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Industrial Research Chairs Grants

*IMPORTANT* NSERC's Research Partnerships programs are being renewed, including Industrial Research Chairs (IRC) grants. Before considering preparing an IRC grant application, we ask that you carefully read the transition plan for this type of grant in order to determine if your application can be accepted.


Learn more about the Chairholders who are funded by these and other NSERC Chairholder grants by visiting the NSERC Chairholders Database.


Overview
Duration 5 years, renewable
Application deadline No deadline
How to apply See below
Application forms Application
  • Form 100 Personal Data Form
  • Form 101 Application for a Grant
  • Form 183A Information Required from Organizations Participating in Research Partnerships Programs
To create or access an application, select On-line System Login. To view forms and instructions, select PDF Forms and Instructions.
Contact View the Contact Directory

Objective

Industrial Research Chairs (IRC) are intended to:

  • create mutually beneficial collaborations between Canadian universities and private and/or public sector partners that lead to advancements that will result in economic, social or environmental benefits for Canada and Canadians;
  • assist universities in building on existing strengths to achieve the critical mass required for a major research endeavour in natural sciences and engineering of interest to their partner(s); and/or
  • assist in the development of research efforts in fields that have not yet been developed in Canadian universities but for which there is an important need;
  • provide an enhanced experiential learning environment for graduate students and, where appropriate, postdoctoral fellows, by exposing them to research challenges unique to partnerships, and by providing them with the opportunity for significant ongoing interactions with the partnering organization(s);
  • allow partners to access the unique knowledge, expertise, infrastructure and potential highly educated and skilled future employees graduating from Canadian universities.

Description

NSERC offers three types of Industrial Research Chairs:

  • Senior Industrial Research Chairs for distinguished senior researchers (five-year appointment, renewable);
  • Associate Industrial Research Chairs for early-stage researchers demonstrating exceptional promise (five-year appointment, renewable once);
  • Executive Industrial Research Chairs for outstanding R&D professionals (five-year appointment, non-renewable).

An IRC grant provides funding for the salary of the Chairholder, infrastructure, research tools and instruments, and general expenses related to the Chair’s program of research.

Chairholders are expected to focus their activities on conducting research and training highly qualified personnel, while carrying a reduced administrative and teaching load.

IRCs are funded jointly by NSERC and at least one eligible partner. For a description of partners eligible for leveraging cash and in-kind contributions from NSERC, and the eligibility and value of in-kind contributions, refer to the Guidelines for Organizations Participating in Research Partnerships. Additional non-eligible partners can contribute and participate by bringing their own resources to, and having a defined role in, the program of research.

The total eligible partner cash commitment in any five-year term should be at least equal to NSERC’s commitment during the same period.

NSERC will not be responsible for any salary increments provided to the Chairholder over the course of the award due to merit, progression through the ranks, or inflation.

Universities may nominate more than one Chair candidate jointly in one application if their fields of research are related, complementary, and part of the same proposed program of research. However, each Chair candidate in a joint application will be assessed to the same standards of excellence and self-reliance as if nominated individually.

NSERC staff must be informed as soon as possible if the nature of the Chairholder's faculty appointment is about to change, for example, as a result of pending retirement or the approval of a concurrent Canada Research Chair award. Such changes will have implications for the IRC award. Chair candidates or incumbents who hold or expect to hold a Canada Research Chair under the Canada Research Chairs Program should refer to the Concurrent IRC and CRC Awards section below.

Chairholders are eligible to compete for other NSERC grants, such as Discovery Grants and other Research Partnerships grants, while they hold an IRC.

A researcher can hold IRC and Collaborative Research and Development (CRD) Grants concurrently. A CRD application and an IRC application may be evaluated simultaneously if the two are thematically related and have a strong overlap in supporting organizations and research teams, and are submitted to NSERC at the same time. Each application will be evaluated on its own merits and a funding decision for each will be reached independently.

