Insights on Managing a Strategic Investment Fund

  • June 14, 2024

In a recent Peer Spotlight webinar, Nina Bates, Director of Operations and Strategic Initiatives in the Office of the Provost at the University of Arizona shared how she runs a campus-wide competition for $2 million in grants with the help of InfoReady.

Following is a summary of Nina's presentation: 

Managing a strategic investment fund requires careful planning, transparent processes, and effective utilization of resources. At the University of Arizona, the Office of the Provost has implemented a competitive submission process for the Provost Investment Fund (PIF) to streamline the allocation of funds and ensure alignment with the university's strategic goals. This approach has provided valuable insights into managing a strategic investment fund effectively.

The PIF at the University of Arizona is funded through an annual allocation from the university's budget model, known as activity-informed budgeting. This allocation is dedicated to investment and innovation funding, providing a steady source of funding for strategic initiatives. The PIF receives approximately 20-24 million in annual allocation, which is used to support high-impact projects that align with the university's strategic goals.

To manage the high volume of submissions, the PIF has established a transparent and competitive process that includes clear funding priorities, funding limits, and submission guidelines. By categorizing proposals into different operational areas, such as academic programs, research infrastructure, and student support, the PIF ensures a balanced distribution of funds across various categories. Additionally, the submission deadline is strategically set to avoid last-minute influx, allowing for effective management of the review process.

The review process involves engaging a diverse group of reviewers from the campus community, including faculty, staff, and students. Reviewers are selected based on their expertise and background, ensuring a comprehensive evaluation of the proposals. The use of InfoReady, a cloud-based software, has been instrumental in streamlining the review process, assigning proposals to reviewers, and tracking their progress. This approach has led to a 100% completion rate from reviewers, demonstrating the effectiveness of the process.

In terms of metrics and reporting, successful proposals are evaluated based on their return on investment (ROI) and value on investment (VOI). Proposers are required to provide metrics to measure the success of their initiatives, along with progress reports that highlight actual versus expected outcomes. This transparent reporting allows the PIF to showcase the tangible impacts of the funded projects, contributing to effective resource utilization and accountability.

Leadership buy-in and effective communication have been essential in facilitating the shift from ad-hoc requests to the competitive process. By highlighting the accomplishments of funded initiatives and showcasing the benefits of the competitive process, the PIF has been able to encourage campus stakeholders to embrace the new approach. Additionally, the support and endorsement from university leadership have reinforced the credibility and value of the competitive process.

Overall, the University of Arizona's experience in managing the Provost Investment Fund provides valuable insights into establishing and maintaining a strategic investment fund. By implementing transparent processes, engaging the campus community, and leveraging technology, the PIF has demonstrated effective resource management and achieved impactful outcomes aligned with the university's strategic goals.

Watch the full webinar on our YouTube channel.


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