Tycoon gives Oxford $50 million to tackle climate change

A wealthy benefactor has pledged up to $50 million (£36 million) to the Oxford University school founded in his name to help it tackle global problems including climate change.

Dr James Martin, a Keble College alumnus, will match any research donations to the James Martin 21st Century School in a bid to encourage others to give in the global downturn.

Donations must be at least $1m (£710,000) and made before March 12, 2010.

Dr Martin, an IT entrepreneur, said: “My view is that, while we may be distracted by today’s credit crunch, we must not forget the bigger picture – that we need to safeguard a future for the generations that follow us.”

Last week’s pledge comes four years after his initial gift of US$100 million (£71 million) to set up the school and could generate the same amount again.

In a video message giving his reasons for the pledge, he said: “What I want to try an do is attract great people around the planet, who are worried about the future, worried about global warming, worried about civilisation, worried about the impact on singularity and so on and get people with that concern to come together with my concern, so together we can find solutions that are really going to make a difference.”

The schools 15 research units study topics including emerging infections, ageing populations, global health and climate change.

“If we look at what would destablise the climate, we can take actions now which will have an effect 20 years from now,” said Dr Martin, who studied physics at the university. “So, it’s very important to understand the future.”

Taken with the money to set up the school, it is thought to be among the largest donations ever to a UK university.

It comes as the credit crunch leaves other universities facing funding cuts and department closures.

Dr Ian Goldin, its director, said: “I was concerned, as anyone involved in higher education would be, that the economic crisis would undermine people’s willingness to donate.

“This wonderful new generation of resources has therefore been timely. Anyone giving will know they are contributing towards providing twice the money they have come forward with.”

Since launching a campaign last year, Oxford says it has raised some £650 million towards a total £1.25 billion target to maintain its world class reputation.

To watch the video in which Dr Martin outlines his reasons for the pledge go to the following link

David Gibbs

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