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A image of Dixon Hall where the Sponsored Research and Grants office is located.A image of Dixon Hall where the Sponsored Research and Grants office is located.

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What IS innovation, anyway?

- Written by Susan Perri, Grants Consultant, Hanover Research

Innovation has become a major buzz word in the grants world.  Funders increasingly want to support social experiments that will yield positive, cost effective solutions to problems, and they want to do so by investing in models that provide scalable solutions in new, novel ways.

One of the latest examples is First in the World (FITW). This U.S. Department of Education (ED) grant program was announced May 16, which set aside $75 Million in funding for higher education institutions that can demonstrate innovative models to improve student access, retention, and completion. The grant program is part of President Obama's larger plan to make college more affordable, so that more students enter and graduate.

The catch: grantee hopefuls must articulate proposed innovation in their applications. While the Department wants applicants to innovate, it also wants applicants to outline their strong theory of action and existing evidence of promise for the proposed methodology.

ED isn’t the only funding agency pushing the innovation agenda, as the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) competition also calls for a similar display of original program design. This funding opportunity aims to increase participation in and resources for STEM education through projects that are broad in scope and innovative enough to exhibit supportable measured risk. The competition is anticipated to continue the focus on innovation through its call for fall submissions, due October 22, 2014 and January 13, 2015.

Similarly, the Next Generation Learning Challenges grant program invests in both K-12 and higher education. Grants are awarded to K-12 school districts and institutions of higher education that aim to create new models for breakthrough changes in education design and technology integration. The 2014 Corporation for National and Community Service Social Innovation Fund grant competition also calls for elements of originality and advancement – providing up to $65.8 million for “innovative, evidence-based solutions” to challenges faced by low-income communities nationwide.

The bottom line: what truly defines innovation?

While the answer may vary depending on the subject area and population of focus, there are some foundational concepts at the core of understanding innovation.  For FITW, innovation will be defined by the evidence that supports it, how it addresses the national problem of retaining traditionally underserved students in postsecondary programs of study, and the ways in which it demonstrates how it is substantially different from what has been tried before.

These “innovation grants” always attract many applicants, yet few will be chosen. So the question becomes: How can you best package your proposed program as an innovation?

Generally speaking, innovation will break from the status quo and present a new way of achieving better results.  For grantseekers targeting funders that require innovation, the program concept can be better mapped out by answering the following key questions:

  1. How is the proposed project different from traditional practices in its field? How does it exceed and improve upon existing methods?
  2. What initial testing, demonstration, or prototyping has occurred to develop the innovation concept? What resources have you invested into assessing its viability?
  3. What is the potential for impact beyond your organization? How might the innovation be scaled to serve other communities?
  4. What are your organization and staff experience, knowledge, and skills to successfully implement the innovation?

Advance planning and preparation is key in developing an innovative program or practice. The basic rule of thumb is to think outside the box and propose something unique; repackaging existing programs as an enhancement or expansion simply won’t pass the innovation test. If your organization is truly ready and able to innovate, take the time to know the existing practices in your field, what works well and what does not, and who the appropriate collaborators are for you to work with to build a solution that will bridge the gaps. This level of exploration, expertise, and due diligence will be readily apparent to funders and well worth the effort. Aside from getting grant funds to do good work, the best part of innovation is that we have the opportunity to test new models for social change that can actually move the needle in our chosen area of impact.

Grantseeker or grantmaker, this is a bottom line we can all agree on.

From Insight, an online newsletter, August 21, 2014.Reprinted with permission - See more at:

Hanover Research is a global information services firm providing knowledge support to both non-profit and for-profit organizations. Within the field of education, Hanover Research works with a diverse group of 600+ educational organizations, supporting their research, planning, and funding needs through quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis, surveys, benchmarking, and grant proposal development. By operating on an affordable, fixed-fee model, we help institutions overcome challenges that impede their ability to close student achievement gaps, meet workforce demands, attract external funding, and report performance outcomes. To learn more about Hanover Research’s services and our unique model, visit Research Logo.


OMB Uniform Guidance Changes
Money literally going down the drain.

Uniform Guidance Provisions Take Effect December 26, 2014

 The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has established the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards.  According to the OMB webpage, this guidance “will supersede requirements from OMB Circulars A-21, A-87, A-110, and A-122 (which have been placed in 2 C.F.R. Parts 220, 225, 215, and 230); Circulars A-89, A-102, and A-133; and the guidance in Circular A-50 on Single Audit Act follow-up.”

 The objectives for these new provisions are to reduce the risk of waste, fraud and abuse in federal funding and to streamline the guidance of federal awards to ease administrative burden.  OMB has eliminated numerous overlapping, duplicative and conflicting provisions of guidance that were written separately over many years by combining eight previously separate sets of OMB guidance into one.

 The new provisions encourage efficient use of information technology and shared services and provide for consistent and transparent treatment of costs by limiting allowable costs to make best use of federal resources.  The provisions set strong controls to yield better outcomes by giving guidance that targets risks and minimizes burden, standardizes business processes and data, and audit resolution.

 2 C.F.R. Part 200 which covers Grants and Agreements for Educational Institutions (even if part of a state or local government) can be found here.  The current policies and procedures that OSPR uses are being updated to align with the requirements of the Uniform Guidance Provisions.