Strategic relevance

The IRC proposal must be in an area of high priority for both the university and the partner(s). The minimum university commitment to the establishment of an IRC includes tenured (Senior Industrial Research Chair), tenure-track (Associate Industrial Research Chair), or five-year, non-tenured term (Executive Industrial Research Chair) appointments and adequate laboratory, office space and administrative support (particularly important for IRCs with large research teams or numerous partners), as required, for the research group. If the proposed candidate is currently on staff, the university must establish at least one incremental tenured or tenure-track faculty position (see the Incrementality section below). A university financial contribution to the cost of the research program or infrastructure will strengthen the case for support.

Similarly, the partner(s) must demonstrate a strong commitment to a field of research relevant to industrial activity that will result in economic, social or environmental benefits for Canada and Canadians.

Senior Industrial Research Chairs

Candidates for Senior Chair positions must be researchers of international stature who can bring an innovative perspective to the university in carrying out and managing research, and training researchers. They must be recognized as international leaders in their field and must be considered to be exceptional in comparison to their research peers. Furthermore, candidates are expected to have extensive research experience and all the qualifications for a tenured appointment at the rank of full professor. Appointments are for an initial five-year term, which may be renewed every five years.

Note: Tier 2 Canada Research Chairholders are not eligible for a Senior IRC, but can apply for an Associate IRC.

Associate Industrial Research Chairs

Associate Chair candidates should be researchers in the early stages of their careers who have demonstrated exceptional promise relative to their peers in their field of research and who are qualified for academic appointment as assistant or associate professors. Appointments must be confirmed as tenured or tenure-track. Candidates must have demonstrated the capacity to conduct a significant independent research activity. Appointments are for an initial five-year term, which may be renewed once. At the renewal stage, current Associate Chairholders may be nominated as Senior Chair candidates if the criteria for that status are met.

Executive Industrial Research Chairs

Executive Chairs are designed for candidates from industry with non-academic research backgrounds who:

  • have extensive experience and an exceptional track record in conducting and managing R&D at a senior level but who have limited teaching experience, and whose current positions do not offer opportunities to publish;
  • have the ability to provide the outstanding vision and leadership necessary to build a broad range of partnerships and launch a major research initiative that would allow the university to move forward into new areas of collaborative, industrially relevant research. The role of the Executive Chair must clearly include direct involvement in R&D activities and student supervision, and should not be limited to administrative oversight.

Executive Chairs are not designed for early- or mid-career researchers who have non-traditional career paths that include industrial experience. Outstanding candidates with such backgrounds who are offered tenure or tenure-track positions should be proposed as Associate or Senior Chairs instead, and their merit toward stature will be assessed by taking into account the equivalent experience and skills that have led to their new academic appointment.

Candidates must demonstrate an understanding of the university milieu and be qualified to supervise graduate students. Appointments are for a five-year term with no tenure. The appointment is not renewable; however, an Executive Chair may be renewed as a Senior Chair, if the criteria for Senior Chairs are met.

Stature assessment table by Chair type

The following table will help determine the stature of potential candidates for each Chair type:

Chair type Must have May Should not
Senior
  • Tenure as Full Professor
  • International recognition in the research field of the proposal
  • Exceptional standing in comparison to research peers
  • An outstanding publication and highly qualified personnel (HQP) training record
  • A demonstrated ability to interact with industry and nurture partnerships
  • Be a Canada Research Chair (CRC) Tier 1 Holder
  • Be an internal or external candidate
  • Have been Senior, Associate or Executive Chairholder
  • Be a CRC Tier 2 Holder
Associate
  • Tenure or tenure-track as Associate or Assistant Professor
  • Recognition as contributor to the research field
  • Distinction amongst peer group
  • A significant publication and HQP training record
  • The ability to interact with industry and nurture partnerships
  • Be CRC Tier 2 Holder
  • Be an internal or external candidate
  • Have tenure as Full Professor*
  • Be a recent graduate with no research credentials
Executive
  • Substantial industry experience
  • A substantial research and development (R&D) background
  • A demonstrated ability to lead and supervise a program of  research
  • External candidate status
  • Have some past academic experience
  • Be retired from industry
  • Have limited academic HQP supervision experience
  • Continue to be employed in industry during the Chair
  • Be employed in non-industrial organizations
  • Be offered tenure

* An exception will be made only for Associate Chairs renewing for their second Term.

