University of Michigan Mcubed 3.0



University of Michigan Research Funding (Kickstarter) Web Application built on Drupal 8

Case description

The Mcubed program, housed in the University of Michigan's Office for Research, distributes real-time seed funding to multidisciplinary, faculty-led teams in order to stimulate research that might otherwise be overlooked in more traditional funding processes.

At its heart is the Mcubed portal ( Built on a philosophy similar to crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, the portal provides a convenient and powerful way for professors across multiple disciplines to discover shared interests, define collaborative projects and request funding. The Mcubed program jump-starts innovative research ventures that have the potential to advance knowledge and improve life in myriad ways, and the portal is the engine that drives its success.

Symmetri Technology, an official strategic supplier of web design and development services for the University of Michigan, has been the engine driving the portal’s success. Since 2014, we have completed two major upgrade and enhancement initiatives based first on Drupal 7 and subsequently the Drupal 8 web-development and content-management platform.

The continued success of the project has resulted in an open-ended agile continuous integration development cycle focused on bolstering the community interactions of the existing portal. The long term roadmap for the community feature set includes a headless approach to news aggregation and dissemination across a variety of campus web properties and content services.

Case goals and results

The Mcubed program’s success depends entirely on its portal, allowing users to browse cubes by category and express interest in joining a project. And it manages the gamified “token” system of funding projects based on multidisciplinary researcher commitment, unlike the traditional grant-writing process. Mcubed 3.0 brought the scalability needed to take the program to researchers and donors nationwide. Symmetri Technology performed a complete website rebuild on Drupal 8, an advanced platform with an impressive new object-oriented programming architecture built on the Symphony framework. We also migrated all data from 2.0, and significantly upgraded site functionality.

By the close of the Mcubed 2.0 funding cycle, nearly 500 cubes had been awarded, representing $60
million worth of research investment into everything from public health exercise programs to infrared
powered neural implants. The Mcubed staff received the President’s Staff Innovation Team Award for
implementing newly developed best practices and creating new inclusive features. During the Mcubed 3.0 funding cycle, 221 cubes have already been awarded as of February of 2019.


The Mcubed program, housed in the University of Michigan’s Office for Research, distributes real-
time seed funding to multidisciplinary, faculty-led teams—stimulating research that might otherwise be overlooked in more traditional grant processes. Mcubed attracted $20 million in additional grant money over an initial investment of $14 million, funding 222 research projects. However, to reach its full potential, the Mcubed portal would need to be completely rebuilt to provide much more powerful interactive functionality and virtually unlimited scalability.

Community contributions

Contributions made to: simplesamlphp

Why should this case win the splash awards?

Mcubed 3.0 represents an ideal use case for the power of Drupal to meet the needs of custom web applications with complex requirements. The Mcubed project is also a testament to the long-range viability of Drupal 8 to grow into the expanding needs of an enterprise grade web application with much humbler beginnings on Drupal 7. The future of the project is also ensured with an approach that includes a decoupled development path. Higher education has been expanded into entrepreneurship on a grand scale with this ambitious open source project.