July 11, 2007

2 searches Northeastern Technology Universities

VP Research // Director of Sponsored Research


Case Studies:
·        Vice President of Research
·        Director of Sponsored Research
Northeastern Technology Universities
When our clients called us in to help with these searches the message was clear. They needed technically astute leaders who understood the issues of research, fund raising, tech transfer and entrepreneurship, dealing with and supporting principal investigators as well as handling very complex financial accounting challenges involving university systems and grant issuance agents like NIH, DARPA , DOE, Corporate and Private Foundations, and many others responsible for providing funds for research purposes.     
Within weeks of receiving the call for help with a search for a VP Research & Innovation leader, we were contacted by another university to help them find a Director of Sponsored Research.   The key needs here were leaders who could drive research funding by attracting the attention of major agencies and foundations while simultaneously supporting the efforts of faculty principal investigators.   This is not easy to do since it requires confidence in being able to drive funding as well as assure proper technical/financial management of projects to keep the university in compliance with Office of Management of Budget (OMB) guidelines and generally accepted accounting principles ( GAAP) .    When the tech transfer piece is added to the mix, the plot thickens considerably, since the VP Research and Director of Sponsored research need to also work together "hand in glove" on many complex patent, intellectual property and even specialized funding arrangements that can involve private and commercial financiers.   
Without research dollars coming in a meaningful manner the growth rate of the technology universities is stunted.   Without the proper support system in place the principal investigators get bogged down with often confusing and highly technical reporting requirements which serve to dampen and slow the pace of their research efforts.  
Both searches ran quickly and smoothly once we got through the position spec development discussions and announced the searches. The community of top research people with a taste for these jobs is actually fairly limited because their experience has to be just right.    The position spec became a real marketing document that helped to turn heads and change perceptions among a savvy candidate pool.    
An intensive candidate ID effort was necessary for both positions.   Again, the community of experienced candidates is a fairly distinct group for each position. We networked extensively among experienced professionals in the field and began to identify candidates within weeks of announcing the searches.    Once we began following through on the threads of our candidate ID and sourcing effort the right candidates emerged and were presented to the hiring search committee.   As always, some excellent candidates did not go forward because of specific circumstances—such as location of the universities, budget scale of the research function and other factors.   We were able to find many candidates who possessed the right experience, attributes and style motivated to meet the decision making team and accept the positions as we described and priced them.   Within 30 days candidates were being presented to the hiring teams and interviews commenced.    The candidates were complimentary of the amount of time we spent with them responding to their questions and the level of detail we shared. It made them much more comfortable about going forward to meet the hiring teams.
The searches were completed within 120 days.    After presenting the semi final slate of candidates we were able to narrow down to a finalist group for each search.    Complete background references were conducted on the finalist and offers were made and accepted.