Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation: Grants for Science Research

 OVERVIEW: The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation currently ranks is one of the largest and most active grantmakers in non-biomedical science philanthropy, funding basic research across the life and physical sciences. The foundation focuses on plant science, marine microbiology, and data-driven discovery and other subprograms in quantum systems, earthquakes, and the Thirty Meter Telescope.

IP TAKE: Moore doesn’t accept unsolicited proposals, but for grantseekers doing groundbreaking work in one or more of the foundation's program areas, Moore could be a significant backer.

PROFILE: Established in 2000 and based in San Francisco, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation seeks to “Creat[e] positive outcomes for future generations,” which it pursues by supporting four key areas: “path-breaking scientific discovery, environmental conservation, patient care improvements, and preservation of the special character of the Bay Area.”

Moore provides significant funding to California universities such as Caltech and campuses within the University of California, but support has also gone to other universities like Johns Hopkins.

Moore targets its grantmaking: its staff has an agenda, picks their favorites, and funds them with major support. Indeed, the foundation only awards between 30 and 50 science grants annually. Grants typically range from $20,000 to $2.5 million, with most falling in the $100,000 to $500,000 range. A limited number of grants have exceeded $2.5 million, and grants typically don’t drop below six figures.

The first program for grantseekers to look at for science research is its Science Program, which “invests in the development of new technologies, supports the world’s top research scientists and brings together new—often groundbreaking—scientific partnerships.”  

Though its science research awards are less frequent in this area, the foundation also supports science research through its Environmental Conservation program, which “balances long-term conservation with sustainable use” and is especially focused on marine ecosystem management. This program is international and multidisciplinary in scope, with a subprograms dedicated to the Andes, the study of economics, agriculture, and wild salmon ecosystems. Funded research focuses on topics like research into the relationship between environmental risk and global “agricultural commodity chains” as well as several studies related to land use and conservation in the Brazilian Amazon.

A more in-depth look into funded projects and more is available at the foundation’s grantmaking page.

Unfortunately for grantseekers, the Moore Foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals - a decision detailed in a document explaining its “founders’ intent.” Instead, its staff researches a large number of organizations annually and reaches out to those in which the foundation has interest.

However, science grants from Moore are truly long-term collaborations. The development of each grant involves a number of consultations to design the project goals and establish strategies to get there. When a grant is awarded, program officers then meet periodically with grant recipients to monitor progress and adapt backup strategies to modify the original plans if necessary.


Search for staff contact info and bios in PeopleFinder (paid subscribers only).