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On this page:
  1. How an ISA Research Project Manager Can Help You
  2. Examples of what an ISA Research Project Manager can do for your Research Project
  3. Examples of what an ISA Research Project Manager does NOT do
  4. Using an ISA Research Project Manager versus finding your own
  5. How to have an ISA Research Project Manager assigned to your project
  6. Examples of Grants and Programs ISA RPM works on
  7. SFU Project Management Community of Practice (PM-COP)
  8. Tools and Resources

Institutional Strategic Awards includes a team of Research Project Managers which provide SFU researchers with the support for developing, implementing and sustaining complex research and research-related projects.

A high-level summary of ISA’s project management services is also available by downloading the Research Project Management Infosheet (.pdf).


How an ISA Research Project Manager Can Help You

The Research Project Manager (RPM) works directly with proponents (faculty, AVPR, Deans, grants facilitators, departmental managers, etc.) to develop project and funding plans, and ensures the successful implementation of these plans in adherence with funding requirements. The RPM assists project leaders in the administration of major research grants and contracts and assesses variances from the project plans, budgets, and schedules. The RPM works closely with a team of specialists (writers, financial analysts, and facilitators) to provide seamless service to researchers.


Examples of what an ISA Research Project Manager can do for your Research Project

  • Serve as the liaison between the researchers, the funding agencies, partnering institutions, administrative units, and SFU academic departments.
  • Facilitate communication and collaborative relationships across activities, researchers, collaborators, funding agencies, internal units and departments, and external stakeholders.
  • Assist with project launch, including coordination of account set-up, agreement execution, defining project leadership roles, and template preparation.
  • Develop management, schedule, and funding plans that provide project structure.
  • Coordinate the overall administration of the project.
  • Develop tools and processes to facilitate project goals and needs.
  • Coordinate reporting.
  • Recommend the allocation of funds and administer expenditures.
  • Ensure the project stays in scope, on schedule, and in budget.
  • Monitor expenditures to ensure that funds are spent as planned and within budget.
  • Develop performance measurement indicators and assess variances.
  • Identify risk and compliance issues and possible solutions.
  • Provide direction and advice throughout the project lifespan.
  • Troubleshoot problems so as to remove barriers to successful project completion.

Examples of what an ISA Research Project Manager does NOT do

  • Serve as the project sponsor; it is the role of the PI to lead the project.
  • Serve as a technical expert or provide reporting on technical subject matter.
  • Coordinate technical staff on the project.
  • Assist in performing research.
  • Replace the role of the project accountant, departmental grants facilitators, or departmental managers.
  • Write grants.
  • Provide clerical support.


Using an ISA Research Project Manager versus finding your own

There are many advantages to utilizing an ISA Research Project Manager instead of trying to find your own.  ISA Research Project Managers:

  • Have extensive project management experience 
  • Are familiar with SFU processes and systems
  • Are familiar with funding agency programs
  • Are already continuing SFU employees; you do not have to go through a formal hiring process to utilize their services
  • Are part of a larger team of project managers, providing backup support in case of illness or vacation
  • Can typically help for the entire duration of your project rather than potentially leaving early as they try to find their next project as yours wraps up
  • Can provide flexible, as-needed, and/or part-time help with your project

Located within SFU’s Research Operations units, the ISA RPM will work directly with you to meet your project needs. Despite these advantages, there are times when it may make more sense to hire your own project manager, such as when:

  • You are seeking a project manager with a specific technical background
  • You require a project manager to assist with lab administration (Note: the skillset of a project manager and a general/ lab administrator can be quite different)
  • You need a full-time, multi-year project manager 

In general, it is best to hire a project manager who has direct project management experience.  Having a postdoctoral fellow, student, or lab administrator take on the role of project manager typically does not go well, as the requisite skillsets are quite different; they may lack in-depth knowledge of essential SFU policies and processes, and their primary responsibilities could be negatively impacted.  A project manager should be able to anticipate what is necessary on the project and put tools and measures in place to address upcoming needs, all with minimal direction from the investigator(s).  For example, a project manager should know when/how to proactively put in place a budget, schedule, communication plan, and risk matrix for the project, rather than responding to issues as they arise. 
If you have or intend to have someone managing your project who does not have much project management experience, contact ISA ( to find out what project management resources may be available to support them.


Requesting an ISA Research Project Manager for your project

Assignment of an ISA Research Project Manager (RPM) is dependent on the extent to which the project meets the ISA’s general project criteria, as well as availability of RPM team members. Project criteria for RPM support is as follows (not all criteria need be met):

  • Research-focused
  • Institutional award
  • Strategic
  • Large-scale and/or complex
  • High value (e.g., >$1 million)
  • Administratively onerous
  • High risk
  • Aligned with ISA RPM services
  • Cost-recoverable
  • Project-focused or Portfolio-focused
  • Supports EDI principles

In some cases, RPM time may be automatically assigned to a project; in other cases, you may contact the ISA to discuss the project needs and appropriate level of RPM support. If you are seeking a project manager for a new or ongoing project, please contact You will need to indicate the desired level of involvement of the RPM. This could range from:

  • Identifying general project management needs that another project manager can help fulfill
  • Providing support or oversight to an on-the-ground project manager or coordinator
  • Assisting with particularly challenging aspects of your project
  • Conducting the full management of your project
  • Assisting with researcher portfolio management

If it is determined that an ISA RPM is not a feasible option, the ISA may connect you with other project management resources.

If you prepare a proposal for a project that might need project management support, include a budget line for project management. Please contact so that we can help you determine if such costs are eligible and what amount is realistic depending on your project needs.


Examples of Grants and Programs ISA RPM works on


ISA RPM support is available for the following programs (please consult the relevant ISA program page for more details):

ISA RPMs can also assist with the following programs, subject to capacity:

  • NSERC Discovery Institutes Support Grants
  • Genome Canada: Large-Scale Applied Research Project (LSARP)

Upcoming/anticipated competitions for which ISA RPM support may be available:

  • Canada First Research Excellence Fund
  • Canada Excellence Research Chairs
  • NDRIO Inaugural Funding Opportunity – Funding Stream 2
  • CFI Major Science Initiatives


ISA RPMs support a variety of projects, initiatives, and research chairs at SFU.  Some recent/current examples include:

  • CFI Innovation Fund
  • CFI John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF) 
  • BC Knowledge Development Fund
  • WD Regional Innovation Ecosystems
  • SSHRC Partnership Grants
  • NSERC Strategic Grants
  • NSERC Emerging Infectious Diseases Modelling Initiative
  • NSERC Industrial Research Chairs
  • CIHR Team Projects
  • Networks of Centres for Excellence (NCE)
  • Canada 150 Research Chairs
  • Canada Research Chairs
  • Genome Canada: Large-Scale Applied Research Project (LSARP)
  • Grand Challenges Canada: Stars in Global Health
  • Universities Canada: QES Advanced Scholars Program
  • BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund
  • PHAC COVID-19 Sero-Surveillance and Research
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: COVID-1


SFU Project Management Community of Practice (PM-COP)

Please visit our Project Management Community of Practice page for more information.


Tools and Resources