensive than more advanced stages (for example clinical trials) and because it’s easier to explain to people who might not have a scientific background. Interdisciplinary research also tends to be more successful in crowdfunding campaigns.

Armed with these tips, you’re now ready to embark on a new journey towards research crowdfunding. Just make sure you dedicate the same amount of time and commitment as you would in a traditional funding application and you’ll be on your way to a successful campaign. Good luck!