The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is launching a $20 million grant designed to get entrepreneurs to develop new technologies that leverage online learning and interactivity. In other words, the goal is to get them interested in tackling the issues surrounding America's struggling education system. While the foundation will provide funds for the project, the nonprofit organization EDUCAUSE will run the program. Organizations also collaborating on the effort include the League for Innovation in the Community College, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

It's the first in a series called "Next Generation Learning Challenges," a set of grants which will focus on improving college readiness and graduation rates in the US. The first deadline is November 17; grants will be announced in March 2011. New sets of challenges and new grants will be issued every six to 12 months. The fund will be divided into grants ranging from $250,000 to $750,000, focused on technologies that increase the use of blended learning models, deepen student engagement, supporting the availability of high-quality open courseware, as well as help institutions, instructors, and students benefit from learning analytics.

Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates no longer works for the software giant, dedicating his life instead to his charity foundation. For those interested to learn more, Gates tells CNET more about the issues of education in the US in an interview.