Conference report: European Forum on Philanthropy and Research Funding – Science Writer and Consultant: Sergio Pistoi.


Conference report: European Forum on Philanthropy and Research Funding

Alliance Magazine

Originally published at: http://www.alliancemagazine.org/node/1984

Event European Forum on Philanthropy and Research Funding: Partnerships in Research

Date 2 December 2008

Venue Milan, Italy

Organizer European Foundation Centre

The European Forum on Philanthropy and Research Funding is an initiative that brings together research-focused foundations, universities, and a number of private and public stakeholders in the EU. More than 130 delegates gathered in Milan, at the Fondazione Cariplo conference centre, for the second meeting of the Forum last December, following an inaugural conference in Brussels in 2007. Partnerships in Research was the challenging theme chosen for this year’s conference.


Acknowledging the role of foundations and philanthropic organizations as the ‘new kids on the R&D block’ (in the words of European Foundation Centre chief executive Gerry Salole), the aim of the Forum is to provide a basis for philanthropic funding for research through the exchange of experiences and best practices, cooperation on research funding, and promotion of a favourable environment for private philanthropy undertakings.

Different approaches to partnership among foundations and other private and public stakeholders were presented in the opening plenary session. During an illuminating overview of the pros and cons of partnership, David Lynn, Head of Strategic Planning and Policy at the Wellcome Trust, suggested the need to evaluate carefully all future implications of new partnerships, taking into account, among other things, the governance model at the basis of the decision-making process, legal, fiscal and intellectual property issues, and (since nothing lasts forever) a possible exit strategy.

Two parallel sessions about governance and about evaluating the impact of research were a follow-up to the first conference in Brussels (both issues are critical to any research foundation’s strategy). The other three sessions were more focused on partnership, including a compelling discussion on fundraising strategies for universities. A scheme presented by Philip Nye from the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (UK) was particularly intriguing: under the programme, the UK government will match the philanthropic donations raised by universities with public funds. After a successful start-up phase, the UK is planning to invest £200 million in the matching scheme, stimulating new partnerships between academia and private funders.

During its first year of activity, the Forum has tried to represent the vast and diverse world of the philanthropic organizations involved in European research. Appreciating the quality of most speakers and the assorted background of participants, the Forum would benefit from a still more inclusive approach. Fundraising charities, for example, were still underrepresented in the session panels, while non-endowed foundations, which rely on volatile private and corporate support, would probably have provided a different and interesting angle on many critical issues discussed in Milan.

Sergio Pistoi is a consultant for research development and policy at Telethon Italy. Website www.sergiopistoi.com

For more information www.efc.be/projects/eu/efprf