Global Fusion Foundation Endowment Proposal
Rezwan Razani - August 06, 2013
A friend, inspired by the Coalition of Foundations for Science call to action, suggested the following.
With the appeal of fusion energy as an attractive energy source for humanity, one would imagine that the cause should be able to attract visionary billionaires the likes of Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, etc.
If we can gather the world’s top 10 visionaries and billionaires to make a one-time donation of about $0.2B per person or about and less than 1% of the individual billionaire’s net worth to a trust fund, one would have a Global Fusion Foundation with an endowment of about $2B. If the fund is invested and the investment is professionally managed, one might be able to expect a return-on-capital (ROC) of at least 10% per year.
After reinvesting a fraction of that to protect the value of the fund against inflation, the Foundation would still be able to allocate about $100M per year on the average to fund research in fusion indefinitely, i.e. the Foundation would be an evergreen endowment fund.
If the fund were used to fund high-risk-high-reward research to complement the government fusion program which is conservatively focused on the lowest risk approach to fusion, the Foundation should be able to make a major impact on the development of fusion energy with an annual budget of about $100M in today’s dollar.
The goal is to fund initially five to six truly innovative and promising fusion concepts in a horse-race over a six- to eight-year period, to establish the scientific feasibility of the concepts. At the end of the period, one or two concepts might emerge with its scientific feasibility and its attractiveness being so compelling that it will either attract further private funding or government funding or both to enter an engineering and technology developmental stage (whatever that entails).
Of course, these criteria/milestones need to be carefully quantified and defined. At that point, a review could be taken: either the remaining fund in the Foundation could be returned to its original donors, or the Foundation could continue to steward the R&D. The technical management of the program will have to be carefully thought out.
The main idea is that the purpose of the Foundation is to complement the government program, not to be in competition with it. The two programs can synergestically share scientific data and information, technology as well as the scientific work force. Indeed, conceivably it will allow scientists and engineers to move freely between the two programs, and help to ease some of the grid lock, and facilitate programmatic transitions in either program.
The Foundation will have all the usual advantages of privately funded programs, unencumbered by some of the rules and regulations that affect Federally funded programs.
What do you think? Post your comments below.