About ISI

The mandate of the Institutional Strategic Initiatives portfolio is to launch, grow, and sustain large-scale interdisciplinary strategic research networks that meet the following criteria.

1. Significant challenge that requires an interdisciplinary approach

  • A grand challenge or complex question has been identified that requires the integration of multiple fields and disciplines.
  • There is potential to elevate the University of Toronto’s (U of T’s) national and international profile.

2. Cross-divisional and tri-campus support

  • The potential research network includes members from at least three academic units/divisions and two divisions as defined by the School of Graduate Studies (Humanities, Social Sciences, Physical Sciences, Life Sciences).
  • When feasible, the research network has meaningful tri or cross-campus participation.
  • The proposed initiative has buy-in and funding support from multiple divisions.

3. Sustainability

  • There is a path to sustainability beyond internal funding, including signifiant opportunities for external funding.

The Institutional Strategic Initiatives portfolio serves as a hub coordinating university-wide and divisional resources to support activities that increase U of T’s capacity to launch, grow, and sustain strategic research initiatives. The Institutional Strategic Initiatives portfolio works with divisional units and central services such as the Division of University Advancement, the Government Relations Office, the Office of the Vice-President International, the Innovations & Partnerships Office, Human Resources & Equity, and U of T Communications.


Solving society’s grand challenges like climate change or inequity require interdisciplinary research that spans divisions. However, building and maintaining large-scale, excellence-driven initiatives with multiple divisions and partners is challenging and particularly complex in the University’s decentralized environment. 

Consequently, in 2018, a survey of University leadership and faculty was conducted to identify how the University could foster the creation of sustainable large-scale, cross-divisional and interdisciplinary initiatives. Based on the survey findings, the Institutional Strategic Initiatives portfolio was created to spearhead and facilitate interdisciplinary efforts that leverage the University’s strengths in areas of societal importance, ensuring that U of T remains a globally leading research institution.

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