A key challenge for research management and science policy is support of scientific exploration of new research frontiers. This paper examines funding schemes that aim to encourage scientists to conduct unconventional and high-risk research. Schemes are analyzed across institutional dimensions, such as: target group and field, selection process and criteria, budget size, and funding duration. It argues that sponsorship programs for ground-breaking research should: respond to the existing talent pool rather than setting arbitrary funding thresholds, undertake efforts to contend with the selection bias of peer review, and take an applicant’s ongoing research into account. It discusses whether such programs should be within existing funding organizations, or if new funding agencies that are dedicated to sponsoring ground-breaking research should be set up.