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Guide for establishing a new Organized Research Unit

The following document outlines the considerations and process used by the College of Engineering to review and approve requests to establish a new Organized Research Unit (ORU) at the UW.

It supplements and is aligned with the process established by the Office of Research, which is summarized in the following:

Office of Research: Establish a Center or Institute
Guidelines for Establishing Organized Research Units 
Handbook for Leaders of Organized Research Units (ORUs) 

Establish a new Organized Research Unit

To establish a CoE ORU, take the following steps:

Create a plan for your ORU

Research centers and institutes should be created only when there is a compelling case that the academic mission of the university cannot be achieved within existing structures. Ideally, new ORUs are aligned with the College’s strategic direction and/or position the College well in an important or emerging field, have a strategy for gaining external support, are interdisciplinary, and involve faculty who are building a track record of working and receiving funding together. Carefully consider the purpose, goals, and mission of your planned organization, and survey other campus units, to ensure there is a meaningful niche for your activities.

The administrative home of your ORU may seem unimportant, but it can have a significant long-term impact on your organization. Ensuring that key individuals in your home department, institute, or other administrative unit(s) within CoE (e.g., Collaboration Core) are aware of your plans and have an accurate understanding of any implications (e.g., flow of RCR funds) can go a long way to ensuring that your ORU has the resources and support it needs to be successful. Initial conversations about the fiscal, administrative, communications, and research support needed will set the tone for future interactions, so take care to plan these carefully.

Review the best practices outlined in the Handbook for Leaders of Organized Research Units (ORUs) to learn more about the structures, staffing, and oversight as well as communications, IP (Intellectual Property) management, and evaluation plans that you should consider when creating a new ORU.

Request authorization from the CoE Dean

The CoE Dean’s Office is responsible for investing in team research efforts through matching resources and venture funds; supporting, recognizing, and rewarding scientific collaborations from team research activities; and resolving any promotion and tenure issues related to collaborative research. The Dean therefore has a vested interest in understanding and supporting the needs of new ORUs. Please provide as much information as possible to help us support and advocate for your unit.

Complete the Name Request Form and submit using the CoE ORU Request Form. Once approved the Dean will email it to the Vice Provost for Research. Info collected on the form includes:

  • Proposed Name of ORU
  • Director’s Name & Email
  • Justification
  • Anticipated Activities
  • Administrative Home of the Unit
  • Approval of Chair or Administrative Head

Gain approval from the Office of Research

The Office of Research will notify you and the Dean’s Office once your ORU has been approved. You may then proceed to launch your new organization.

Launch your ORU

  • Create a web site and submit a request to have it listed it on the UW Research Centers and Institutes page.
  • Consider taking the time from the outset to design a professional logo and poster/slide template to support your activities. See the CoE Branding Guide for resources.
  • Create a shared file system to collect and share information within your ORU.
  • Consider creating a shared calendar, mailing list, and social media account to facilitate communications and promotions.
  • Begin planning the path toward sustainability of the ORU, i.e., develop sustainable business model. Any future requests for funding from CoE must be accompanied by a proposal for how activities will become sustainable in the future.   

Manage & track key outcomes

Read Handbook for Leaders of Organized Research Units (ORUs) and ensure that you have the structures, staffing, and oversight as well as communications, IP management, and evaluation plans in place ,as appropriate to the size and scope of your ORU.

You may find it useful to track from the outset your measurable activities to facilitate future report and proposal preparation. These may include:

  • Support – financial and in-kind support from federal agencies, foundations, innovation partners, contributing organizations, state and local agencies, and other sponsors. Grants awarded and submitted. Indirect costs and RCR.
  • Personnel – demographic, occupational, and affiliation data on those individuals directly involved in executing activities funded by the center. Number of graduate students, undergraduates, postdocs involved with or benefiting from the ORU. List of doctoral dissertations (past or in-progress) that benefited from ORU resources. Number of units participating. Faculty recruitments.
  • Outputs and Impact – quantifiable outputs such as publications, technology transfer (invention disclosures, patents, and licenses) and license royalty, spinouts, and educational outputs of the center.
  • Outreach and Reputation - Evidence of national and/or international reputation. Evidence of public service and outreach and contribution at the state and federal level. Media references.

Also save key documents such as:

  • Proposals and revisions or amendments 
  • Award notice with terms and conditions 
  • Budget and expenditure detail
  • Cost share documentation 
  • Subcontracts with all associated documentation
  • Equipment requisitions 
  • Service agreements 
  • Financial reports, including narrative/technical reports 
  • Invoices 
  • Project/grant close-out documents 
  • Agreements and MOUs (Memoranda of Understanding) 
  • Checks received as payments 
  • In-kind donations documentation of value 
  • Industrial relationship correspondence if a membership agreement is not in place
  • Contact info (name, location, and detail) on partners and other institutions collaborating on research, tech transfer, and education programs
  • List of major equipment, equipment needs, and major equipment purchases.

Report to CoE and OR as applicable

Annual reporting

The Dean’s Office requires a brief annual summary from all CoE ORUs that includes:

  • Progress report of the ORU for the last year. Highlight successes and challenges; funding sources, dedicated space, and staffing; and any measurable outcomes that demonstrate how the ORU is accomplishing its mission.
  • Provide current FY budget (anticipated income and expenditures) and plan for reaching sustainability, i.e., securing ongoing resources to cover your costs, if you are not currently sustainable.
  • Significant changes with the ORU in the last year
  • Plans for the ORU for the coming year

If a sponsor report has these components, it can be submitted for this request. Please supplement with an additional document that includes any information not included in the sponsor report.

Any ORU receiving central support or matching funds must also submit this report to the Vice Provost for Research annually. The Office of Research will request the annual report at the beginning of the calendar year. The CoE Dean’s Office will request this information on a similar timeframe.

5-year reporting

If a review of the ORU is not mandated by a funding agency, the dean will conduct the periodic review. The Office of the Provost also retains the right to request a performance review of any university sanctioned ORU, at any point in the life of the ORU. Additional information about the 5-year review can be found in the Handbook for Leaders of Organized Research Units (ORUs).