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Peter Thiel announces Breakout Labs to energize innovation

Stanford, CA -- Calling for more rapid innovation in science and technology, Peter Thiel today launched a new program of the Thiel Foundation, Breakout Labs. Speaking at Stanford to an event organized by the Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students, Thiel announced that Breakout Labs will use a revolving fund to improve the way early-stage science and technology research is funded by helping independent scientists and early-stage companies develop their most radical ideas.

"Some of the world's most important technologies were created by independent minds working long nights in garage labs," said Thiel. "But when their ideas are too new, unproven, or unpopular, these visionaries can find it difficult to obtain support. Through Breakout Labs, we're going to create opportunities for revolutionary science by cultivating an entrepreneurial research model that prizes extreme creativity and bold thinking."

With venture capital shifting to later and later stages of development and commercialization, and with ever shorter investment time horizons, there are few available means of support for independent early-stage development of science and technology. But many of these technologies are ripe for the same kind of innovations that began in computing during the 1970s, when small, visionary start-ups began to take on industry giants who wielded much bigger research and development budgets. Breakout Labs will accelerate this trend.

"Venture capital firms look for research that can be brought to market within five to seven years, and major funders like the National Institutes of Health have a low tolerance for radical ideas," said Breakout Labs founder and executive director Lindy Fishburne. "At Breakout Labs, we're looking for ideas that are too ahead of their time for traditional funding sources, but represent the first step toward something that, if successful, would be groundbreaking."

Three core conditions of Breakout Labs funding set it apart from traditional research dollars.

  • The work it supports is entrepreneurial and fully independent from formal research institutions.
  • The work is at an early stage, possibly even before proof of concept, but success would be a critical step toward a potential breakthrough that could dramatically change the world.
  • The work will support the acceleration of innovation through revenue-sharing and open access publication.

Breakout Labs funding is not a typical foundation grant. Instead, successful projects will help support the next generation of scientific exploration by assigning a modest portion of resulting revenue back to Breakout Labs.

"Over just the last few years, incredibly powerful research tools have become available at prices that researchers can afford outside of a university or government-supported setting," said Clarium managing director and Breakout Labs cofounder Ajay Royan. "We're on the cusp of a tremendous explosion in entrepreneurial science, and Breakout Labs is going to enable more and more independent visionaries to change the world."

Projects from across the spectrum of scientific disciplines will be considered for support, and funding will typically range from $50,000 to $350,000, but may vary substantially. In the interest of accelerating scientific development, support from Breakout Labs requires investigators to maximize the dissemination of the resulting innovations, either through open access publication or intellectual property development.

The Foundation has begun evaluating proposals and expects to announce the first awards as early as December 2011.

Contact: Ross Gillfillan
The Thiel Foundation

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