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Ignition Grant Program

Purpose of the Ignition Grant Program

One of the most meaningful ways to enable innovation and discovery in the environmental sciences is to provide financial support for scientists and engineers to work on new, high risk projects. Currently, most traditional funding sources don't support the most creative, cutting edge research. Rather they support more tried and true, less risky projects. The Earth System Initiative Ignition Grant Program seeks to bridge this gap, to allow scientists and engineers to do the preliminary research and generate the data they need to then pursue large amounts of funding from traditional sources.

Each $50,000 grant not only has an immediate impact on enabling the exploration of a great idea, but the more our program builds, more great ideas crystallize and we build on MIT's renowned culture of innovation and cross-disciplinary collaboration. This is how discovery and innovation in the environmental sciences can be catalyzed by your support.

Click here for a pdf of the current Ignition Grant Portfolio

$500,000 Milestone Reached in First Year

Since its inception in July 2006, the Ignition Grant program has funded ten $50,000 grants for a total of $500,000 in gifts to specific projects within the Earth System Initiative portfolio. These projects range from simulations of global ocean ecosystems, potential impacts of artificial ocean fertilization, and environmental semiconductor design, to harnessing wave energy, designing hybrid generators for rural Africa, and researching environmentally-conscious development of the carbon nanotube industry.

Program Starts with Winning Record

The very first two Ignition Grants resulted in both projects receiving subsequent grants from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the National Science Foundation, respectively. Professor Ed Boyle, who received the first $50,000 grant his lab's work in measuring the potential impacts of artificial ocean fertilization agrees that "If [graduate student] Seth hadn't received the Ignition Grant in August 2006, there is a high likelihood my lab would not have received the NSF funding in Spring 2007." In this case, the return on $50,000 can be defined in terms of the subsequent $650,000 grant given over the next three years.

Arunas Chesonis, Chairman of ESI's Directors Council, gives graduate student Seth John the inaugural Ignition Grant in July 2006. Seth's subsequent research contributed to Professor Ed Boyle's successful application for NSF funding in March 2007.