Strategic Innovation Fund
Starting next year, the Innovation Grant Fund will be renamed the new Strategic Innovation Fund. The fund's original purpose was to inspire new ideas or improve existing programs and services to help Pacific serve its mission and its students. As the University develops its next strategic plan, the Strategic Innovation Fund will be repurposed to support innovation directly in support of the strategies that arise from the new plan.
The Innovation Grant Fund (IGF) has been available since 2008 to all full-time members of the Pacific community, including faculty, staff and students. The goal of the IGF was to create change leading to a positive effect on student learning, service, or organizational performance. With $50,000 of yearly funding, the IGF offered one-time grants of $2,000 to $10,000 to support innovation in all divisions on all three campuses. In addition, IGF winners received individual honoraria that served both to reward their good work in innovation and to incentivize future participants.
Over the four years, the IGF has awarded 32 grants to 58 participants for a total of $189,715. There have been 107 proposals submitted for a total request of $774,947. All awardees were required to submit a final report near the end of the funding year summarizing how funds were spent, what was learned and what resulted. They also were requested to participate in the Innovation Learning Community, for at least two meetings, to deepen Pacific's community of practice around innovation as well as to inspire future innovators. At the end of each year, winners presented their final innovations in what proved to be an exciting open innovation forum.
This past year successfully concluded the IGF's fourth round of funding with 30 proposals submitted for a total request of over $220,000. Nine proposals were selected to receive funding and among the winners were 8 faculty members, 4 staff, and 6 students, ranging broadly across the University's programs, divisions, and campuses. Grants were distributed based on a simple yet competitive proposal process. The IGF Award Committee consisted of faculty and staff, ranging in disciplines. The award committee reviewed initial proposals and ranked each based on standard criteria:
- The innovation does something novel, original, inventive
- The innovation is an improvement over what exists now
- The innovation can be implemented within one year
- The innovation would benefit are large number of people
- The innovation meets an existing or future need
- The innovation appears to be feasible
- The innovation impacts student learning, services, or organizational performance
- The innovation shows capacity for sustainability, future development, and application
- The budget for the project is detailed, fully explained, and appears reasonable
In most years, only about half of the proposals survived the first cut, due to such fierce competition. Submitters that made it through to the next round were given the opportunity to attend the Idea to Innovation workshops to assist in refining their proposals prior to the final submission deadline. The committee reviewed all final innovation plans and ranked them according to the set of criteria. Final recommendations for awards were made to the President for consideration.
As the University undergoes strategic planning, it is important to think about what the future of the university may look like in 10, 15, or 20 years. The Innovation Grant Fund has been an impactful opportunity for members of Pacific to gain the tools needed to improve the quality of learning and enhance the student experience. The new Strategic Innovation Fund will tie the proposal process to the efforts of the new strategic plan. There is also consideration of expanding the funding base in the future if the program produces useful results. In any case, the fund will continue to use innovation as a tool to create opportunities for funding good ideas by individuals and groups.