Hello to all,
As we begin each new fiscal year I like to take the opportunity to review some of the Foundation’s important accomplishments during the previous fiscal year and discuss new opportunities and a few challenges we will face in the coming year. The Research Foundation team works very hard to remain focused on providing great service to the research community, and we actively seek your feedback in improving our quality of service. Following are a few of the key accomplishments from FY 2016:
• PI PORTAL – In December the Research Foundation launched the PI Portal, a web-based interface allowing authorized users access to sponsored project, discretionary and other cost centers financial reports and information. This reporting system provides virtually live up-to-date financial information to faculty researchers and administrators any time they log-in. We were able to substantially eliminate the multiple e-mail distributions of monthly financial information for sponsored projects and discretionary accounts. The feedback received on this information system has been extremely positive.
• OUTREACH ACTIVITIES – Also in December the Foundation hosted several information sessions and demonstrations of the PI Portal. These live demonstrations were very beneficial in familiarizing the research community with the many new features provided including the ability to download and analyze financial data. In January we expanded the PI Portal presentation to include a detailed overview of the structure of the Research Foundation and the many services we provide. These information sessions provided an excellent opportunity for Research Foundation staff to have face-to-face interaction with faculty and to receive direct feedback from the research community.
• INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY – During fiscal year 2014 the Foundation successfully closed the most significant licensing agreement in its history with an equity exchange that included the licensing of 21 technologies from the University’s Center for Bioelectrics. The company, Pulse Biosciences, Inc. issued its initial public offering (IPO) of stock in May 2016 at $4.00 / share. The Foundation’s pre-IPO percentage of ownership was 17.56% of the company owning 1,328,483 shares. At $4.00 / share this equates to a valuation of $5.3 million. The IPO was for 5 million shares and has been fully subscribed. The current price is in the range of $4.50 / share. In accordance with University policy, when ultimately sold or distributed the net proceeds of this investment are shared equally between the faculty inventors and the University.
• STAFFING – Fiscal year 2015 was also a very good year with respect to staffing at the Research Foundation. In August Richard Steinhart joined as the Director of Sponsored Programs and Casey Golliher joined as the Director of Finance in December. Both of these highly qualified individuals have quickly become significant contributors to the management team. In Grants Administration, Shelly Shaff-Frost, John Raynor and Chelsea Vera all joined our team. Kim Ortolano a long-standing employee in Accounting transitioned to a new Grant & Contract Coordinator position and Carey Strickland became full-time as an Accounting Specialist.
• PROMOTIONS AND PROFESSIONAL ACHIEVEMENTS – In Finance, Doreen Garrison was promoted to Controller overseeing many aspects of financial operations and reporting. La Toya Sorrell was promoted to Senior Accountant and Beverly Uzel successfully passed the Uniform CPA exam. Several members of the Sponsored Programs team also successfully obtained the Certified Research Administrator (CRA) designation. The staff here at the Research Foundation now includes three CPA’s and nine CRA’s providing the professional level of service today’s regulatory environment requires.
• INFORMATION SHARING – In January of this year, in conjunction with the Office of Research the Foundation started a series of meetings with various functions within the University administration. We are excited about having the opportunity to help the University administration better understand the Research Foundation operations and the significant level of services we provide the research community. Members of the Research Foundation management team have met with key personnel in the University’s Information Technology Services, Human Resources and Accounting departments. In addition to these meetings several members of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees joined me in providing a presentation to the Office of Research on the value the Foundation provides and the challenges we face. The ultimate goal of these meetings will be to ensure that the services provided to the research faculty are maintained at a high level to meet customer service expectations while remaining compliant with federal regulations in the most cost-effective and efficient manner.
• FY17 OPERATING BUDGET – At its June meeting, the Foundation’s Board of Trustees approved the operating budget for the Research Foundation’s fiscal year ending June 30, 2107. The budget was developed in close collaboration with the Office of Research as well as University administration. This year’s operating budget is very much a work-in-process and will be continually reviewed as we move forward during the fiscal year. The FY17 budget has an increase of 3.1% over the FY15 and FY16 budgets (zero budget increase for FY16) and is due primarily from having a 27th bi-weekly pay-period during the fiscal year (an anomaly that occurs every eleven years).
All in all, 2016 ended with the Research Foundation in a good position to move forward with a renewed emphasis on customer service and cost efficiency. Within the next several weeks we will be rolling-out a completely redesigned Payroll Authorization System (e-108) that we anticipate will be more user-friendly as well as containing programmed logic to reduce clerical and input error rates. We will also continue to review and evaluate internal processes in the light of improving efficiency and cost savings. Additional automation of key processes is critical to expanding capability and reducing costs.
The Research Foundation as well as the University administration is continuously challenged with meeting the service expectations of the research faculty while managing an ever-changing portfolio of research projects. As many researchers are aware the competition for research funding is significant and growing. Maintaining and growing a research portfolio that responds to the intellectual pursuits of faculty while also producing an adequate level of recovered indirect cost can be daunting.
FY 2017 will have its share of challenges. However, when approached in a spirit of collaboration and team building, many obstacles can be overcome. This summer I intend to reach out to the Associate Deans for Research to periodically meet as a platform to identify concerns, improve communication and feedback. I am also encouraging both the Research Foundation management team and staff to increase their direct communications with faculty and administrators. This can be done through periodically attending departmental or college meetings as well as one-on-one meetings to address project activities, deliverables and due dates. As in previous years, we will have an on campus outreach event scheduled each semester.
We remain committed to improving efficiency and the quality of the services we provide to the research community. We continue to work to identify our strengths and weaknesses as well as the opportunities that arise. We remain focused upon the unique value the Research Foundation provides the University by being a 501-c (3), non-profit corporation. Our joint efforts will be focused upon how to best leverage our processes and execution to provide maximum value to the research community. Over the past several years we have made improvements in our internal communication and working environment while strengthening accountability. I very much look forward to being able to continue this process throughout fiscal year 2017 in full collaboration with the Office of Research and the research community.
Julian F. Facenda, Executive Director