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How Science Card’s research funding works




Scientific Research

Science Card’s customers support scientific research through their current account. But what does that actually mean, and how does it work?

Scientific research in the UK: critical, and critically underfunded

The main drivers of scientific research are universities. Our universities are dedicated to the advancement of knowledge, and that advancement is created through research. Scientists at universities carry out vital research that pushes forward our ability to combat climate change and disease, and progresses our understanding and use of technologies such as quantum computing and beyond.

Scientific research at universities relies on government funding. Despite being one of the world’s leading economies the UK’s spending on research is around 2.7% of GDP, compared to countries like Germany, South Korea or the US, where spending on research is up to 4.6% of GDP.¹

Research is essential. Without scientific research, we are not able to advance. Research is also expensive, and requires a significant amount of funding.

Fixing the funding issue

Science Card was founded by scientists who experienced firsthand the impact that a lack of funding has on research at universities. So how does Science Card help fix this problem?

At Science Card we are working closely with the UK’s leading universities. In collaboration with teams and faculties at the universities, we identify important research projects that fit with our themes of climate change, healthcare and quantum computing, fit with the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and that are in need of funding.

We will then bring these research projects onto the Science Card app. In the app, our customers will be able to explore each project, read the project’s whitepapers and find out more about the researchers. We will also show each project’s funding target, and how much funding the project has raised so far by and through Science Card.

Our customers will be able to make a direct contribution to the projects they like, as well as supporting them with round-ups from purchases using their Science Card Mastercard debit card. We will also contribute 10% of our profits to research projects, as well as a share of our revenue for card purchases over £200.

Once a project meets its funding target, the funds are then allocated straight to the research, under the direction of the university. This dramatically increases the speed and efficiency of fund-raising by researchers, meaning that the research is able to start producing results sooner.

Once the research project is underway, we will continue to work with the researcher. Objectives and milestones tied to the funding are monitored by the Science Card management team, and progress is reported back on the Science Card app. For the first time, supporters of science will be able to follow the progress of the research projects that they’re most interested in.

How do Science Card customers benefit from the research they support?

First and foremost, our customers are helping drive progress in science and technology brought about by the research that they support, in particular in the fields of climate change, healthcare and quantum computing.

A successful research project is likely to create intellectual property as a result of its findings. If that IP can be commercialised, for instance, by being spun out as a business — then the IP acquires a value as an intangible asset on that business’ balance sheet.

This process, known as technology transfer, is essential for enabling researchers to market their discoveries, and Science Card is able to work with universities and their technology transfer teams to ensure that a project’s IP can be effectively commercialised.

As of 2021, UK universities had spun out over 1,500 companies to commercialise their IP, almost a third of which are in the life sciences. Two-thirds of these continue to function as private companies. Oxford Nanopore Technologies PLC is a good example of a UK IP commercialisation success story, having been spun out from the University of Oxford in 2005. By 2018 the company alone had published 376 patent applications, was listed on the London Stock Exchange in September 2021, and as of April 2023 had a market capitalisation of £1.73bn.

Science Card customers have the opportunity to benefit from any successfully crystalised IP generated from the research projects that they have made a grant to. If the value of that IP is crystalised — for instance, when the business holding the IP is sold or listed on a stock exchange — then an amount of the sale in proportion to the Science Card customer’s donated contribution will be credited by Science Card into their Science Card account on the app.

With scientific research, it’s important to understand that predicting the commercialisation potential of a project’s IP is not always possible upfront. While success stories like Oxford Nanopore Technologies PLC exist, the reality is that university IP often goes uncommercialised or does not create any results from which IP is created. For this reason, IP is not an investment, but rather a potential source of benefit from supporting vital scientific research and therefore contributing to ground-breaking discoveries.