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Engage Grants

Effective April 1, 2015, the opportunity previously available to colleges through Level 1 Applied Research and Development Grants is now available through Engage Grants for colleges.

University or college researchers can apply to launch a new research collaboration with an industrial partner through a short-term research and development (R&D) project that applies their expertise to address a company challenge. Partnering companies gain by having the expertise of the academics focused on their R&D issues and by discovering what the researchers and the students working with them have to offer.

Value Up to $25,000 for up to six months
Application Deadline No deadline
How to Apply See below
Application Forms For university-based applicants (Engage Grants for universities):
  • Form 100 – Personal Data Form
  • Form 101 – Application for a Grant
  • Form 183A – Information Required from Organizations Participating in Research Partnerships
For college-based applicants (Engage Grants for colleges):
  • Form 103CV (form-fillable) – CCI Personal Data Form and instructions
  • Form 103 – Application for the CCI Program
  • Form 183A – Information Required from Organizations Participating in Research Partnerships
To create or access on-line applications, select On-line System Login.
To view instructions, select PDF Forms and Instructions.
Contact See below

Important Information

Engage Grants are open to researchers at either universities or colleges. This document outlines information relevant to both kinds of institutions, with discrete requirements indicated in the following sections:

To further developments from an ongoing or recently completed Engage Grant project, or to continue the project while seeking longer-term support, applicants from universities may apply for subsequent support for an additional six months (see the Engage Plus section).


Engage Grants are designed to give companies that operate from a Canadian base access to the unique knowledge, expertise and capabilities available at Canadian universities and colleges (see the List of Eligible Institutions). These grants are intended to foster the development of new research partnerships by supporting short-term research and development projects aimed at addressing a company-specific problem. The simplified application and decision processes enable university and college researchers to quickly undertake new research collaborations that extend academic expertise to these problems. The mutually beneficial collaborations are expected to result in economic benefits to the company or to Canada.

Please note that researchers seeking funding for travel and meeting activities to establish contact with new potential industrial partners should apply for a Connect Grant.


Engage Grants support well-defined research projects undertaken by eligible university and college researchers and their industrial partners. A maximum grant of $25,000 over a period not exceeding six months will be awarded to support the project costs.

An Engage project must be aimed at solving a company-specific problem through the generation of new knowledge or the application of existing knowledge in an innovative manner. It must be focused on specific short-term objectives. All proposals must provide evidence that they will create a strong partnership between the participants as well as detailed planning and sound budget justification. They must also clearly spell out the underlying assumptions, intended approaches, milestones and deliverables. As an Engage Grant aims to develop a research relationship, the project plan must detail regular interactions between the participants.

Proposals are not eligible for an Engage Grant if they:

  • focus on the commercialization of a university or college invention;
  • focus on the routine application of existing technology or tools to the industry partner’s operations;
  • provide routine analysis or routine use of equipment at the university or college;
  • collect data without interpreting underlying mechanisms;
  • seek to certify, endorse, validate or performance test an existing product, process or material (unless accompanied by significant efforts to improve or better understand the product, process or material);
  • include activities aimed at excessive (more than two weeks) literature review and/or patent searches;
  • relate to the set-up and operational management of an institute or a formal or informal group of researchers;
  • provide professional practice or consulting services; or
  • are principally associated with the acquisition and maintenance of scientific equipment.

Industrial Participation

The Partner Eligibility Guidelines section of the Guidelines for Organizations Participating in Research Partnerships should be consulted to determine the eligibility of the participating company. In general, a company partner must operate from a Canadian base and demonstrate clear intentions and capacity to further develop and apply any technology within Canada so that it will lead to significant economic benefit. Start-up companies may be considered, provided that they meet the requirements below. Holding companies and companies that are not able to further develop the technology in-house are not eligible. To be eligible, a company partner must:

  • have a minimum of two full time employees; or
  • be in operation for a minimum of two years.

