by Dr. Tzameret Rubin
Impact@SBE is an impact team at the School of Business and Economics at Loughborough University, UK. Among its other tasks to help the school’s academics to develop and monitor their research impact, it explores newer, non-traditional ways of promoting impact, such as Crowdfunding for Research.
Apparently, a dedicated policy for this is not common across UK universities (even in bodies such as HEFCE). Therefore, the team has decided to open the discussion and explore possibilities. To kick-start (yet not Kickstarter..) this initiative, The Crowdfunding Centre was invited to attend an event, which saw academics from across the campus discuss how this emerging form of funding can complement traditional methods of obtaining research funding.
Professor Tom Jackson, Associate Dean for Research at the SBE and Director of the Centre for Information Management, highlighted the importance of this and commented: “Especially as securing research funding becomes more challenging we are looking for innovative ways to fund research that matters.”
According to Impact@SBE, using crowdfunding for research could be a great mechanism for engaging with the public to increase research impact, a goal that is aligned with one of the main objectives in Lord Stern’s Review ‘Building on Success and Learning from Experience. An Independent Review of the REF’, July 2016 that says “We recommend that impact on public engagement and understanding are emphasised.”
Crowdfunding shows a 48.3 per cent guaranteed funding rate (a figure that any researcher would embrace warmly), with the average project size costing £3,730. Furthermore, there are only around 6 per cent of repeat backers for projects, which means researchers can engage with different audience for each funding campaign, and hence increase their research exposure.
Senior Research and Enterprise Associate Dr Tzameret Rubin from Impact@SBE, School of Business and Economics said: “The crowdfunding industry itself is very new, with people mainly recognising funding platforms such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo. It was only a year ago that the first crowdfunding for research platform, Walacea, was launched in the UK. Yet there are thousands of other globally available platforms that either offer rewards for backers or raise money for donations to a project. The U.S. is where crowdfunding for research has longest been established with the creation of the Experiment website; a platform for funding scientific discoveries.”
Since its launch, over $6.5 million has been pledged to research projects on Experience, with over 30,000 backers from 1,294 projects that have been launched. Dr Rubin elaborated, saying: “Additionally, we saw that global leading universities started using crowdfunding not only for the monetary objective but also to expose research projects to the public and then receive feedback.”
A question that has come out of the workshop, “How can the University treat crowdfunding for research?”, will be looked at over the next few months with the aim of creating tools to help aid the impact agenda and hopefully Loughborough University will be one of the first to have research crowdfunding policy in place to lead the UK universities into that green grass.
Director of Impact@SBE Dr Fiona Ellis-Chadwick expressed the significance of the initiative: “UK universities are increasingly being asked to find ways to increase the extent to which their research is noticed and used in the ‘real world’. Impact@SBE is a new School-wide initiative that was established for this cause, to expose and track research across the range of topic areas within School of Business and Economics. Impact@SBE comprises a dedicated team of experienced researchers who undertake specific research projects for a wide variety of commissioning bodies, and collaborate with colleagues across School and elsewhere to undertake research and consultancy.”