Top Things to Know about Science Foundation Arizona's Grantmaking

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Science Foundation Arizona in the news because of its recent grants to local schools. But this is a unique funder to get to know if you’re in the research, aerospace, or defense industries, too.

Here are the top things to know if you’re looking for a science grant in Arizona.


SFAz has only been around since 2006, when it was formed by three CEO groups (Greater Phoenix Leadership, Southern Arizona Leadership, and the Flagstaff 40) and the executive and legislative branches of state government. These three groups initially made a five-year commitment to pay for the foundation’s core operating costs. But recently, grants are paid through corporate and individual donations.

Since 2007, SFAz has awarded more than 150 individual grants worth over $110 million. These grants have led to direct jobs, patents filed and issued, and the formation of local technology companies. According to the foundation website, research grants generate at least $4 for every $1 of state funds invested.

Education Funding

SFAz funds many different types of education programs—not just traditional STEM education. The foundation has a rural & remote initiative, a Bisgrove Scholars program, a graduate research fellows program, teacher professional development programs, and a robotics program.  This is a funder that takes STEM funding beyond just the classroom to reach out to local businesses that offer STEM careers, create STEM clubs, and informal STEM programs for families outside of school.

Just recently, SFAz hired Ken Quartermain, a prominent Arizona businessman and public policy expert to become the director of the Arizona STEM Network. In this role, he leads collaborative efforts among businesses, educators, government and philanthropy, and their common agenda to graduate more Arizona students prepared for the global STEM economy.

Science Research Funding

Science research funding is focused on information and communications technology, environmental sustainability, clean energy, and biomedical research. You can find a list of research projects that SFAz has recently supported on the foundation website. In addition to these grants, the foundation also gives out Competitive Advantage Awards, Small Business Catalytic Investment program awards, and Strategic Research Group investments related to research.

Aerospace and Defense Funding

The aerospace and defense industry is a big deal in the state of Arizona, as this industry contributes over $15 billion per year to the state’s economy and employs over 150,000 people. To keep this momentum going, SFAz funds programs that support people pursuing relevant STEM careers and coordinate research. These grants often go to organizations working in the fields of cybersecurity, sensor engineering, energy management, research groups, and the development of new optical system designs.

Grant Opportunities

Like many funders, grantmaking begins with a request for proposals process, and unsolicited inquires are accepted. In addition to a staff of about 18 and a board of directors, SFAz enlists the help of an independent audit committee of accounting and business professionals to make grantmaking decisions.

Although Arizona is the main focus, some grant opportunities extend to other states, such as California, New Mexico, Texas, and Florida, as is the case of the Kickstarter Program for Hispanic Serving Community Colleges. General questions can be sent electronically through the foundation’s online form or called into the staff at 602-682-2800.