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Y Combinator Labs

The startup incubator from which Dropbox, AirBnb, and Reddit sprang is launching a nonprofit research arm, the Verge reports. Though best known for its influence on Internet businesses, Technology Review notes that it has expanded its scope to include companies that focus on hardware, biotechnology, and nuclear energy.

Its new YC Research component — funded so far with $10 million from Sam Altman, Y Combinator's president — is to focus on open-ended research questions, in a manner reminiscent of Bell Labs or Google X. Altman tells Tech Review that the lab will start on one idea and, if that goes well, then add more. The intellectual property generated by the researchers will be given away.

"At the risk of sounding cliché, this is for the benefit of the world," Altman says in a blog post.

He adds at Tech Review that he's pursuing this lab because funding for fundamental research has flagged as governments slash budgets and corporations narrow their research focuses.

Instead researchers "can come here and do research that's offered free to the world. This is fully a nonprofit for us," Altman says. "We can fund work on science and technology with a 20- to 30-year time horizon."