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Strategic Network Grants

Duration Five years
Application Deadline April 1, 2015 (Preliminary Applications)
Full Application (only if invited by NSERC)
How to Apply See below
Application Forms
  • Form 100 – Personal Data Form
  • Form 101 – Application for a Grant
  • Form 183A – Information Required from Organizations Participating in Research Partnerships Programs (including letters of support)
To create or access an application, select On-line System Login. To view forms and instructions, select PDF Forms and Instructions.
For More Information Consult the Contact List
Active Networks
How NSERC Establishes New Target Areas and Research Topics

Highlights for the 2015 Strategic Network Grants (SNG) Competition

  • The anticipated budget for the 2015 SNG competition is expected to result in two new awards across the four target areas.
  • The month for submitting preliminary applications has changed from previous years. The new deadline is April 1, 2015.
  • Preliminary applications in Category B must follow the content restrictions stated below in the use of the extra five pages.

All applicants submitting a preliminary application must propose a network within which most of the research (minimum 80 percent) will investigate one or more of the research topics listed under the Strategic Network target areas. Check the target areas before preparing your application.


The objective of Strategic Network Grants (SNG) is to increase research and training in targeted areas that could strongly enhance Canada’s economy, society and/or environment within the next 10 years.

Expected Results

It is expected that these grants will:

  • generate new knowledge/technology with the strong potential to strengthen Canada’s industrial base, generate wealth, create employment and/or influence Canadian public policy in areas of strategic importance;
  • increase the number of highly qualified personnel in the areas targeted by these grants;
  • foster the increased participation of Canadian-based companies and/or government organizations in academic research; and
  • result in the transfer of knowledge/technology and expertise to Canadian-based companies that are well-positioned to apply the results for economic gain, or to government organizations to strengthen public policy.


Strategic Network Grants fund large-scale, multidisciplinary research projects in targeted research areas that require a network approach and that involve collaboration between academic researchers and Canadian-based organizations. The applicant should be an established researcher with a solid track record in collaborative research, student training and grant management, and who demonstrates the leadership and other skills necessary for managing a complex, interdisciplinary, multi-institutional project.

Strategic Networks may be national, regional or, under exceptional circumstances, local. NSERC has two application categories—A and B.

  1. The proposed network will investigate a new collection of research objectives that do not build on previous network-scale activities and that have never been funded through NSERC Strategic Network Grants, a Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) grant, or other federal or provincial network-scale granting programs. In this case, the network may apply for SNG funds between $500,000 and $1 million per year for five years, for a maximum request of $5 million.

  2. The proposed network will build upon a collection of research objectives that have been previously funded through NSERC Strategic Network Grants, an NCE grant, or other federal or provincial network-scale granting programs. To be eligible to compete in Category B, the network partners must collectively assume more responsibility for funding the network (compared to the previously funded network) to support its research and administration activities. For every dollar contributed to the network by eligible industry and government partners, up to three dollars can be requested from NSERC (e.g., $300,000 per year of partner cash would allow for a request of up to $900,000 per year of NSERC funding). Other contributions to the network are encouraged (e.g., other funding agencies, university support), but are not included in the leveraging of NSERC funds. The network can request NSERC funding between $500,000 and $1 million per year for five years, for a maximum request of $5 million.

Applicants must identify where similar networks exist; justify, in the preliminary application, the appropriate category for their application; and commit to fulfill the requirements of that category if invited to submit a full application.

