President's Administrative Innovation Fund

The President’s Administrative Innovation Fund was created to catalyze administrative innovation and collaboration across Harvard by investing in staff-generated, creative solutions that support our faculty, students and staff colleagues.

Through modest but meaningful support, these grants could be used to explore a new idea or process, build a prototype, take an existing homegrown idea to the next level, bring in a subject-matter expert to design a solution, convene a ‘hackathon’, or be used in any number of creative ways. Emphasis is placed on novel, creative, and collaborative solutions that capitalize on value-creating opportunities or address known challenges.

Ideas funded will focus on:

    • Innovation in academic administration;
    • Innovation in service delivery; or
    • Innovation in talent development

The fund will provide competitive grants to individuals and teams with innovative ideas or pilots for $5,000 to $15,000. There is a possibility that one or two exceptional projects could receive funding up to $25,000.


All benefits-eligible Harvard administrative/professional, support or service and trades staff member may apply.  Faculty, post-doctoral fellows, temporary employees, students, and co-ops are not eligible.  If you have a question about eligibility, please contact  

Selection Criteria

  • The proposal represents an innovative approach to a known administrative challenge and is expected to have measurable impact once implemented
  • The individual/team has the skills and commitment necessary to execute the plan or, if not, identifies areas in which they need support. Ideas with cross-School and cross-functional collaboration will be especially valued

Those interested in making a proposal to the fund should review the downloadable pdf of the Project Proposal to prepare for your submission. Proposals that emphasize collaboration within schools and/or across schools are strongly encouraged.  This application is intended as a brief description of your innovation and its impact.  Proposals should be submitted via this survey by April 17, 2017.  There are four different ‘types’ of innovations the PAIF is designed to fund:

  1.  Convening: Bringing together a cross-school or cross-unit group to advance innovative solutions to a shared administrative challenge
  2. Experiment (Minimum Viable Product, MVP): A very limited test of an idea that is expected to generate learning; and MVP uses the smallest set of features/activities possible to test a hypothesis
  3. Pilot: You have an idea for an innovation and hope to implement it at a small scale (e.g., in one School/Unit, or a select handful of Schools/Units)
  4. Scale: You already have a successful local implementation of an innovation and seek to 
    broaden its reach and impact by supporting its application in new settings 

Guiding Principles

  • Most projects can request up to $15,000 in funding for up to one year. MVP’s can receive up to $5,000 for up to six months. Scale projects can receive up to $25,000 in funding for up to one year (but are awarded less frequently)
  • Funds may be used for non-exempt overtime (as applicable), software/technology, temporary help (staff or students), back-filling for staff working on the project, and other project-related costs. Funds may not be used for payment to staff salaries nor to fund a proprietary product


Why was the President’s Administrative Innovation Fund created?

The President’s Administrative Innovation Fund was created to foster a culture of administrative innovation and collaboration at Harvard. The University’s administrative senior leadership knows that staff members have many creative and innovative ideas; the fund was created to provide a path for moving some of those innovative ideas to action.

How are proposals awarded?

Proposals will be initially reviewed by multiple “judges” (made up of senior leaders and subject matter experts across the University). All those submitting proposals will receive feedback from these judges. This initial review will determine finalists who will then give a brief presentation on their idea to a group of senior leaders (members of the Harvard Administrative Innovation Group), and afterwards fund recipients will be awarded.

Read moreHow are proposals awarded?

What if I submit a project proposal but it doesn’t get funded?

We will provide feedback on all proposals, in the event that there may be need for more research, or more detail on what the project will accomplish. We also hope if your first idea doesn’t move forward that it doesn’t inhibit you from submitting your second idea in the next cycle of the innovation fund. Remember, entrepreneurs learn from their ideas that didn’t make it and often come back with a much stronger idea the next time.

Read moreWhat if I submit a project proposal but it doesn’t get funded?

I have an idea; should I speak with my manager about it first?

Yes, we request that you share your interest in submitting a proposal with your manager. The President’s Administrative Innovation Fund does have support from President Faust, the Executive Vice President Katie Lapp and the other senior leaders at the University including School Administrative Deans and Central Vice Presidents. We are hopeful that your manager will work with you to determine how best you can fit this opportunity into your day-to-day work.

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Key Dates


April 17, 2017: 
Proposals are due. Submit a project proposal


May/June 2017:
Proposals will be reviewed. Finalists will present to a team of judges.


July 2017: 
Award recipients announced. Funding and projects begin.


Need more info?

Please visit the Resources section to review articles, videos and classes related to innovation, design thinking, process improvement, project management and more.