Incrementality

The establishment of an Associate or Senior IRC must increase the research capacity of the university in the proposed area of research by creating new tenured or tenure-track faculty position(s). The establishment of an Executive Chair does not include this requirement. In the case of an external candidate, the Chairholder is considered to be the incremental position. In the case of an internal candidate who already holds a faculty appointment, the university must agree to create a new tenured or tenure-track faculty position(s) in the research area of the Chair program, or in one closely related and complementary to it. The new faculty position(s) must be appointed following the approval of the Chair.

Candidates nominated for an Executive Chair position must be external. Candidates nominated for Senior Chair or Associate Chair positions can be internal (currently on staff at the host university) or external.

External candidates:

  • Candidates who have been specifically hired by the university to prepare an IRC application for up to one year prior to an IRC application submission will be considered as external candidates.

Internal candidates:

  • For each internal candidate, the university must create a new tenured or tenure-track faculty position(s) in the research area of the Chair program, or in one closely related and complementary to it.
  • This new position cannot be contingent on the availability of funds. The funds freed up from the salary of the internal candidate must be used toward the salary of the new tenure or tenure-track position. Any leftover funds, and any funds freed up (minus any reasonable recruitment costs or costs associated with an enticement package) before the new tenure or tenure-track position is filled, must be allocated to the direct costs of the Chair’s research program on a monthly pro rata basis.
  • The individual selected for the new faculty position must have the mandate and qualifications required to conduct independent research and supervise graduate students.
  • The university must undertake to fill this new position promptly once an IRC is awarded and to supply NSERC with a CV for the candidate, once selected. Annual renewal of an IRC may be contingent on confirmation that the university has met this obligation. Furthermore, should this individual leave the university during the term of the Chair, and the university is unable to fill this vacated position, the Chair may be cancelled. A person selected for the replacement faculty position will be considered internal if proposed as a Chair candidate.
  • To satisfy the requirements for the creation of incremental research capacity, a new tenured or tenure-track faculty position must also be created for IRC Chairholders whose salary is currently funded through a Canada Research Chair.
  • Candidates who do not have a tenured or tenure-track academic appointment, but who have been employed at the university for more than one year and are eligible to apply for NSERC grants, will be considered as internal candidates.

Supporting organizations

In addition to contributing significantly to the direct costs of a Chair (For a full discussion of cash leverage ratios, and the eligibility and value of in-kind contributions, refer to the Guidelines for Organizations Participating in Research Partnerships), the partner(s) must demonstrate a willingness and ability to collaborate with the university researchers to a degree that would provide industrially relevant training opportunities for the students and that would lead to the exploitation of the research results for the benefit of Canada and Canadians. 

Partner cash contributed toward an IRC is eligible regardless of when it was actually provided, as long as the money has not been spent prior to the application being submitted to NSERC. If the partner(s) choose to contribute to an endowment as a means of supporting the Chair, the recognized contribution will be limited to the amount attributed to industrial sources that are directly allocated to the cost of the Chair over the term of the award.

Note: The Canada Revenue Agency will recognize cash contributions to NSERC IRCs as Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) expenditures under the Income Tax Act. For details, see SR&ED forms and publications available from the This link will take you to another Web site Canada Revenue Agency .

NSERC's Policy on Intellectual Property (IP) is based on the principle that the results of NSERC-funded research should be exploited for the benefit of Canada and Canadians. NSERC strongly recommends that the partner(s) and university(ies) negotiate a research agreement for the ownership and management of IP generated in the collaborative research partnerships, in compliance with NSERC’s IP Policy. Confirmation that a research agreement has been signed between the partner(s) and the university will be requested by NSERC for all IRC awards. This confirmation must be provided within six months from the date of the conditional offer.

Equity, diversity and inclusion

NSERC is acting on the evidence that equity, diversity and inclusion strengthen the scientific and engineering communities and the quality, social relevance and impact of research. Increasing diversity and gender equity in the research enterprise are key priorities in our current strategic plan, NSERC 2020, and are highlighted in the strategic goal of “Building a Diversified and Competitive Research Base”.
 
