Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation: Grants for STEM Higher Education

OVERVIEW: The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation's grantmaking activities encompass science and STEM work, improved patient care, environmental conservation, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Science and STEM projects account for a significant portion of Moore's total giving, with most grants going to large universities.

IP TAKE: Moore prioritizes major California institutions, such as Caltech, for STEM grants. It doesn’t accept unsolicited proposals, but leading universities and research institutions do still have a chance at earning funding from the Moore Foundation.

PROFILE: Established in 2000 and based in San Francisco, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation seeks to “[c]reat[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.”

The first program for grantseekers to look at for STEM higher education funding 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.

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 exceed $2.5 million, and grants typically do not drop below six figures. 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. 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 and universities annually and reaches out to those in which the foundation has interest. However, science grants from Moore are 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.


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