UTM Support for ISI Proposals

What are Institutional Strategic Initiatives?
Institutional Strategic Initiatives (ISI) at the University of Toronto (U of T) are cross-divisional research networks pursuing grand challenges and bold ideas that require true collaboration and integration across various disciplinary research and training approaches.

The ISI portfolio seeds, launches, and supports these large-scale networks, all of which comprise scholars from multiple units and divisions with meaningful tri-campus representation; demonstrate the ability for high-impact scholarship and training; and have the potential to secure external funding and increase U of T’s national and international profile. All ISI funds need to be matched, internally, by divisional contributions. We encourage UTM researchers to explore the program in full at the Institutional Strategic Initiatives website, which includes the most up-to-date information on the program, including details on eligibility and supports for new and funded initiatives.

UTM and the ISI Program
The ISI program expects researchers seeking funding to work closely with their divisions to build a strong proposal. At UTM, the Office of the Vice-Principal, Research (OVPR) aims to support that goal. UTM faculty members interested in developing a proposal for ISI funding should meet with the OVPR team throughout the application process, including at the earliest stages.

Please contact Veron Fernandes to set up an appointment with the Associate Vice-Principal, Research (AVPR), Prof. Elspeth Brown, to learn more about the ISI program and/or to develop your own proposal


Prior to providing support, UTM’s OVPR team will work with the academic lead(s) to ensure that:

  1. The initiative meets the ISI criteria outlined in the program: the research addresses a significant challenge that requires an interdisciplinary approach; has cross-divisional support; and is financially sustainable. See the ISI website for the program’s up-to-date description.
  2. The proposal has a UTM faculty lead or co-lead.
  3. The project involves at least three UTM faculty members in at least two different academic disciplines in a meaningful way: they serve on the initiative’s proposal committee; have led or participated in initiative-related workshops; have convened campus-specific meetings to discuss the initiative, etc.
  4. UTM-based faculty lead(s) or faculty members have engaged with UTM colleagues in a clear, transparent, and demonstrable way about the proposed research. This engagement can involve meetings, workshops, working lunches, collaborative writing, etc. We recommend that it include virtual or in-person planning and discussion about the proposal and how it relates to the campus, to UTM’s strategic plan, and to the research agendas of UTM faculty and highly qualified personnel: e.g., undergraduate researchers, graduate researchers, postdoctoral fellows, senior research associates, etc.
    Faculty members will have support in organizing these conversations and planning sessions through the
    Centre for Research and Innovation Support (CRIS) and/or through UTM’s OVPR. UTM’s AVPR can recommend approaches.
  5. The proposal furthers UTM’s academic plan in research, training, and community engagement.
  6. The budget provides significant opportunities for UTM-based researchers and their students to participate in the initiative.  

Funding Opportunities
UTM’s OVPR will support promising ISI proposals with significant UTM faculty engagement. ISI proposals led by UTM faculty can expect more robust levels of support, but we will also support strong proposals for which UTM faculty are co-leads or significantly engaged in other ways.

On proposals for which UTM faculty are the primary lead, OVPR will fund promising initiatives in the range of $100K-$150K annually for up to a maximum of three years.  On proposals for which UTM faculty are the co-lead or significantly involved in other ways, the OVPR will fund promising initiatives in the range of $50K-$100K annually for up to a maximum of three years.

In addition to funding the ISI proposal itself, OVPR can support UTM faculty leads by: (a) providing ongoing consultation from AVPR; (b) facilitating workshops for projects in planning stages; and (c) hiring a grant-writer for UTM-led proposals up to a cap of $5K. This support complements both the ISI office and CRIS, which might assist with non-facilitated workshop planning: in providing, e.g., templates, agendas, guides. If your initial application doesn’t receive funding, OVPR can help refine the proposal for resubmission.

Connect early with UTM’s AVPR, Prof. Elspeth Brown, to learn more about the program’s guidelines, to share your project ideas, and to discuss strategies for assembling a strong proposal; you might explain too, how OVPR can help advance your work. To set up an appointment, please contact Veron Fernandes. There is no deadline and no form necessary to get the process started