Canadian Nuclear Labs’ scientists crowdfund $1.4M in seed-stage ideas

By Vanessa Pineda on October 22, 2018

The Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), the nation’s premier nuclear science and technology organization, just ran its inaugural “Seed Program” committing $1.4 Million for employees to propose – and (using company funds) directly invest in – new projects for the research pipeline.

CNL is a leader in developing peaceful and innovative applications from nuclear technology, and they introduced crowdfunding to more actively engage their employees’ expertise in both sourcing and prioritizing ideas. Putting money in the hands of employees to determine the direction of research and development efforts follows through with CNL’s recognition that their strength lies in its people.

Launched this summer and supported by Cultivate’s Ignite application, the “Seed Program” draws inspiration from the startup fundraising model that begins with a “seed” round investment, followed by Series A, B, and C funding rounds. Ideas in CNL’s “Seed Program” are either small-scale projects that can be completed with a small investment, or proof-of-concept projects to test feasibility for scale.

CNL invited all 3,500 nuclear scientists, engineers, operators, and entrepreneurs working in laboratory or project sites across the country to submit ideas. At the start of the four weeks of idea submission, CNL gave employees guidelines for scoping and defining their budget based on an internal rate for labor and facilities. They received dozens of proposals ranging in cost from $10,500 to $100,000.

Once ideas were submitted, eligible employees in research and development were then given a portion of the $1.4 Million to invest in the best ideas over the course of two weeks. Employees made thousands of individual investments across all the proposals, provided hundreds of comments, and many volunteered to work on ideas they were passionate about. With all the activity, 20 proposals got fully funded. CNL committed to staffing those ideas into projects, which will be part of the research pipeline in 2018-2019.


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By Vanessa Pineda

Vanessa is the Director of Professional Services at Cultivate Labs.

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