ProScientist: Be A Patron to Cutting Edge Research
Feb 02, 2021
Be A Patron to Cutting Edge Research
ProScientist, as is intuitive in its name, wants to support researchers and scientists. We want to be the Patreon for researchers.
Research and researchers in novel technologies are at the forefront of technological change. A key element driving such research is funding which comes from institutions, corporations and funds. Institutional funding streams are highly specific and are driven by their own principals. Another, way of funding is via crowd funding platforms like Experiment.com which offer project-based crowd funding. The project-based crowd funding platforms require a lot of effort to reach the funding target and are not in sync with the nature of research which in general is incremental.
ProScientist brings a business model innovation which can upend the research finance sector. We believe in directing funds to high impact professions. Like an artist, a researcher has his/her own following based on their area of research and achievement. A small subset of these followers is super fans that are more than happy to provide recurring monetary support to the researcher and their projects. We provide a technology platform for researchers to share their profiles and gather loyal patrons around them. Patrons make small recurring monthly contributions to their desired researcher. Each payment will have a commission deducted which will constitute as revenue for ProScientist.
Many researchers and research projects don't have any funding at all. Who knows that the next big technology of tomorrow is left lying in a lab owing to lack of funds or too much bureaucracy? How many of us are aware of the paradox in society where scientists earn less than singers and footballers.
How are we better? Our competition?
We are faced with two main forms of competitors. First, are existing crowd funding platforms (GoFundMe, Experiment, Kickstarter). These platforms are project based crowd funding platforms therefore the funding is not recurrent. Second is institutional funding. We are better and differ from them in following ways.
When compared to institutional funding, our funding from patrons will be open and applicable to all elements of research. The researcher is open to spend it at her/her discretion on anything related to his/her research. There are no restrictions like the ones imposed by what is written in the research grant application or a funding agreement. The only guidelines of using the funds are what he/she has written on the funding profile on ProScientist’s platform, which is his/her own creation. The unprecedented freedom we offer as compared to institutional funding enables the researcher to pursue his/her curiosity when he/she finds something interesting. The funds can also be used for activities which may not be covered by the institutional funding contract which include freedom of information requests, copying and local travel. There is no need to file a request of change to the body funding. This doesn’t mean that the person receiving the funds from patrons can go and spend the funds on a party. We believe that the researcher is functioning under the rules of the university, ethics, conscience and professional reputation. The researcher would also be expected to provide updates of the research to patrons via our platform.
Institutional funding has a lot of bureaucracy incorporated in its administration. The funding institution may require a lot of communication and back and forth of reports which may consume time which can possibly be spent on viable research. There is a need for means of research finance which when initiated, can provide a constant stream of funds.
Research is done incrementally, while most of the institutional and crowd funding approaches follow the project model. The project based lump sum funding functions in a way where the researcher designs a project typically for a three year duration. If they get funding, they sign a contract and will have to follow through the plan for the next three years. In reality things rarely go as per plan. The incremental element to research is an intellectual risk and if does not go as per plan our concurrent funding via patrons fits well with its very incremental nature. The patronage may stop anytime if the desired milestones are not achieved. There is no need to go through the process of bureaucratic reimbursement.
In project-based crowd funding models a researcher must spend his viable research time on raising funds. Project based Crowd funding in its very process, from initiation to reaching its goal, is extremely time consuming. And once the funding is complete, the project must be executed and when the project is executed the whole-time consuming cycle of raising funds has to be restarted for another project. ProScientist with its constant patronage breaks this cycle of constant scouting for funds by steady flow of funds to the researcher.
Our patronage-based model has integrated the tasks building of audience and raising funds. When a funding campaign is started, you, as a researcher, start to gather patrons. You carry these patrons with you forward as you gather further patrons along the way. The current and future patrons start funding based on their monthly plans ($5/ month, $10/month). Therefore, the two processes of gathering an audience and asking them for funds are integrated and happen at the same time, as the moment you have a patron you start receiving funding based on his/her funding plan. In project-based crowd funding, on the other hand, you first have to raise an audience and then ask them for funds. Once the project funding is complete the whole process of raising an audience and asking for funds must be repeated for a new research project.
Positioning of ProScientist
A canvas displaying the competitive landscape can be seen below. On the top left you see project-based research funding options. These are the aforementioned project-based crowdfunding platforms and institutional grants. On the bottom left are project-based crowdfunding platforms, some of which are widely known and include Kickstarter and Gofundme.
Bottom right quadrant has Patreon which is a patronage-based platform for artists and content creators. Finally, on the top right you can see a landscape, defined by a business model, which is void of competition. ProScientist focuses on research and implements a patronage based crowdfunding model for financing research via researchers.
ProScientist’s Strategy and Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
The figure below illustrates a strategy canvas. It considers four key characteristics of bureaucracy, time, freedom and frequency. ProScientist fares well as compare to the incumbent financing options for research. It has the least bureaucracy of all the options, institutional grants have the highest. Some institutional grant applications are of 50 to 100 pages. In time required,
ProScientist takes the least time as the act of raising an audience and asking for funds is integrated. ProScientist offers the highest freedom as the patronage is personalized and the funds can be spent on all elements of research. Finally, the support is recurring as the patronage model is based on small regular, monthly contributions from the patrons.
Business and Revenue Models
Validation was key to see whether the general public would be willing to contribute to researchers via monthly, recurring patronage. A survey was conducted. Total number of participants who took the survey are 130. Following are the results.