Giving consideration to your portfolio of CFI-funded projects

October 27, 2016

When developing or managing CFI-funded projects, we encourage you to consider how a given project is positioned within its portfolio of projects. A holistic management approach can provide a framework for improving decision-making, facilitating an optimal implementation and generating efficiencies, and can also enhance the sustainability of the infrastructure. This becomes increasingly important if an institution has many projects where a centralized view can help in planning activities and in identifying the most suitable approach for project implementation. Some emerging practices in this area include: 

  • Inventory of research infrastructure: Having an inventory of CFI-funded infrastructure can help inform the development of new proposals (e.g. avoid unwarranted duplication of infrastructure, determine how the institution can build upon and leverage existing infrastructure, identify synergies or collaborations between projects). This inventory is also useful if an institution wants to optimize the sustainability of its existing infrastructure. In some instances, resources can be leveraged for the benefit of several projects, promoting cost savings or efficiencies (e.g. using one technician to maintain the infrastructure of several projects). Some institutions maintain this inventory via a database or fixed asset subledger in the institution’s financial system, while others maintain a list of key research infrastructure in a format like Excel, for example. While certain institutions include only CFI-funded infrastructure, others capture in their inventory a broader base of research infrastructure.Your institution can obtain a list of all infrastructure items reported in CFI-funded projects in the CFI Awards Management System (CAMS). 
  • Amendment requests that benefit a portfolio of projects: If a change is required for the benefit of a project, consideration is given to how this change can also benefit other projects in the institution’s portfolio to optimize their implementation.
  • Single procurement to address multiple infrastructure needs: When feasible, pooling the infrastructure needs of two or more projects into one single procurement can reduce the administrative burden, and allow for economies of scale and effective use of resources.
  • Managing CFI-funded infrastructure as core facilities: Over the past few years, a growing number of institutions have implemented institutional core facilities and developed formal designation and supporting policies to offer broader access to state-of-the-art services, facilities and technologies by co-locating research infrastructure or by centralizing its management and operation. These efficiencies — economies of scale, developing in-house maintenance capabilities and securing the availability of skilled operators — translate into the research infrastructure being adequately operated and maintained over its useful life.

Here's how some institutions have implemented these practices.

McMaster University

McMaster University uses a stand-alone asset management database that was developed internally and specifically to meet the institution’s needs. The information in this database is managed by Strategic Procurement, who enters information known at the time of purchase such as item description, value, purchase date, and equipment location, etc. The dollar threshold used to enter assets into this database is $50,000 or greater.

Access to institutional asset information is provided to McMaster researchers (e.g. CFI applicants and award holders). A user-friendly spreadsheet, which includes details from both the asset management database and the CFI-funded infrastructure reports now available on the CFI Awards Management System, is made available to researchers using Dropbox. Researchers also have access to QReserve, an online library for research equipment (a turn-key research equipment database). These resources are discussed at the application and award finalization stages so that researchers can reach out to their colleagues and discuss items to be procured. Both pre-application and post-award guidance documentation provide researchers with direction on accessing these resources. This approach helps promote optimal access to the infrastructure for researchers and enhances institutional planning.

Contact:

Van Nhan
Assistant Director, Administration & Support
Research Office for Administration, Development & Support (ROADS)
Phone: 905.525.9140 ext. 23111
Email: nhanvt [at] mcmaster.ca

University of Ottawa

The University of Ottawa implemented their Research Infrastructure Inventory (RII) in 2013. The RII is an Excel list that includes all research equipment costing over $10,000 purchased after 2008. A few large infrastructure items purchased prior to this date are also included. The inventory primarily includes CFI-funded infrastructure, but researchers are encouraged to list other significant research infrastructures acquired with other sources of funds (start-up funds, Tri-Agency programs). The RII captures the following information: description, project leader name, department, initial cost, operational status, percentage of research use, funding source, estimated remaining useful life, person in charge and location on campus. Information is updated periodically to reflect new acquisitions.

This inventory allows the university to identify potential synergies and collaborations among new and existing projects, avoid unwarranted duplication of infrastructure when planning proposals and identify the infrastructure required to capitalize on major research opportunities. It also allows the university to adequately plan for the sustainability of new and existing infrastructure. Furthermore, it helps ensure an optimal utilization of the infrastructure by providing faculties with an up-to-date and readily accessible list of infrastructure within their faculty or elsewhere on campus.

The university also launched a core facilities program in 2010 in which several CFI-funded infrastructure items are located, and uses a portfolio management approach for proposal development and oversight. These practices are further described in a presentation made by the University of Ottawa at the Canadian Association of Research Administrators 2015 Annual Conference.

Contacts:

Christian Beaulé
Director, Office of Strategic Development Initiatives
Research Services
Phone: 613.562.5800  ext. 3405
Email: cbeaule [at] uottawa.ca

France Boucher
Director, Research, Trust and Endowment
Financial Resources 
Phone: 613.562.5800 ext. 1509
Email: france.boucher [at] uottawa.ca

University Health Network

The University Health Network (UHN) has several CFI-funded projects that involve the funding of construction or renovation in contiguous space. This must be managed carefully to ensure that the location of each lab is optimal in light of UHN’s portfolio of projects. The Research Facilities Planning and Safety (RFPS) unit provides guidance and oversight for the development of proposals and when infrastructure changes are necessary. RFPS works closely with project leaders to evaluate their space needs, assess the interdependencies with other projects, and determine the best course of action for all related projects.

Contact:

Ian McDermott
Senior Director
Research Facilities Planning and Safety
Cell:  416.936.2076
Email: mcdermot [at] uhnresearch.ca

Related topics

Managing CFI-funded infrastructure through core facilities
Ensuring appropriate operation and maintenance of CFI-funded infrastructure