Online Marketplace to Support Student Projects

By Robert Sanders, Media Relations | 13 December 2006

BERKELEY – The University of California, Berkeley, has launched an online marketplace that will help students raise funds from campus alumni, private companies, foundations, or other donors to support their projects to change the world.

The marketplace, which can be found at, allows donors to make a targeted donation to support a specific student project.

“Cal students have great ideas for addressing some of the biggest challenges of the 21st century, such as clean energy, safe drinking water, global poverty reduction, technology-based entrepreneurship, and health care for the uninsured,” said UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. “This marketplace will help them mobilize additional financial and in-kind resources to support their ideas, and recruit additional committed students.”

The marketplace currently features 25 student projects, including:

  • A collaboration with the Shuar community in the Ecuadorian Amazon to address health needs such as malnutrition, safe water, and sanitation.
  • A Center for Energy Innovation, which would help accelerate the transfer of clean energy technologies from the lab to the marketplace and educate future leaders in the clean-energy industry.
  • Science, Technology, and Engineering Policy (STEP), a student group that seeks to create better technology policy through collaborations between scientists, technologists, and policy-makers.
  • The Berkeley Nanotechnology Club and the Berkeley BioBusiness Association, which foster entrepreneurship by UC Berkeley business, science, and engineering students interested in nanotechnology and the life sciences.
  • The Suitcase Clinic, which provides free services to the uninsured, homeless, and low-income communities of the Bay Area, including health care, medication, physical examinations, hygienic supplies, vision screening, legal counsel, and meals.

Student projects are vetted before being placed on the marketplace. Students that receive funding must update donors on the progress they have made twice per year. Many of the initial projects featured on the marketplace were winners of a $100,000 competition organized earlier this year by the Big Ideas @ Berkeley initiative and the UC Berkeley chapter of the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC). A similar competition is planned for early 2007, according to Thomas Kalil, director of Big Ideas @ Berkeley and special assistant to the chancellor for science and technology at UC Berkeley.

Development of the marketplace was supported by CommerceNet (, an entrepreneurial research institute investing in ideas that fulfill the promise of the Internet. The marketplace technology was developed by ChipIn (, an online service that provides a quick, easy and secure way of collecting money from groups of people.

“CommerceNet was delighted to support this innovative initiative,” said CommerceNet chairman Jay M. Tenenbaum. “It connects students with bold ideas to the community that will support them in their endeavors to change the world. We feel the Big Ideas marketplace is a compelling model for other universities to follow for supporting student-led projects.”

In the last several months, Big Ideas @ Berkeley and the student projects it backs have received additional support from a variety of prominent organizations. The initiative was featured at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York this fall. Omidyar Network, a mission-based investment group created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife, Pam, has provided additional funding of $135,000 through its Enzyme Program. One student project, the Center for Energy Innovation, has already attracted $50,000 in corporate and foundation support.

Other sponsors of Big Ideas @ Berkeley include the campus’s Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS), Sevin Rosen Funds, the UC Berkeley College of Engineering, the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, and the Office of the Vice-Chancellor for Research.

The Big Ideas @ Berkeley initiative provides funding, support, and encouragement to interdisciplinary teams of UC Berkeley undergraduate and graduate students who have “big ideas.” The initiative supports these student-led initiatives with seed grants, in-kind contributions, connections, advice, assistance in marketing and communications, and university resources, such as teaching resources for new courses.