ASU awarded Schmidt Futures Grant


A prominent Silicon Valley philanthropist has awarded Arizona State University a $1.5 million grant to find new pathways for restoring prosperity to the American middle class, reducing poverty and increasing national competitiveness.

ASU was selected as an inaugural partner for the Alliance for the American Dream, an initiative of Schmidt Futures, whose mission is to advance society through technology, inspire scientific breakthroughs and promote shared prosperity.

“Today, too many middle-class families find themselves at risk of falling into poverty, while too few see a path to build a brighter future for their children,” said Eric Schmidt, technical advisor to Alphabet, a member of its board of directors, and former executive chairman. “America needs a strong middle class; our future depends on it.”

Schmidt said he visited ASU’s Tempe campus last May and saw firsthand how the institution was committed to reimagining the role of universities in communities around the world.

“We look forward to seeing how Arizona State fuels an innovation engine to help distressed communities in Arizona and expand the middle class,” Schmidt said.

ASU’s participation in the Alliance for the American Dream reflects the university’s ongoing commitment to advance its charter and design aspirations.

“ASU assumes primary responsibility for the comprehensive well-being of the communities it serves, and we work to fulfill this pledge through collaborative innovation on all levels,” ASU President Michael Crow said. “We are enthusiastic about the mission of the Alliance for the American Dream, and excited to be a foundational member focused on creating new and novel pathways to the American Dream. We look forward to developing game-changing solutions that help to provide access and abundance for all.”

The Alliance for the American Dream maintains that the presence of a healthy and robust middle class makes it more likely that low-income individuals and households will successfully climb out of and remain out of poverty. Alliance members are tasked with cultivating at least 10 ideas to increase net income by 10 percent for 10,000 local middle-class households by 2020. Through the implementation of these ideas, beneficiaries will experience greater upward mobility toward an expanded middle class.

“At ASU, we will form teams of innovators advancing interdisciplinary approaches to improve the financial well-being of the middle class,” said Jacqueline Smith, associate vice president and executive director in ASU’s Office of University Initiatives. Smith said these innovators would include members of ASU’s academic community, entrepreneurs, nonprofit organization executives and local government leaders.

She added these ideas might range anywhere from healthcare to autonomous vehicles to food entrepreneurship to product innovation.

Other participants are expected to share insights and lessons learned with other members of the Alliance as well as to make relevant research available to one another.

Schmidt Futures may provide up to $4 million of additional funding toward the best ideas that emerge from the Alliance.