NSERC is in the process of integrating equity, diversity and inclusion considerations into its evaluation criteria. Our community will be informed of changes and effective dates. Applicants should refer to the Guide for Applicants: Considering equity, diversity and inclusion in your application for more information.

Application procedures

The person submitting an IRC proposal (the “applicant” on Form 101) must hold a senior administrative position in the university, such as department head, dean, vice-president or president, with direct or ultimate management responsibility for the proposed Chairholder. The applicant cannot be the candidate for the Chair.

Applications may be submitted at any time. Decisions on IRC awards may take up to six months from the time of submission; for an optimal turnaround time, NSERC must receive the final version of an application, considered ready for review by NSERC staff, at least four months prior to the Advisory Committee on University-Industry Grants’ quarterly meeting. Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact NSERC staff before submitting a proposal, and may request comments on drafts. Full applications must identify a candidate for a Senior, Executive or Associate Chair.

Use Forms 100, 101 and 183A and follow the instructions for preparing an IRC submission. Three letters of reference for each Chair candidate should be sent directly to NSERC.

Review procedures

All IRC proposals are reviewed by a visiting committee. Applicants will be contacted by NSERC staff regarding the timing of and agenda for site visits. The final recommendation for funding is made by the Advisory Committee on University-Industry Grants; this committee normally meets four times per year: in March, June, September and December. After receiving the final version of the application, NSERC takes up to six months to complete its evaluation when no significant issues are raised during the review process. For an optimal turnaround time, NSERC must receive the final version of an application, considered ready for review by NSERC staff, at least four months prior to the Advisory Committee on University-Industry Grants’ quarterly meeting.

Selection criteria

IRC applications are evaluated on the basis of the following criteria:

  • Excellence of the candidate: The stature, research competence, experience and record of accomplishments of the proposed candidate(s) must be evident (commensurate with the type of Chair requested);
  • Scientific Merit: The scientific merit, originality, technical feasibility and industrial or other important relevance of the proposed program of research must be demonstrated;
  • Impact of the previous term (for Chair renewal applications): A clear demonstration of the impact the Chair has had to date, including the impact on research capacity and academic offerings at the university and the new knowledge that the partners have translated into economic, social or environmental benefits for Canada and Canadians;
  • Training opportunities: The opportunities for the training of graduate students (MSc and PhD) and, where appropriate, postdoctoral fellows in areas relevant to the industrial needs must be sufficiently demonstrated, including the opportunity for significant ongoing interactions with the partner(s). It must be shown that students and postdoctoral fellows have an opportunity to enhance their experiential learning and gain new skills through interactions with the partner(s);
  • Industrial relevance and benefits: The anticipated impact of the research results, highlighting the relevance and potential value of the scientific or technical advances for the partner(s) must be well-explained and compelling. If appropriate, the proposal must convincingly explain how this research will address critical knowledge gaps that pose barriers to developing new and innovative products, services, processes, or technologies in Canada;
  • Benefits to Canada: In addition to the benefits anticipated for the partner(s) described under the Industrial Relevance and Benefits criterion, the proposal must detail any additional economic, social or environmental benefits for Canada and Canadians, as well as explaining any advantages Canada stands to gain from the planned partnership(s).
  • Benefits to the university and appropriateness of the setting: The growth of a valuable sustainable research activity that will generate results of scientific and industrial relevance, enhance training, and stimulate academic collaborations and partner interactions, and the adequacy of the physical environment and financial resources to support the Chair, must be demonstrated by the university; 
  • Budget: The proposal must provide a detailed explanation and justification for each budget item. The proposed cost sharing between NSERC and the partner(s) must be explained and justified and the proposal must provide sufficient information to allow reviewers to assess whether the resources requested and the level of cash and in-kind contributions are appropriate. A significant portion of the budget must be allocated to salaries for students and postdoctoral fellows.

Public announcements

Refer to the Requirements for the Public Announcement of NSERC Grants, Scholarships and Prizes in planning a public announcement of an IRC award. NSERC will approve a public announcement only after the Chairholder has formally accepted the position and after all conditions of the award have been addressed to NSERC's satisfaction.

