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The Stem Cell Network Moves to ProposalCentral to Scale Grant Making Efforts.

2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the Stem Cell Network and the year that SCN joined ProposalCentral. On the heels of receiving a new funding award from the Canadian government in April, SCN needed a grants management platform that could scale with them.

The Stem Cell Network (SCN) is a Canadian not for profit that supports stem cell and regenerative medicine research, training the next generation and outreach across Canada. SCN’s goal is to translate science from the lab to clinical applications, commercial products and public policy for the benefit of Canadians. SCN is supported by the Government of Canada and works in partnership with industry representatives, health charities, government and non-government organizations to build on Canada’s leadership in the sector. Since 2001, SCN has directed an investment of $118M of strategic funding that  has benefited 196 world-class research groups and more than 4,100 trainees, and has catalyzed 24 clinical trials.

A New Chapter

The Stem Cell Network has always been funded by the Government of Canada through various mechanisms. And its dual goals of funding excellent research and training and developing opportunities for research students remain unchanged. In early 2021, the organization received a new funding award that increased governmental contributions and expanded its mandate for a broader focus on regenerative medicine, including gene therapy.

This significant bump in funding is “huge for the Canadian regenerative medicine sector as a whole,” said Rebecca Cadwalader, Manager, Administration & Events at SCN. “And it means we have more to do, more to achieve – and we needed a system that could help make it happen.”

Before PC, set-up and administration of grant competitions “was laborious”. ProposalCentral was an important part “of streamlining the LOI and full application process, and running a funding competition, including the peer review process, from start to finish,” said Dr. Jon Draper, Program Director, Research and Partnerships.

60% increase in LOIs received by Stem Cell Network through ProposalCentral

Early Success

In the third quarter of 2021, Stem Cell Network opened their first programs on ProposalCentral (PC) and saw a 60% increase in LOIs. “A lot of applicants were already familiar with ProposalCentral through other funding competitions run by other organizations,” said Rebecca. “Transitioning to PC we were afraid people would say ‘What is this new system?’ When in fact they were already quite comfortable with it.”

“It really showed that the demand is out there,” said Jon. “In fact, we are oversubscribed substantially for the funding we have to offer.” Attracting a broad and diverse set of applicants is especially important given the collaborative and complex nature of regenerative medicine research. SCN has a “unique collaborative model that has really prospered in Canada. The network model allows us to maximize the funding impact by working together, and it allows for bigger things to be achieved. Regenerative medicine requires people to come together to solve problems that would not be able to be solved by individuals on their own. It requires bioengineers, clinicians, and stem cell researchers to work together,” said Jon.

When reflecting on the application process, the team remarked that ProposalCentral “provides a uniform process for all applicants that ensures applications are completed in a consistent manner. PC gives every applicant the same experience, with the same amount of space available for application responses”. This ensures consistent peer review.

SCN launched 7 programs concurrently, an impossible task with the prior system. “PC has enabled a very small team to manage a significant award program,” Rebecca said. “ProposalCentral allows much greater access to the data and takes a lot of the burden off the team. It’s freed us up to take care of other tasks that are equally as important,” remarked Jon. “We would not have been able to manage [the launch of 7 programs] without PC,” said Rebecca.

Looking Ahead

As the programs progress, the team is eager to use Altum Insights and Altum Analytics to better track performance, identify trends, and uncover opportunities that could help inform continuous improvement in subsequent cycles. “We’ll be interested in understanding a number of different components and how they change over time as we run competitions in the coming years”, said Jon. For example:

This is SCN’s first year on ProposalCentral and the organization is off to a strong start with its funding competitions. With new funding and new technology to support grant operations, it is an exciting time at Stem Cell Network and the future of regenerative medicine.

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