The 16th SPA Symposium Unveils Modern Grants Management System

Woman at podium in conference room full of people.

Sponsored Projects Administration Director April Coon gave opening remarks at the SPA Symposium. 

On March 6, 2024, more than 400 people gathered at McNamara Alumni Center for the 16th SPA Symposium. Sponsored Projects Administration (SPA) Director April Coon opened the event, the first in-person SPA symposium in over four years, with enthusiasm: “If you see SPA staff, stop us and say hi. We’re so excited to see you!”

This year’s symposium focused on the upcoming release of MN-GEMS, a grants management system that will replace EGMS and bring the University of Minnesota in line with other top research universities and significantly improve efficiency, reduce administrative burden, and expand capabilities. The conference provided an introduction to MN-GEMS with focused training for research administration staff on topics such as proposal creation, award generation, clinical trials management, and "tips and tricks" for working in the system. MN-GEMS is expected to launch on April 29, 2024. 

Associate Vice President for Research and Innovation Pamela Webb spoke to some of the benefits of the new system: proposals, awards, and subawards all in one place; easy-to-access, usable reports; ability to track progress at any time throughout the sponsored life cycle; ability to review the history of any transaction; communication between various departmental, collegiate, and SPA teams (no more emails); and, eventually, faster awards.

“It is a huge undertaking to learn new systems and understand the advantages of new systems,” Webb acknowledged. “Unlike EGMS, which was written for the University and implemented in 1998, MN-GEMS is a commercial system, so we’ll have to adapt. We need to have patience as we learn and grow with the tool. Today is the beginning. There will be a lot more training and practice before we go live in April, but I’m really hoping that after today’s sessions, you’ll be just as excited as SPA is about this new tool.”

Vice President for Research and Innovation Shashank Priya also spoke about the University’s placement as a top 12 US research institution with three years in a row of research funding of over $1 billion. “We need to keep pace at making investments in our research infrastructure otherwise we will be saturated and unable to take more awards and submit more proposals,” he said, pointing to MN-GEMS as one step toward improving the research infrastructure.

VP Priya also recognized the research staff in attendance. “A lot of times we celebrate faculty success, looking at quantitative metrics such as papers published and patents filed. But behind the scenes are the staff like you who work day and night to help make our faculty's careers successful. I am thankful to you for making this university move forward.” 

Presenter stands at front of room full of people
Kristen Berning (MN-GEMS Specialist, Sponsored Projects Administration) presents Session 5: "How to Be a MN-GEMS Super Sleuth: Navigation & Reporting Tips & Tricks."

After opening remarks, symposium attendees were able to participate in three of six breakout sessions to learn more about the functionality of MN-GEMS and attend a closing plenary session presented by April Coon. All presentations and job aids are now posted on the SPA website.

Over the next few months, more training and educational opportunities will be provided for the research community. Visit the MN-GEMS webpage for more information and updates.