Building a Sustainable Portfolio of Core Facilities: a Case Study

J Biomol Tech. 2018 Sep;29(3):79-92. doi: 10.7171/jbt.18-2903-003. Epub 2018 Aug 6.


Core facilities are an integral component of modern research institutions. Here, we describe our efforts over the past decade to build a sustainable portfolio of core facilities at Northwestern University. Through careful strategic planning, coordination, investment, and oversight, we have developed a model for managing core facilities that addresses researchers' needs within 3 schools across 2 campuses. Our management model is a partnership between core directors and central administrators that maintains operational control of each facility at the local level to ensure that the needs of researchers are being addressed. Central administrative oversight ensures that facilities are compliant with federal regulations, are financially sound, and align with institutional priorities. This hybrid management model is comprised of 4 pillars that are essential and necessary to ensure the long-term viability and success of facilities: core personnel, core space, institutional investment, and institutional evaluation. With these pillars in place, our facilities are well positioned to fulfill their key value propositions, to demonstrate a robust return on the university's investment, and to ensure that facilities remain vibrant, sustainable components of the research ecosystem for the foreseeable future.

Keywords: federal regulations; management model; pillars; return on investment.

MeSH terms

  • Academies and Institutes / economics
  • Academies and Institutes / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Illinois
  • Investments
  • Research Personnel*
  • Universities / economics
  • Universities / organization & administration*