I was up late last night and began to consider the problem of funding for scientific research. After learning about disruption theory last year I often look around and think about possibilities of disruption. Big science is ripe for it.
Because of my lifelong love of the mysteries of the cosmos I am particularly interested in space exploration. With the decline of NASA this is a very timely issue. Traditionally science and technology research has been funded with public money and guided by military concerns, particularly in the area of space exploration. Since the end of the Cold War public funding of science has been cut back year after year. Is there a better model?
In the startup space we spend a lot of our time thinking about business models, product-market fit, market experimentation, bootstrapping, etc. I love working on the next big app as much as the next guy, but there are bigger issues in the world. Bigger ideas.
If public funding for space exploration is getting sparse (or is politically difficult to access), what are the alternatives? Corporate sponsorship? Bake sales? Microryza and Petridish.org are using a crowd-funding model similar to Kickstarter. Or can we do an end-run around funding and figure out other ways to support research. For example, leverage the consumerization of research technology, spare CPU cycle donation, etc. It seems to me that an entrepreneurial mind could come up with a novel solution to this problem.
Some of the more illustrious stars in the startup constellation (specifically Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos) have taken space private using their massive fortunes. Although a great contribution, this is more evolutionary than revolutionary. True disruptions tend to be cheap and simple.
I am not proposing that we should figure out how to make a cheaper, better space probe (though somebody should be doing that), but I think we could use our entrepreneurial creativity to come up with alternative funding models for scientific and space research.
Over the next while I will learn more about this topic to see what work has gone before. I reached out to Neil deGrasse Tyson (hero!) who has been arguing the case for space for a long time. My next read is Realizing Tomorrow: The Path to Private Spaceflight. If you know of any resources please leave a comment, get me on G+ tweet me or use the contact form at the bottom of my site.
- If you need more convincing that this is a worthy cause, start with this short vid featuring Neil deGrasse Tyson
- Everybody can be inspired by Carl Sagan
- Take a flight to Saturn to learn of some of the possibilities of modern space exploration
- Learn about Project Hieroglyph, Neal Stephenson’s call to SF writers to end Innovation Starvation