U. of Virginia Teams Up With ‘Crowdfunding’ Site to Finance Research

The University of Virginia announced this week the creation of a university “crowdfunding” portal designed to enable alumni and other donors to support research projects.

The university is one of the first to start such a fund-raising effort through a partnership with a crowdfunding start-up company. UVa is teaming up with Useed, a company focused on promoting fund raising in higher education by soliciting donations for university research projects or student-proposed entrepreneurial projects.

Crowdfunding Web sites, such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, have become popular among individual students and researchers who want to raise money for specific projects or simply to finance their education. And now some universities are also jumping on the bandwagon to promote crowdfunding opportunities on a larger scale.

Useed also has portals at three other universities: Arizona State University, Cornell University, and the University of Delaware. And last December, the University of Utah teamed up with another crowdfunding start-up company, RocketHub, to attract donations for new university technologies.

“It’s our hope that this innovative initiative will build on the success of the university’s proof-of-concept research programs and establish a new model for funding promising, early-stage research,” said Thomas C. Skalak, UVa’s vice president for research, in a written statement.

Although Useed’s partnerships with other universities focus primarily on student projects, UVa’s site will promote research projects at the university. In a six-month pilot, the portal will feature 10 different projects, including two that started this week.

One featured project seeks to raise $35,000 to make water-purification tools more accessible in rural areas of South Africa. Another project—led by Kathryn Laughon, an associate professor of nursing—seeks to raise $19,000 to develop a new forensic dye to help identify sexual-assault injuries on women of all skin tones.

Ms. Laughon said in a written statement that nurses and physicians who conduct physical examinations following sexual assault find fewer injuries in women with darker skin.

“We have good reason to think that that’s simply a matter of the technology we’re using to visualize these injuries,” she said. Raising money to finance the research “would help us go a long way toward identifying a solution to this important problem.”

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