How Yuri Milner’s Global Collaborations Are Leading the Way for Science and Tech Developments

In 2012, Israeli billionaire Yuri Milner signed the Giving Pledge with his wife Julia, promising to donate a large portion of their wealth to scientific fields. To satisfy their Giving Pledge, the couple established the Breakthrough Foundation, which funds several philanthropic projects.

Three years later, Yuri Milner announced the launch of the Breakthrough Initiatives, which his Foundation supports. These five pioneering space science programmes pursue fundamental knowledge about the Universe, such as whether life exists on other planets. Yuri Milner touches on this subject and more in his book Eureka Manifesto.

The Breakthrough Initiatives: Innovation and Collaboration

Since 2015, the Breakthrough Initiatives have acted as a catalyst for global collaboration amongst governments and scientists. The multi-million-dollar programmes have also helped advance science and tech across various fields.

For instance, Breakthrough Listen works with observatories across the world, using their cutting-edge instruments to detect potentially alien signals. Listen combines these instruments with innovative software and data analysis techniques.

The Listen team also collaborates with engineers and astronomers from different universities and institutions.

Meanwhile, Breakthrough Discuss, an annual academic conference, brings together world-renowned scientists and scholars to discuss recent space discoveries and the possibility of life in the Universe.

These are some of the other ways in which the Breakthrough Initiatives are leading the way for developments in science and technology.

Breakthrough Watch

Are there habitable worlds beyond Earth? Breakthrough Watch hopes to answer this question by detecting planets outside our Solar System that could host life. An international team of exoplanet detection and imaging experts runs the project.

In 2019, after three years of work, the Watch team installed new instrumentation on the Very Large Telescope in Chile. The NEAR (Near Earths in the AlphaCen Region) instrument enabled the team to image nearby habitable-zone exoplanets directly.

Early observations with NEAR resulted in the detection of a signal in the habitable zone of a star in Alpha Centauri. Following this discovery, Yuri Milner emphasised that we can “discover new worlds” and “keep advancing” when we “collaborate on a global scale.”

Breakthrough Watch is currently funding the TOLIMAN mission to launch a new planet-detecting telescope into space.

Breakthrough Starshot

Breakthrough Starshot, a $100 million programme, plans to demonstrate proof of concept for nanocraft capable of interstellar travel. These nanocraft could fly at 20% of light speed and reach Alpha Centauri (25 trillion miles away) around 20 years after their launch.

At Starshot’s heart lies an open, collaborative approach to space science. The Breakthrough Initiative is:

  • Based on research that exists in the public domain.
  • Committed to publishing results and upholding full transparency.
  • Open to the public and experts in all relevant fields, who can contribute ideas through Starshot’s online forum.

Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking announced the launch of Breakthrough Starshot in 2016.

Eureka Manifesto: Creating a Science-Focused Culture

Yuri Milner discusses the importance of global collaboration in his short book Eureka Manifesto: The Mission for Our Civilisation. The Giving Pledge philanthropist suggests that humanity lacks a shared goal or mission. This mission, he argues, could be to explore and understand our Universe.

Eureka Manifesto explains how embracing worldwide collaboration could lead to further technological progress. The book also offers a plan of how we might go about curating a culture of shared knowledge. In this culture, where we celebrate scientists as heroes and inspire children to engage with scientific ideas, research and discoveries abound.

Read or listen to Yuri Milner’s Eureka Manifesto for free.

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