Institutional Strategic Initiatives

The University of Toronto is internationally recognized for its strengths in a wide range of disciplines. This breadth and depth of excellence means that it is one of just a few institutions globally that is able to successfully implement bold initiatives that span disciplines and academic units. We are encouraging collaborative research and innovation to tackle complex questions and grand challenges and are committed to supporting these interdisciplinary endeavours.


Pursuit of interdisciplinary and cross-divisional research and collaboration is essential to address complex questions and grand challenges that lead to transformational impact. The University of Toronto is well positioned to pursue interdisciplinary and cross-divisional initiatives given its strengths across a broad range of disciplines and location in one of the most diverse and globally connected cities in the world. Interdisciplinary research initiatives also provide tremendously beneficial educational opportunities to students and other trainees. Government and the private sector, in prioritizing innovation, are also increasingly supporting bold and broad initiatives that span disciplines and academic units.

Institutional Strategic Initiatives (ISI) are large-scale, cross-divisional initiatives that support interdisciplinary teams of University of Toronto researchers and partners to address grand challenges and pursue bold ideas that require true collaboration and the integration of various disciplinary research approaches. The institutional goal for these initiatives is to improve our capacity to seed, develop, implement and support cross-divisional, interdisciplinary, excellence-driven initiatives.

Building and maintaining such collaborative initiatives with multiple partners is challenging and particularly complex in the decentralized University of Toronto environment. The ISI portfolio led by the Associate Vice-President and Vice-Provost, Strategic Initiatives (AVPVP SI), with a dual report to the Vice-President & Provost and the Vice-President, Research & Innovation, and Strategic Partnerships, serves as a hub for supporting these initiatives. Working with university-wide and divisional units, the ISI portfolio provides support and/or expertise in areas such as research leadership, enabling interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches, budget and finance, human resources, proposal development, fellowship models, and organization of events and public engagements, to eliminate duplication of these efforts at a smaller scale within individual initiatives. Along with these supports, in consultation with divisional leadership, the ISI portfolio can also provide funds to match divisional or external commitments.

Identification and Funding of Institutional Strategic Initiatives

Access support programs, templates and information on developing ISIs


All full-time professorial staff at the University of Toronto are eligible to apply. It is required that teams comprise cross-divisional interdisciplinary scholars from more than three academic units, representing a minimum of two School of Graduate Studies divisions (humanities, life sciences, physical sciences, social sciences).

Any researchers who do not hold a tenured/tenured-stream position at the University of Toronto may be included as collaborators on the proposal.

Selection Criteria

ISI can be initiated through a variety of means (e.g. consultation of ISI team with division heads; self-identification by individual investigators and/or teams of investigators).

Proposals must include cross-divisional, interdisciplinary teams that comprise scholars from more than three academic units who represent more than one School of Graduate Studies (SGS) division (humanities, life sciences, physical sciences, social sciences).

The following criteria will also be considered:

  • Divisional leadership has scoped and embraced the proposal, and it aligns with divisional plans (e.g. academic/strategic, annual budget reviews, advancement plans).
  • Opportunities are included for faculty to work with students and other trainees in different disciplines/units.
  • Opportunities are included for both senior and junior faculty involvement.
  • There is potential to:
    • advance knowledge and/or develop solutions to complex problems that require cross-divisional collaborations and integrated, interdisciplinary approaches;
    • create innovative teaching/training programs at the convergence of fields;
    • identify or develop shared resources and/or facilities;
    • provide opportunities for innovation, integration of basic and applied research and accelerated translation into the public domain; and
    • elevate the national and international profile of the University of Toronto.

Proposals for ISI need to address how principles of equity, diversity and inclusion have been considered and addressed in the development of the project team and the proposed research. Proposals also need to include a plan for governance of the initiative.


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