In all cases, companies must demonstrate the ability to exploit the project’s results. In this context, the resources, capabilities and experience of the company and its staff are relevant. The company is expected to collaborate with the researchers at all stages of the research project (i.e., assist in developing the proposal and, as the project unfolds, interact regularly with the university (specifically the principal investigator) or college research team and other research personnel and provide input on the project).

At minimum, an in-kind contribution from the company reflecting its active involvement in the project is required. A detailed description in keeping with the guidelines for eligibility and value of the contributions, including the maximum hourly rate for salary costs (see Guidelines for Organizations Participating in Research Partnerships) must be provided and must indicate how the total value of the contribution was determined. NSERC may limit the number of Engage Grants that a company is involved in at any given time if its ability to implement the project results and sustain the collaboration appears to be limited. Please consult NSERC for further information.

Intellectual Property

NSERC makes no claim to the ownership of any intellectual property (IP) generated from the research it funds. Due to the focus on a problem specific to the company and the short duration of this grant, any intellectual property arising from the project will belong to the company. The university or college researchers must have the right to use the new knowledge or technology in future teaching and research, and faculty and students must have the right to describe the project on their curricula vitae. While NSERC does not require that a research agreement be concluded between the host institution and the company, NSERC's Policy on Intellectual Property should be consulted to ensure that all parties, including any students involved, are aware of their obligations. Students must maintain their right to publish and to defend their thesis with no delays or impediments (if applicable).

Application Procedures

Proposals can be submitted at any time using the appropriate application forms for university- or college-based applicants.

A letter of support from the company involved in the project must be provided outlining:

  • the nature of the company-specific problem;
  • the reasons for being involved in the proposed collaboration;
  • how the company expects to integrate the results into its operations;
  • what benefits the anticipated outcomes will bring to the company;
  • the further effort to exploit the results in Canada;
  • the potential for benefit to the Canadian economy and the relevant timeframe;
  • the anticipated interaction of the company’s personnel with the applicant; and
  • the company's support for, contribution to, and agreement with the proposal submitted to NSERC.

Full instructions for the applicant and the participating company on completing the forms and on the on-line submission process are found on NSERC's On-line Services page. The Engage Grants for Universities Application Checklist and the Engage Grants for Colleges Application Checklist summarize the information that needs to be addressed in a completed application.

Decisions on funding Engage Grants are usually made within approximately six weeks. Projects are expected to start within a few weeks from the date of the award letter. Grant funds are normally available within approximately 30 days of an award decision. Terms and Conditions of Award detailing the responsibilities of participants in the collaboration and regulations concerning the grant will be provided at that time. Any expenses related to the project incurred before the award date will not be covered by the grant.

Eligible Expenses

Due to the short-term nature of this grant and its orientation towards solving a company specific problem with limited funds, resources should be used exclusively on the resolution of the problem and must be used in accordance with the directives listed in the Use of Grant Funds section of the Tri-Agency Financial Administrative Guide or the College and Community Innovation Program Tri-Agency Financial Administration Guide. The following additional limitations apply to this grant:

  • Expenses for publications and conferences are eligible in exceptional cases only, where evidence is provided that they are industry-oriented and they represent the only appropriate media to ensure the technology is transferred to the industrial partner.
  • Office supply expenses are limited to $250.
  • Acquisition of any equipment must be carefully detailed and justified.
  • Consulting fees paid for additional expertise or completion of specific project tasks will be limited to a maximum of 20 per cent of the amount requested and will be approved only with strong demonstration of need.
  • The required company in-kind contribution must be clearly detailed (e.g., indicate the role of company personnel, the number of hours to be devoted to the project, the hourly rate of compensation used to assess the value of the in-kind contribution, and how the total value was calculated), demonstrating that it is essential to the project and indicative of the company involvement. This contribution must also respect the maximum amounts outlined in the Guidelines for Organizations Participating in Research Partnerships.
  • For personnel such as students or technicians receiving an annual salary, the prorated stipend for the six-month term should be indicated.

Budgets that request ineligible expenses will be reduced without opportunity to redirect the funds to other expenditures. Based on the results obtained or problems encountered, grantees may propose amendments to the project budget. However, proposals to change the allocation of project resources by more than 20 per cent per budget line-item require prior approval by NSERC and must be supported by a revised budget, a rationale for the proposed change and documentation from the partners supporting the proposed change(s).

