Alliance grant program FAQ

NSERC is combining several grants involving partnerships into a single grant. The grants involved are Engage grants (including Engage Plus grants), Industrial Research Chairs, Connect grants, Strategic Partnership grants for Networks and Projects, Experience Awards and Collaborative Research and Development grants. This new grant will build on the strengths of our current partnership grants. It will be simpler and more flexible and will create a platform to start and grow collaborations between university researchers and partner organizations, which can be from the private, public and not-for-profit sectors.

General questions

  1. Where can I get the latest information about the new Alliance grant program?
  2. When was the new Alliance grant program launched? When will I be able to submit an application?

Questions about the transition

  1. How will the new Alliance grants differ from existing grants?
  2. Will my current awards or recently submitted applications be affected by the launch of the new Alliance grant program?
  3. What should I do if I am getting ready to submit an application for an existing grantt?

 Questions about the new Alliance grant program

  1. How did NSERC design the Alliance grant program?  Has the research community been consulted?
  2. How will NSERC help me prepare my application?
  3. How will I apply for an Alliance grant? Will my application include the Common CV?
  4. What will be the duration of Alliance grants?
  5. How much funding can I apply for?
  6. How will NSERC decide the amount of the grant?
  7. How many applications can I submit?
  8. How will in-kind contributions be considered?
  9. What type of organizations can be partners?
  10. What is the intellectual property (IP) policy?
  11. How will NSERC evaluate my application? How quickly will NSERC reach a decision?
  12. What will the success rate be?
  13. Will NSERC hold information sessions on the Alliance grant program?

 General questions

1. Where can I get the latest information about the new research partnerships grants?

Information about the implementation of new grants will be posted and updated regularly on NSERC’s New Research Partnerships Program: Latest news page.

2. When was the new Alliance grant program launched? When will I be able to submit an application?

The new grants has launched on April 24, 2019. The online system will be open on May 21, 2019, for applications requesting over $150,000 annually from NSERC. Applications requesting lower amounts will be accepted at a later date, which will be communicated on NSERC’s website. This is part of a staged transition approach.

Questions about the transition

3. How will the new Alliance grants differ from existing grants?

While the new Alliance grants will include new features, it will also continue to support many of the same kinds of collaborations as the grants it replaces. However, activities previously supported under Experience Awards and Connect grants will not be directly supported under the new grants.

  • It will be possible to design projects similar to those currently supported by Engage Grants. The new grants will be more flexible in terms of project duration (up to five years instead of six months), grant size (the limit is extended from $25K to $200k per year with reduced partner cash requirements), number of applicants (no longer limited to one academic researcher) and partners (more than one and a broader definition of eligible organizations). Engage grants were developed to break down barriers to collaboration between the private sector and academia. With nearly 12,000 Engage grants having been awarded since the launch in 2009, they have met their objectives. Their success has also contributed to a significant growth in the Collaborative Research and Development (CRD) grants in recent years.
  • The new grants will support projects with low direct costs to the partners, similar to Strategic Partnership grants. However, the new grants will have fewer restrictions on research topics or application deadlines.
  • The new grants will support projects like those supported through CRD grants. Higher contributions from NSERC will encourage the participation of value-chain partners or partners from different sectors.
  • The new grants will support partnerships similar in value and scope to those supported by the Industrial Research Chairs (IRC) grants. The new grants will allow higher contributions from NSERC and greater flexibility in terms of eligible partner organizations. However, salaries of chairholders will have to be covered by the university or by other sources, such as additional direct partner contributions. In this case, please note that universities should not use the designation “NSERC Industrial Research Chair” or “Industrial Research Chair” if funding is awarded through the new grant. However you may choose to use “Chair” or “Research Chair” instead.

4. Will my current awards or recently submitted applications be affected by the launch of the new Alliance grant program?

NSERC’s will honour its commitments to ongoing awards, as well as new commitments made before the launch of the new Alliance grant program, until their completion, under the terms and conditions of the original awards.

5. What should I do if I am getting ready to submit an application for an existing grantt?

For Collaborative Research and Development (CRD) Grants:
NSERC will continue to accept applications for CRD grants until May 31, 2019.

