Software for universities manage data, streamline functions

Software for universities manage data, streamline functions

Posted: Wednesday, August 4, 2010 10:11 am

A University of Tennessee at Martin administrative specialist has developed a software package that can manage data and streamline functions in university and college offices that are responsible for grant management, sponsored programs administration and related functions.
Developed by Susan Newbill, Sponsored Programs Administration and Research Compliance System (SPARCS) is a set of relational database templates written in the FileMaker Pro platform.
“Users find point-and-click functions accompanied by help screens and navigational tools that direct them through every step of the process so they don’t have to be database experts,” said Newbill.
Newbill said prior to SPARCS, which she developed through her work in the UT Martin Office of Research, Grants and Contracts, the system for managing data was available on Excel spreadsheets that contained no formulas or relationships.
The system fell prey to errors and duplications caused by being required to repeatedly enter the same information.
Following exposure of SPARCS at higher education conferences in the past two years, several institutions are piloting SPARCS, a product that initially is targeted for institutions with less than 10,000 students and administrative offices that oversee multiple data and reporting functions.
“SPARCS was created out of need in our office but the potential for commercialization arose out of attending conferences,” said Newbill, who learned that other institutions had critical needs in data management.
“With SPARCS we have not only the ability to have accurate records of our proposals and grants, but we provide the service of automatic reminders and tracking contracts and federal research compliance issues,” she added.
“The process of reconciling the budgets, which took hours before, is now done in about five minutes. Routine letters and memos are generated automatically rather than being cut and pasted from previous word processing documents.”
 Since SPARCS was created through her work with UT Martin, the UT Research Foundation actually owns the software and has secured the necessary copyrights.
As the creator, Newbill will share in the profits from sales of the product. The UTRF has also chosen to license the product back to Newbill’s company, New Found Solutions, for the purpose of marketing the system commercially.
Under the agreement, the UTRF will remain a stockholder in her company. Plans are to actively market the system in the fall.  
 Newbill was referred by Dr. Richard Magid, UTRF vice president (Health Science Center Office/Memphis), to JumpStart Foundry, a Nashville-based seed stage microfund.
JumpStart has invested $15,000 as seed money to “jumpstart” the business startup and has provided a mentoring team. Newbill’s JumpStart mentors are Nick Holland, CEO/president, centresource;  J. Tod Fetherling, president/CEO, Nashville Technology Council; and Scott Kozicki, entrepreneur and co-founder of BlueStar Communications.
 “JumpStart Foundry is looking for entrepreneurs that have the creative passion to pursue an idea and the technical expertise to develop the concept into a working prototype,” said Holland.
“This philosophy transcends software, hardware and even physical-everyday products.  Our goal is to leverage our expertise and relationships in order to propel the entrepreneur past the concept phase to a point where they can choose to cash flow their operation, seek additional funding, or sell their concept to a larger entity.”
Holland said New Found Solutions was a perfect match for JSF once the group recognized Newbill’s passion and saw the potential of the SPARCS platform she developed while with UT Martin.
“Over the initial 120 days, our goal is to structure NFS as an operational corporation and to close our first five pilot accounts,” he added.
“These pilot accounts will provide the critical information needed to plan for nationwide deployment of the SPARCS system over the course of 2011.”           
 “The team has devoted many hours already to the formation of New Found Solutions,” said Newbill.
“They are training and guiding me so that I might compete … independently. In return for the many hours and seed money invested by JumpStart, that group will hold a 10 percent interest in New Found Solutions. I consider that to be a small price to pay for the future of New Found Solutions that I am now convinced will be bright.”
WCP 8.03.10

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