Selection Criteria

    Applications are evaluated on the following criteria, with additional requirements specific to university- and college-based applicants provided in later sections:

  • Technical merit: The project must be scientifically sound, technically feasible and promise either to apply knowledge in an innovative manner or to lead to new knowledge. The project plan must be appropriate and sufficiently detailed. It must outline the tasks that will be undertaken and the associated research challenges.
  • Industrial relevance and potential for innovation impact: The proposal must clearly identify and describe the company-specific problem. It must also identify how the company will be involved; how the work will lead to improved products, processes, procedures or service delivery that benefits the company; and how the company will exploit the project results within a reasonable timeframe. Timelines for realizing innovation impact should be specified in the application. These considerations must also be clearly reflected in the company’s support letter.
  • Contribution to technology transfer: The proposal must identify how the university (specifically the principal investigator) or college research team and the company's scientific/technical staff will work together to ensure that the knowledge/technology will be transferred effectively to the company.
  • Benefit to Canada: As well as the economic benefit to the company described under the Industrial Relevance criterion above, the proposal must outline, if applicable, any additional economic, social and environmental benefits that could be realized in Canada.


A project report from the grantee is required within one month following the end of the grant. The company will be asked to provide comments on the project's outcome. Please note that subsequent Engage Grant applications from either of the participants will not be evaluated until outstanding project reports or company comments are provided to NSERC. NSERC may also contact the participants for further information on the impacts of the grant.

Requirements for university-based applicants
(Engage Grants for universities)

All projects must address a research challenge that lies within the natural sciences and engineering fields (read the guidelines for This link will take you to another Web site Selecting the Appropriate Federal Granting Agency).

As the purpose of an Engage Grant is to foster a new collaborative relationship between one company and one university researcher, there can be no existing or past relationship between the researcher applying for funding and the company with a problem to be addressed through the project. Examples of an established relationship between the company and university researcher include:

  • a previous research collaboration between the researcher and the company or any of its divisions;
  • researcher’s current or past involvement in the company;
  • joint participation in a research network;
  • researcher’s existing association with the company or its principals (including if they serve as a professor, adjunct professor or other colleague in the same university department);
  • past or current supervision of a graduate student who is supported by an industrial scholarship or internship with the proposed partner; and
  • other evidence that an Engage Grant is not needed to foster a new research collaboration.

Please consult your NSERC regional office for further information.

Proposals submitted by university-based applicants must also demonstrate the principal investigator’s research competence. The applicant must have the expertise required to address the defined objectives competently and to complete the project successfully. Academic expertise may be complemented by the know-how residing in the company. Important considerations relating to research competence are:

  • The applicant must be an NSERC-eligible researcher and must have been granted peer-reviewed research support in the natural sciences or engineering fields from a recognized federal or provincial granting agency within the past six years.
  • Applicants who have received a rating of “Strong” or higher for the criterion “Excellence of the Researcher” in their most recent Discovery Grant competition within the past six years are considered to have met the requirement for peer-reviewed research support. In the absence of Discovery Grant ratings from the past six years, NSERC will recognize certain peer-reviewed research grants from other funding agencies.
  • Researchers with a principal appointment in a health-oriented university faculty (e.g., medicine, pharmacology, dentistry) are eligible for an Engage Grant only if they have been awarded an NSERC Discovery Grant within the past six years.
  • Engage Grant projects must involve only one university researcher (the applicant) and any research personnel (e.g., students, research technicians), if applicable. As Engage Grants are intended to foster a new research relationship between an applicant and a company, projects requiring the participation of a co-applicant or collaborating researcher will not be accepted.

Applicants are limited to two new Engage Grants awarded in each fiscal year.

