OVERVIEW: The family foundation of tech and investment billionaire Thomas Siebel gives in four main areas: the homeless and underprivileged, education and research, public health, and energy solutions.
IP TAKE: There are pretty much two ways to win support from Siebel’s science education funding—become one of a handful of favored universities, or win a Siebel Scholar award. Unfortunately, eligibility for the latter is limited to students from a short list of pre-selected universities.
PROFILE: The Siebel Foundation is the private foundation of Thomas Siebel, who was first an executive in technology companies and later business investment. The foundation started in 1996 with four main interests—the homeless and underprivileged, educational and research programs, public health and energy solutions.
This large foundation makes very targeted grants, meaning it doesn’t invite applications and has a limited number of initiatives it backs heavily. Of those grants, a number go to universities, some for science programs.
The core of the foundation is the Siebel Scholars program, which makes awards to graduate students in science and business and then recruits them to help guide the foundation's future initiatives. The foundation also makes grants to a handful of favored universities as well as its own stem cell and energy research institutes. The program also gives competitive awards for grad students in computer science and bioengineering (as well as business).
The Siebel Scholars program has been happening since 2000. The program makes grants to pre-selected universities, which nominate their leading grad students in computer science, bioengineering, and business. The winners are chosen “based on outstanding academic performance and leadership,” and awardees “receive a $35,000 award toward their final year of studies.”
A few examples of work the foundation has funded include initiatives in computer science and data analysis for projects such as mapping the human genome or winning presidential elections.
You can search a database of Siebel Scholars here. Profiles include a brief bio and a synopsis of each scholar’s work.
Once the scholarship ends, Siebel Scholars continue to be advisors to the foundation. Scholars also join a collaborative that meets at Siebel Scholars conferences to share ideas that tend to focus on driving action on big global issues and often involve U.S. and international decision-makers. In addition, the program has been known to trumpet and even continue to fund the future projects of its scholars.
Some of the ideas from Siebel conferences end up driving the Siebel Foundation’s other giving, such as the creation of the Siebel Stem Cell Institute (SSCI). Heavily backed by the foundation, SSCI is a joint program between the University of California, Berkeley Stem Cell Center and the Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. More information about the SSCI can be found in its annual report, available at the foundation’s website.
More recently, Siebel also launched the Siebel Energy Institute, a multi-university “consortium for innovative and collaborative energy research” that offers $25,000 and $50,000 research grants “to accelerate advancements in the safety, security, reliability, efficiency and environmental integrity of modern energy systems.” Before jumping into SEI’s call for proposals, keep in mind that its grants are again limited to the consortium’s university members.
While the Scholars program is the foundation’s largest higher ed program, it does also make a small number of grants to universities. The majority of recent university grants were allocated “to support academic and scholarship programs,” and recipient universities included the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, MIT, the University of Chicago, and Princeton. The foundation also created the Thomas M. Siebel Chair in Computer Science at UC Berkeley.
- Jenny Hildebrand Christiansen, Director Siebel Scholars Foundation