For the Welch Foundation, It's All About Chemistry and Basic Research in Texas

The Houston-based Welch Foundation is well known in the world of chemistry because it’s one of the largest private funding sources of chemistry research in the nation. But what some chemists might not realize is that all of that funding power is contained within the great state of Texas. Founder Roberto Alonzo Welch made his fortune in oil and minerals there. Accordingly, he established a legacy of funding research grants, departmental programs, endowed chairs, and other projects at educational institutions in Texas, and only Texas.

But what’s really interesting to look at, here, is the sheer size of these Welch grants and how they’re scattered around the state. We thought this was a good time to take a closer look at all this since Welch recently awarded $25 million across the state.

Spreading Funding Around

While you might expect to see the bulk of funds going to institutions in Houston, this is not always the case. There are plenty of universities doing top-notch chemistry research in the Houston area. But grants going to the Dallas/Fort Worth area loomed even larger this spring.

Welch committed grants worth $9.72 million to Dallas/Fort Worth universities in its most recent round of giving, spread across 42 grants. New grantees, here, are University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, University of Texas at Dallas, University of North Texas, Baylor University, and University of Texas at Arlington. In comparison, just over $7.5 million was committed to Houston in the form of 32 grants.

But it’s important to note that these aren’t the only two parts in Texas that the Welch Foundation has been paying attention to. A total of 14 colleges and universities in Texas received new Welch grants, but almost all of these schools received multiple grants.

For example, the University of Texas at Austin was the only grantee in the Austin area, but it solely received 26 grants. In much lesser amounts, schools in San Antonio, West Texas (University of Texas at El Paso), and South Texas (University of Texas Rio Grande Valley) also received Welch’s support.

Welch grants are famously big, so it might not come as a big surprise that the money isn’t all released at once. The new batch of grants will be allocated over the next three years, with equal amounts being released each year.

A Focus on Basic Research

A final thing we’ll note is this funder’s passion for what’s known as “basic research.” In a press release, Charles W. Tate, the chair and director of the Welch Foundation board, said, "Basic chemical research is investigative at its core and the building block of applied research.”

According to the American Chemical Society, “Basic research is where it all starts: new ideas, fundamental theories, unanswered questions, and investigation into something that doesn't quite make sense.” This tells us that Welch is a funder that’s looking for projects that don’t necessarily have a specific commercial objective, but rather may possibly evolve into something bigger as new things are discovered.

Public and private spending on basic research is far less than that for other research and development activities because there is often no clear marketable product on the horizon. So come to this funder with your early-stage investigations, your curiosity into unknown territories, and your teamwork collaborations. Welch is a chemistry research funder that has a high tolerance for uncertainty and can appreciate perseverance after experimental setbacks.

Since 1954, this foundation has given over $819 million to advance the field of chemistry in the state. In addition to research grants like these, Welch also has a couple chemistry awards that recognize outstanding individuals in the field with $500,000 and $150,000.