Seeding the Future of Clean Energy Innovations

Funding today's top university innovators in clean energy


Seeding the future of clean energy innovations through a unique philanthropic funding platform. Building relationships with a national network of top innovators and convening donors to solve our nation’s biggest energy issues. Our strategy is to diversify resources to a wide range of top clean energy researchers on the Benefunder platform, with equal periodic distributions to all researchers in the fund, in exchange for regular updates.

The Clean Energy Impact Fund will focus on advancing all areas of clean energy, including basic and applied research, with an emphasis on commercializing new methods and technologies. Benefunder’s Clean Energy innovators include some of the top labs in the country, including Harvard, Duke, Cornell, The University of Texas at Austin, Rice, and Georgia Tech. They include promising new breakthroughs in power production, storage, and delivery, as well as policy. Opportunities for funding these initiatives will span early-stage research through commercialization, and early stage debt and equity positions in promising technologies that might be too risky or early for more traditional funding. We plan on allocating 15% of total fund assets of clean energy impact investing.

The fund will include these top university innovators from accross the nation working on today's most pressing clean energy solutions:




  • Detecting Chemicals on the Nanoscale
    James Gole, Georgia Institute of Technology
    Dr. James Gole creates devices on the nanoscale to detect harmful chemicals in our environment
  • Organic Chemistry as a Vehicle for Affecting Humankind
    James Tour, Rice University
    Through organic chemistry, Dr. James Tour is answering some of life’s most challenging questions in healthcare, the environment and technology
  • Sustainable Computing
    Barath Raghavan, International Computer Science Institute
    Dr. Barath Raghavan is working to bring sustainability to the forefront of computer science
  • Green Energy Lights the Future
    Shirley Meng, University of California, San Diego
    Designing novel materials chemistries and nanostructures for advanced energy applications, including fail-safe, affordable, and long-lasting batteries that will facilitate the operation of electric vehicles
  • Powering Sustainable Energy Sources
    Carlo Segre, Illinois Institute of Technology
    Using x-rays to learn how the structure of materials affects their properties
  • The Smallest Organisms Make the Biggest Impact
    Derek Lovley, University of Massachusetts Amherst
    Electric bacteria offer a solution for the need for clean energy
  • Failsafe Roads and Energy Efficient Vehicles
    Olivia Graeve, University of California, San Diego
    Creating new materials to maintain existing infrastructure and for energy applications
  • Energy Innovation: From Theory to Microgrid
    Sustainable Power and Energy Center, University of California, San Diego
    UCSD’s Agile Center addresses bottleneck issues facing industry partners in energy technology
  • Providing Safe and Affordable Water for the Global Community
    Benjamin Hsiao, Stony Brook University
    New nanofibrous membranes can lead to a leap in low cost water purification
  • Coordinating Robots for Environmental Sensing and Fun
    Thomas Bewley, University of California, San Diego
    Deploying sensor-equipped unmanned aerial or underwater vehicles into airborne plumes (e.g., Fukushima) or water-borne plumes (e.g. Deepwater Horizon), to better quantify where such plumes are, and where they are spreading
  • Energy Efficient Smart Cities
    Tajana Rosing, University of California, San Diego
    Context aware computing systems for effective energy management
  • Driving Innovation Forward
    Qualcomm Institute, University of California, San Diego
    Exploring the use of novel materials, new technologies and data-driven control systems for various energy applications on the grounds of university campuses
  • Win-Win Scenarios in Conservation
    Brad Cardinale, University of Michigan
    Dr. Cardinale aims to maximize the yield and stability of algal biofuel production and accelerate release of O2 into, and removal of CO2 from, the atmosphere



  • Nuclear Energy Without Nuclear Waste
    Gerald Kulcinski, University of Wisconsin-Madison
    Dr. Kulcinski is developing new reliable third generation nuclear fusion energy sources (helium-3) without producing nuclear waste
  • Making Technology Safe
    Sheila Baker, University of Missouri-Columbia
    Dr. Baker is creating new materials that reverse or prevent the negative chemical processes caused as a result of technological advancement
  • Attacking the Energy-Environment Problem with Basic Research and Novel Technologies
    Michael Aziz, Harvard University
    Dr. Aziz’s research helps to harness the energy to power a civilization of 10 billion people without destroying the environment
  • Understanding Climate Change
    James Hansen, Columbia University
    Understanding the physics of climate change and communicating unbiased scientific knowledge to the public
  • Improving Transportation
    Steve Boyles, The University of Texas at Austin
    Modeling solutions through various system networks to improve transportation
  • Climate Solutions in Land Use
    Deborah Lawrence, University of Virginia
    Dr. Lawrence explores the impact of various land allocation options on climate, ecosystem services, and human well-being
  • Mechanistic Chemistry at the Atomic Level
    Serena deBeer, Cornell University
    Dr. DeBeer develops new tools to understand mechanistic chemistry at the atomic level
  • Sustainable Energy Storage
    Louise Berben, University of California, Davis
    Dr. Louise Berben, of the University of California, Davis, develops catalysts for conversion of carbon dioxide into fuels for sustainable energy
  • The Interface between Climate and Physics
    David Neelin, University of California, Los Angeles
    Dr. Neelin adapts techniques from applied math, physics and big data to shed light on climate variations
  • Reviving Water Flow
    Roger Bales, University of California, Merced
    Understanding mountain-valley water cycles to increase water sustainability
  • Precise Measurements Lead to Advanced Technologies
    Michael Trenary, University of Illinois, at Chicago
    Mechanisms of chemical reactions inform environmental and energy applications


The fund will provide a central point to unite resources from several stakeholders in the community, including all types of foundations, family offices, and private donors. Benefunder primarily focuses on offering hosted Donor Advised Funds with wealth management firms, where it will promote the Clean Energy Impact Fund as a type of ‘mutual fund’ opportunity for clients interested in clean energy.

This fund has the advantage of drawing attention to a central cause that can pool resources and offer a diversified approach in the clean energy space. We continue to develop relationships with researchers in the fund and share information and updates with donors that can turn into actionable decisions and potentially even deal flow for investment and other opportunities.

The Plan

Step 1: Initial Pledges

•  Benefunder is aiming to raise $5 million in pledged funds in the first year

•  Naming rights available

Step 2: Launch Campaign

• Target: wealth advisor clients, general public, foundations and companies

• Matching campaigns with larger donor audience

• Promote fund through online, wealth management, corporate, and press release campaigns

Step 3: Events, Showcases, & Conferences

• Connect researchers with donors and stakeholders via intimate gatherings

• Build relationships that can add value and serve as resources for researchers

• Develop relationships with potential licensors and/or investors

Step 4: Commercialization & Tech Transfer

• As research results in new company formation and intellectual property, the fund will provide investment and other opportunities