Grants of Interest - Fall 2014

Dr. Thomas Mueller, Dr. Kyle Fredrick and Dr. Daniel Harris, from the Department of Earth Sciences were awarded a grant through the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) wherein they and their students process mine maps and mine data into electronic formats.

There has been rapid growth in the geo-spatial technology field. The intricate process and specialized skills needed for georeferencing (aligning the maps with existing geographically referenced data) and digitizing (tracing the maps in a geographically correct way) maps are taught in a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) course. By taking part in the georeferencing and digitizing of these mine maps, Cal U students will have an advantage in their future pursuits for careers.

Once the maps have been processed, several students from a higher level Geographic Information Systems course perform the quality control and quality assurance (QC/QA) to examine the maps for correctness and make any necessary adaptations. Drs. Mueller, Fredrick and Harris do a final QC/QA prior to submission to DEP.

When the completed maps are sent to DEP, these mine maps can be used in GIS and other computer applications. The digitizing and georeferencing of these mine maps will improve the quality, quantity and delivery of mining information to the millions of residents of Pennsylvania’s mining regions.

Click on picture to view a larger version of the digitized maps.

Digitized Mine Maps.

OSPR Fiscal Year 2013-2014 Snapshot

A statistical review of Cal U’s sponsored program activities including submissions and awards, grant writers, and sponsors and purpose is available in  the OSPR Annual Report.

Has INSPIRES Inspired?

As we progress into its second year of operation, has the President's INSPIRES (Incentive for Sponsored Programs in Research, Education, Service) program, which is administered by the OSPR, inspired grant writing?  The INSPIRES pilot program was designed to provide workload incentives to grant writers.  Given collective bargaining agreements, only faculty in the APSCUF bargaining unit who are not required to write grants as part of their positions are eligible for INSPIRES.  The original proposal called for grant writers to receive a fixed dollar payment, but the CBA required payments to be based on faculty rank and step.  There were three primary objectives for instituting INSPIRES: 1) generate more proposals, 2) increase the number of grant writers, and 3) stimulate larger proposals.  Comparing 2012-13 to 2013-14 (the first year of INSPIRES), the results have been mixed but there are positive signs.  The number of proposals declined year-over-year by six proposals (11% decline), but the number of grant writers increased 49% (increase of 17 faculty grant writers), there were eight new grant writers, and the total dollar amount of submitted proposals increased 12% ($430,778 increase).  Also, the success ratio; the number of grant awards received per proposals submitted, increased slightly from 64% to 66%.  Since inception, nearly $4,000 in INSPIRES payments have been made in total to 18 grant writers. Also, it is important to note that at the time of this writing, eight proposals are still under review, so the success ratio and amount of INSPIRES payments to grant writers may increase further. INSPIRES provides an initial payment on proposal submission and duplicates that payment if the proposal is funded. 

INSPIRES is funded by the President's share of annual grant indirects.  Also, as part of the INSPIRES pilot program, the amount of grant indirect distributed to grant directors was increased.  Grant directors now receive 35% of the indirects they generate. Over the past two years, 15 directors earned nearly $85,000 for their use in indirects.  Ten of those individuals earned indirects each year.  These funds may be used by the grant director to stimulate additional research and grant projects, for professional development, and to make discretionary purchases following university policies.  The President's share of annual grant indirects the past two years totaled more than $98,000, is used to fund INSPIRES, the competitive pool of funding available for student research through the Cal U Center for Undergraduate Research, the Grant Fellows program, awards and recognitions for grant writers, and training and professional development for grant writers.

Has INSPIRES inspired?  Some of the objectives of the program are being achieved.  OSPR worked with more grant writers, increased the total dollar amount of submitted proposals, and increased the success ratio.  Still, there is more to be achieved, but the first year of the three-year pilot contributed to some direct and indirect benefits as Cal U continues to pursue the enhancement of a grant-writing culture to support our objectives in teaching, research, and service.  

Dates to Remember

Office of Sponsored Programs & Research -Lunch and Learn Sessions



Location and Time

November 5, 2014

Planning Your Project Budget

Eberly Hall, Rm. 300- 11:30 am to 12:30 pm

February 12, 2015

OMB Uniform Guidance Changes

Eberly Hall, Rm. 300 – 11:00 am to Noon

March 19, 2015

New Faculty Orientation


April, 2015



FPDC Annual Grant Program – Training Sessions




Location and Time

November 4, 2014

 Understanding the PASSHE FPDC Annual Grant

Cheryl Vogrig, Director, OSPR

Keystone Hall, Rm. 201-11:00-Noon

November 6, 2014

 Understanding the PASSHE FPDC Annual Grant 

Dr. Ali Sezer, FPDC Member

Eberly Hall, Rm. 300-11:00 am to Noon

FPDC Annual Grant Program 2014-2015 – Important Deadlines

Due Date


November 24, 2014

This is the initial due date for those seeking Quality Circle Reviews.  After your QCR is complete, you will have until the final deadline to revise your proposal.  Please submit proposal to Cheryl Vogrig at by 3:00 pm.

December 1-5, 2014

Quality Circle Reviews will be scheduled during this week.

January 26, 2015-Final Deadline

Please submit proposal in Word format to Cheryl Vogrig at by 3:00 pm.