For Industrial Research Chair (IRC) Grants:
February 1, 2019, was the submission deadline for all applications for new IRC grants. As well, renewal applications for some IRC grants will be accepted in 2019–2020. The IRC Chairholders and their universities have been informed directly. Refer to the Program Transitions page for information regarding applications for external candidates.

For Experience Awards for universities:
Experience Awards for universities are being discontinued, but NSERC considers active participation of students at all levels a cornerstone of its funded research partnership projects, and this will continue under the new grants. Partner organizations will be able to work closely with graduate and undergraduate students, as well as with postdoctoral fellows, who will have the opportunity for enriched research training experiences.

Organizations seeking additional sources of funding for hiring students are encouraged to consult the This link will take you to another Web site Innovation Canada’s Concierge Service.

For Connect grants for universities:
Connect grants for universities have been discontinued. NSERC will honour its commitments to previously awarded Connect grants.

For Engage and Engage Plus grants for universities:
NSERC will continue to accept applications for Engage and Engage Plus grants until May 31, 2019.

For Strategic Partnerships grants for Projects and Networks:
NSERC will not hold any further competitions for the Strategic Partnership grants for Networks (SPG-N) or the Strategic Partnership grants for Projects (SPG-P). This does not affect the evaluation of SPG-N applications submitted by July 2018 in response to invitations for full proposals. NSERC will honour all commitments made before the transition.

For more details about the transition to the Research Partnerships grants, please consult the Program Transitions page.

Questions about the new Alliance grant program

6. How did NSERC design the Alliance grant program? Has the research community been consulted?

The 2018 federal budget announced significant investments in NSERC to support knowledge discovery. In addition, the federal government committed to simplifying the landscape for federal grants supporting research and innovation to further accelerate the application of knowledge. To meet these commitments, NSERC is combining several grants involving industrial partnerships into a single grant. The previous grants are Engage grants (including Engage Plus grants), Industrial Research Chairs, Connect grants, Strategic Partnership grants for Networks and Projects, Experience Awards, and Collaborative Research and Development grants.

NSERC led this effort by modernizing, simplifying and improving its Research Partnership grants in consultation with the research community. In September and October 2018, NSERC engaged the Canadian research community to test, refine and improve design ideas for the new grants. Nine engagement sessions were held across Canada, bringing together nearly 400 representatives from universities, industry, not-for-profit organizations, associations and the public sector. NSERC has listened to, and incorporated, much of this valuable input, which has led to several modifications of the new grants. A summary of the feedback from the community is available.

The new Alliance grant program will be more flexible and responsive to the research community by:

  • accommodating a broader range of partner organizations, including industry, government, and not-for-profit organizations.
  • including incentives for collaborations with small and medium-sized companies and for value-chain and multi-sectoral partnerships.
  • modernizing and simplifying the application process, making use of the NSERC’s On-Line System.
  • streamlining evaluation criteria and review processes.
  • allowing projects to scale up and grow more quickly, based on their potential impact and the increased engagement of partners.

7. How will NSERC help me prepare my application?

Complete information about the Alliance grants and the application process will be available on NSERC’s website. Research Partnership staff will be available to answer questions as researchers and partners prepare their grant proposals.

8. How will I apply for an Alliance grant? Will my application include the Common CV?

The application process will be announced soon and will include the Common CV. Details will be posted and updated regularly on NSERC’s webpage on the new Research Partnership grants.

9. What will be the duration of Alliance  grants?

Grants can be for 1 to 5 years. Please note that a 1-year grant can be completed in less than 12 months if the participants so choose.

10. How much funding can I apply for?

The minimum grant size is $20,000 per year, and the maximum is $1 million per year, for up to 5 years. Shorter projects can be scaled up or extended within the maximum 5-year period.

Alliance grants will continue to support the direct costs of research, in line with NSERC’s long-standing policy on the Use of Grant Funds. In addition to salaries and materials, direct costs include research training, mobilizing knowledge, transferring technology and developing connections to expand the scope of a research collaboration.