Funding for equipment

NSERC will not consider requests for equipment and maintenance expenditures that are greater than $400,000 over the five-year term of the Chair and that would be solely funded by the NSERC/partner support. In such cases, an alternative source of funding should be pursued, such as the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI’s) John R. Evans Leaders Fund. NSERC and CFI have developed a joint application and review procedure for these cases. Applicants wishing to use this procedure should consult NSERC staff for more details.

Project management expenses

Certain expenditures related to project management are now eligible as a direct cost of research up to a maximum of 10% of the total direct costs (see the Guidelines for Research Partnerships Programs Project Management Expenses).

Reporting

The Chairholder, the university and the partner(s) must submit progress reports after 18 and 36 months of the first and any subsequent five-year term. If the Chair is in its final term, the final report is due within three months of the end date of the Chair. For those Chairs intending to renew, an up-to-date progress report must be submitted as part of the renewal application during the final year of the term. Continued NSERC support for the duration of the term is dependent on favourable reviews of the progress of the Chair research program and the continued contribution of the partner(s), which must be confirmed annually.

Renewal

Renewal of an IRC provides continued support for the Chair's research program. In the second term only, the maximum combined contributions to salary from NSERC and the partner(s) is decreased in each successive year to allow the university to gradually assume the cost of the Chair salary. The remainder of the NSERC grant is contributed to the research program. In third and subsequent terms, there is no longer a salary component to the Chair grant and all funds are earmarked for the research program. Refer to the Form 101 instructions for details on salary and project budgeting. Overall, the partner(s) must contribute an amount equal to or greater than NSERC’s grant. The partner(s) must continue to demonstrate a willingness and an ability to collaborate closely with the Chair and to exploit results of the proposed research for the benefit of Canada and Canadians.

Renewal of an IRC for the second and each subsequent term is determined by a peer review conducted in the last year of each five-year term. In the case of particularly complex or large proposals, this review may be by site visit. The evaluation will be based on the up-to-date progress report, a new detailed research proposal for the next term (use Forms 100, 101 and 183A), a continued commitment from the partner(s) and the support of the university. The Advisory Committee on University-Industry Grants will make the final funding recommendation for those applications requesting $150,000 or more per year from NSERC. NSERC reserves the right to conduct a more in-depth review of any proposal regardless of the amount requested by a site visit or a virtual site visit and to refer the proposal to the ACUIG for discussion.

Concurrent IRC and CRC awards

Industrial Research Chair (IRC) awards and Canada Research Chair (CRC) awards may be held concurrently at any point in an IRC award, as long as the IRC grant objectives are respected and the partner(s) and the Chairholder are in agreement to do so. Concurrent Chair awards are subject to the following conditions:

  • Salary support for the Chair will be provided entirely from the Canada Research Chairs award, up to the value of that award, or from sources other than the IRC funds. If the Canada Research Chair award does not fully cover the salary and benefits of the Chairholder, the remainder may be paid from the NSERC and partner contributions to the IRC.
  • The freed-up salary support normally provided by NSERC and the partner(s), in a first or second five-year term, must be redirected to the research program of the NSERC IRC.
  • The funds normally committed by the university in partial or full support of an IRC Chairholder's salary must be used to enhance capacity in an area of research directly related to the Chair. Creating replacement faculty positions is a requirement for new IRCs with internal candidates.
  • After the salary support has been allocated and other expenses eligible under the Canada Research Chairs Program have been deducted, the residual Canada Research Chairs Program funds must be provided to the Chairholder for his/her research program, for use at the Chairholder’s discretion, according to the practice at the university for Canada Research Chairs who do not hold an IRC.
  • The university must provide NSERC with a proposed budget that shows the source and allocation of IRC funding (Canada Research Chairs Program, NSERC, partner(s) and university).

The university must confirm that these conditions have been met before NSERC will consider a request for an IRC renewal for an additional term; specifically, the university must demonstrate that the replacement position or positions will be maintained. Should the start of the Canada Research Chairs Program award not correspond to the start of an IRC or a renewal review, an interim review of the proposed expansion of the Chair research program will be required.

Concurrent IRC and CERC awards

IRC awards and Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) awards can be held concurrently by a Senior IRC if certain conditions are met. In this case, please contact NSERC staff for more information.