I was at SODA and discussions meandered through updates on problems I care about, new problems, gossip, intern and job applications, and most importantly, research funding. (By going short, I avoided discussions about my hair.) Yes, Google has a healthy program called Google Research Awards. The process is light-weight. Reach out to contacts you know, visit to give talks, learn from google researchers, educate them, and iterate on developing and sharing research ideas. Algorithms, Optimization, Auctions and much more.