11. How will NSERC decide the amount of the grant?

Under Alliance grants, the part of the project cost that can be cost-shared with NSERC includes only cash contributions from the partners recognized for cost-sharing (these partners will be defined in the new grant description). It does not include cash contributions from:

  • the partners that are not recognized for cost-sharing
  • the university
  • other funders

The Alliance grant program incorporates a three-tiered cost-sharing structure. NSERC will provide 50% (a 1:1 leverage ratio), 66% (a 2:1 leverage ratio), or 90% to100% of the shareable costs, depending on the size of the partner organizations and the type of partnership. The cost-sharing calculation takes into account only the contributions from the partner organizations that are recognized for cost-sharing. However, projects can be supported by additional sources of funding that are not recognized for cost-sharing. Guidelines will soon be available.

NSERC will consider cost-sharing at a 2:1 leverage ratio for proposals that involve:

  • small and medium-sized organizations, since they face significant hurdles but are a driver of employment and economic growth in Canada
  • value chains, combining large with small and medium sized organizations which facilitate the adoption of knowledge and technology
  • multi-sectoral (private, public and/or not-for-profit) combinations of partners, because such combinations are more likely to use or apply the research results to generate benefits for Canada.

In recognition that starting new research collaborations, embarking on high-risk research, or involving partner organizations with limited resources can be challenging, NSERC may also provide between 90 and 100% of the cash costs of a project. Funding requested from NSERC on such applications would be limited to $200,000 per year.

12. How many applications can I submit?

For the 50% (1:1 ratio) and 66% (2:1 ratio) cost-sharing options, there is no limit on the number of applications in a given year. For the 90% to 100% cost-sharing option, a researcher may participate in only 2 such applications within a 12-month period (one as the principal investigator, one as co-applicant). Partner organizations may be part of only 2 such applications within a 12-month period.

13. How will in-kind contributions be considered?

In-kind contributions are important for the success of the project and are considered as part of the proposal evaluation. However, they should not be considered when determining NSERC’s contribution to the project costs. This will allow more flexibility in some scientific disciplines and with certain partners, particularly small and medium-sized organizations.

14. What type of organizations can be partners?

NSERC will support projects that involve the partner or partners needed to both achieve research outputs and successfully mobilize research results to achieve impact. Partners can be from the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors.

In describing a collaborative research project, applicants must clearly indicate the relevance and role of each partner. For NSERC to consider the cash contributions of a partner in calculating the NSERC grant, partners must have an active role in the project’s research activities, apply research results or actively mobilize knowledge.

15. What is the intellectual property (IP) policy?

The new grants will follow NSERC’s Policy on Intellectual Property. NSERC recommends that you and your institution follow best practice by signing a research agreement, but NSERC does not require such an agreement or review agreements. NSERC does not claim any ownership of IP from projects under these grants, and it does not stipulate who must own any IP resulting from the partnership.

16. How will NSERC evaluate my application? How quickly will NSERC reach a decision?

To review your application, NSERC follows an approach based on financial risk and uses a variety of assessment tools. The expected decision time will be 4 weeks for project with an average annual request of $20,000 to $30,000 for 1 to 5 years, 8–12 weeks for project with an average annual request of more than $30,000 up to $300,000 for 1 to 5 years, and 12–16 weeks for project with an average annual request of more than $300,000 and up to $1,000,000 for 1 to 5 years.

NSERC will evaluate your application using the following criteria:

  • Relevance and Outcomes
  • Partnership
  • Quality of the Proposal
  • Training
17. What will the success rate be?

The percentage of applications that will be funded is difficult to predict at this time. It will depend on the results of the shift to an across-the-board competition and the expansion of eligible partners. If these factors increase the number of research partnerships and the demand for funding, success rates for applicants could decrease. NSERC intends to assess applications regularly, allocating funds throughout the year to ensure that the grants remain sustainable within its current budget.

18. Will NSERC hold information sessions on the Alliance grant program?

Yes, NSERC will organize information sessions on the new program to provide more details on application procedures, evaluation processes, and other important aspects of the grants. More details about the information sessions will be posted and updated regularly on NSERC’s New Research Partnerships Program: Latest news page.


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