Requirements for college-based applicants
(Engage Grants for colleges)

The College and Community Innovation (CCI) Program is managed by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) in collaboration with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). All applications must be submitted to NSERC. As CCI funding is used to support Engage Grants for college-based applicants, proposed projects can be across the spectrum of natural and social sciences, engineering, humanities or health. Grants are given by NSERC, with the exception of funded proposals exclusively in the social sciences, humanities or health sciences, which will be given by SSHRC or CIHR, as appropriate. For other relevant information, read the:

As the purpose of an Engage Grant is to foster the development of a new collaborative relationship, the proposal must involve an eligible company that has not previously partnered with the college on applied research; that is, the college should have no existing relationship with the company. A previous research collaboration with a company or any of its divisions, a consulting contract in excess of a few days, or involvement on the part of a member(s) of the college research team with the company is considered an existing relationship.

Proposals submitted by college-based applicants must also demonstrate the research team’s applied research competence. The research team must have all the expertise required to address the defined objectives competently and to complete the project successfully. For example, the project lead is expected to have conducted a research project of comparable scale with partners in the past. Academic expertise may be complemented by the know-how residing in the partnering company.

In addition to the information about expenses described above, some limited funds may be used for operating and equipment costs (up to 20 per cent of the total expenditures), as well as for overhead and administration costs (a further 20 per cent of the total award). Certain expenditures related to project management are eligible as a direct cost of research (up to a maximum of 10 per cent of the total direct costs). The college must provide for any additional indirect or overhead costs.

Eligible expenses for Engage Grants held by college-based researchers
Type of Expenditure Eligibility of Costs
Salaries and benefits for students Eligible
Salaries and benefits for technical/professional staff Eligible
Operating, equipment, material and supply costs Purchase or rental, up to 20 per cent of project costs
Travel Travel required by college personnel to conduct the project is supported. This does not include international conferences to present research results.
Faculty release costs Eligible
Networking and technology-transfer costs Eligible
Overhead and administration Up to 20 per cent of the grant amount can be requested for eligible overhead costs.
Consulting fees Consulting fees paid for additional expertise or completion of specific project tasks will be limited to a maximum of 20 per cent of the requested amount and will be approved only with strong demonstration of need.

For further information on use of grant funds, consult the College and Community Innovation Program Tri-Agency Financial Administration Guide. College-based applicants must also submit a completed Grants in Aid of Research – Statement of Account (Form 301) at the end of the project.

Engage Plus

To further developments from an ongoing or recently completed Engage Grant project, or to continue the project while seeking longer-term support, applicants may apply for a subsequent Engage Plus Grant to support a project for an additional six months. As was the case with the initial Engage Grant, the intellectual property will belong to the company. The project must involve the same academic researcher and the same industrial partner and only one Engage Plus Grant can be awarded as a follow-on to an Engage Grant.

To demonstrate its commitment to furthering the project, the industrial partner must contribute cash to the direct project costs in an amount at least equal to the amount requested from NSERC. NSERC will match the cash contribution of the partner up to a maximum of $12,500. Any portion of the cash contribution that the university or college requests as overhead will not be matched. In-kind contributions are also required to reflect the company’s ongoing involvement in the project, but will not be matched by NSERC. The company’s cash contribution is normally required within 30 days of an award decision. Company cash contributed before the proposal is submitted may be used to start the project. Only funds available as of the date the application was received at NSERC can be leveraged. NSERC funds cannot be applied to expenses incurred before a project was approved. The limitations described in the Eligible Expenses section apply to Engage Plus Grants as well.

The application procedures are the same as described, but must also include a summary of the progress achieved within the original Engage project as well as a clear explanation of the goals of the Engage Plus Grant and their relationship with the results obtained to date. Accordingly, applications for an Engage Plus Grant will be accepted only within the final month of the Engage Grant or within the six-month period following the end of the grant. The industrial partner must provide an updated letter of support that addresses the points listed in the Application Procedures section, as well as outlining assessment of progress to date, and the industrial partner’s expectations for the Engage Plus project.

Decisions will be communicated within approximately six weeks.


For university-based applicants (Engage Grants for universities), contact the NSERC regional office in your area.

For college-based applicants (Engage Grants for colleges), contact 613-944-5802,, or the NSERC regional office in your area.

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