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  • Crowdfunding Art, Science and TechnologyA Quick Survey of the Burgeoning New Landscape
  • David Marlett, Executive Director (bio)

Supplementary Material
David Marlett: References and Notes (.docx 19 KB)

AS IS WIDELY KNOWN, the number and scope of traditional funding sources for art and research have been declining over the past decade. Fortunately, a new, dynamic player on the field, crowdfunding, is growing exponentially in international market size and strength.

Crowdfunding is the innovative use of the Internet and social media to fund endeavors through the receipt of small monies from large numbers of people. It has proven notably successful, especially for specific industries and artistic endeavors such as gaming, tech innovation and film. The largest international portals include (U.S.-based) Kickstarter and Indiegogo and (U.K.-based) CrowdCube. Independent research firms (e.g. U.C. Berkeley’s Fung Institute) estimated that the crowdfunding market ranges from US$4 to $5 billion as of the end of 2013.

The art-science-technology community should take note: The majority of those billions funded artistic endeavors (films, music, etc.), tech innovations (3D printers, mobile phone accessories, etc.) and software launches (games, apps, etc.).

Given that a significant portion of successful crowdfunding has originated with higher-education students, many universities now encourage, if not facilitate, some form of crowdfunding. This academic crowdfunding (ACf) is primarily achieved via curated/partner pages for the universities on portals such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Over 50 colleges and universities worldwide have such pages, including MIT, Columbia, Stanford, Duke and the University of Edinburgh.

Furthermore, ACf is now making a strong appearance in faculty research funding. In the United States, leading portals for academic research crowdfunding (Research-ACf) include Experiment, Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Rockethub. Non-U.S. universities are also moving to integrate Research-ACf, as in Melbourne’s Deakin University’s partnership with the Australian platform Pozible and the University of Edinburgh’s partnership with the Scottish platform ShareIn. In consequence a valuable element of Research-ACf has been observed: The focus shifts perceptibly from outcomes to process.

Universities engaging in Research-ACf have generally pursued one of three methodologies [1]:

First: Faculty members utilize the same partner pages used for student projects (e.g. MIT Media Lab and Wharton).

Second: The university enters a set agreement with the portal for the Research-ACf effort—an arrangement more refined than the partner page option (e.g. Experiment’s partnerships with Tulane and the University of Washington).

Third (the most common methodology): The university hosts a private crowdfunding portal for its students/ faculty, often using white-label software such as Scale-Funder, USEED or Launcht (e.g. University of California, MIT, Colorado State University, Arizona State University, Cornell and the University of Virginia).

Regardless of which method is implemented for Research-ACf, the mission will commonly fall within one of three categories: (1) funding full experiments/research endeavors; (2) purchasing equipment/software; or (3) supplementing existing studies (e.g. Priscilla Cacola’s 2013 campaign at the University of Texas-Arlington utilized the Experiment portal to raise approximately $3,000 toward her Developmental Motor Cognition Lab).

Finally, an important synergistic benefit for academic and art crowdfunding arises in the amounts sought. Industry opinion advises capping typical campaigns at $10,000. This appears optimal for Research-ACf, according to a recent study: “$10,000 per fundraising campaign [is] an ideal amount for funding a pilot study, purchasing [End Page 104] equipment for an existing study, or a summer of graduate student research” [2].

Although crowdfunding is a time-intensive tool and not appropriate for all academic research, evidence shows that it can be an efficient method for raising funds. As the academic and art research community continues its steady development in crowdfunding, new opportunities, such as crowdfunding scholarships, will arise . . . along with unavoidable issues, such as tempestuous IP conflicts; coordination with university grant funding and alumni lists; liability mitigation; the onset of equity crowdfunding in the United States, as well as its explosive use internationally through portals such as CrowdCube, OurCrowd (Israel), ASSOB (Australia) and Invesdor (Northern Europe); and the impact of crowdfunding on the choice of the research and its methodologies and whether such impacts are a net...


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pp. 104-105
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