To be funded, a Strategic Network Grant (SNG) proposal must meet the following requirements:

  • The network must support the SNG objective and fall within the identified targeted areas of the competition year.
  • The objectives and scope of the network must be well-defined and the research results achievable within a five-year time frame.
  • The network must involve a minimum of five academic researchers who are eligible to receive NSERC funding, from at least three separate departments, faculties or institutions.
  • The network must have the strong commitment and active involvement of Canadian-based partners from relevant sectors (industrial, government), as appropriate for the research area. These organizations must be involved in all stages of the network, from development of the proposal to exploitation of the research results for the benefit of Canada.
  • The network must offer opportunities for enhanced training of highly qualified personnel that takes advantage of the multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral environment of a network.
  • The network must have an appropriate management structure to direct, manage and integrate its activities.
  • The network must have a strategy for knowledge and technology transfer to all stakeholders and the general public, as appropriate, that conforms with NSERC’s Policy on Intellectual Property (IP).

Collaboration Outside the Natural Sciences and Engineering

The Government of Canada has called for its granting agencies to adopt a more strategic approach and increasingly support multidisciplinary collaborative research to address complex issues and create a real advantage for Canada. The agencies have agreed to collaborate to combine the strengths of various disciplines and achieve the greatest impact.

Consequently, and in recognition that the ability to implement policy or directly apply the research results can depend on socio-economic considerations and scientific understanding, applicants are encouraged to collaborate with experts who work in fields other than the natural sciences and engineering, where appropriate. Academic researchers outside the natural sciences and engineering may participate in Strategic Network proposals as co-applicants if they meet NSERC’s Eligibility Criteria – For Faculty. Research costs for these collaborations may comprise up to 30 percent of the project costs and must be identified in the budget. All project expenditures will be subject to NSERC’s Use of Grant Funds guidelines.

International Collaborations

In its efforts to increase the impact of Canadian natural sciences and engineering research within the global research community, NSERC encourages applicants to incorporate international collaborations in their proposals. Current policies enable researchers to interact with foreign colleagues in a variety of ways to enhance the project and increase its impact on international research. Refer to NSERC’s guidelines on the Use of Grant Funds.

Partner Organizations

A partner organization:

  • is a Canadian-based company that can apply the research results in a way that generates wealth and/or employment (organizations without Canadian research and development or manufacturing operations will not be considered), or is a government organization that can apply the results in a way that strengthens public policy;
  • collaborates in all stages of the research project (i.e., is involved in the development of the proposal and, as the project unfolds, interacts regularly with the academic researchers, students and other research personnel and provides input on the project); and
  • validates the results of the research and/or provides guidance concerning the exploitation of the results. In accordance with the Strategic Network Grants’ philosophy, it is proposed that all network partners have unrestricted, non-exclusive access to all IP generated in the network. It is recognized that IP management may differ between sectors and require a different approach to that proposed. Be aware that all IP agreements must adhere to NSERC’s Policy on Intellectual Property.

Cash contributed before the full application is submitted may be recognized as an eligible contribution; however, NSERC will not recognize partner funds spent prior to the date of invitation to submit a full application. NSERC funds cannot be applied to expenses incurred before an award was approved.

The network may also include other participants, such as non-governmental organizations, government research laboratories, foreign research institutions, venture capitalists, implementation sites, or potential customers, but these participants do not qualify as partnering organizations.

Given that interaction between personnel from academic institutions and other sectors contributes to knowledge sharing and the development of highly qualified personnel, NSERC encourages secondments, cross-appointments, co-supervision of students, internships, reciprocal laboratory visits and joint workshops. (For details, see the Policy and Guidelines on the Assessment of Contributions to Research and Training.)

Target Areas

For the preliminary application competition, only proposals in the following target areas will be accepted:

Read the Active Networks Web page to ensure that your network proposal does not overlap with any existing networks.

Co-applicants from outside the natural sciences and engineering may be included in the proposals.

Application and Review Procedures

Preliminary Application

NSERC must receive the preliminary application by the deadline date.

A complete preliminary application includes:

  • an Application for a Grant (Form 101) (pages 1 and 2 only, including the appropriate signatures from the host university only);
  • a description of the proposed Strategic Network (maximum of 10 pages plus one page for references for Category A applications, and 15 pages plus one page for references for Category B applications. Any additional pages will be removed. NSERC presentation standards for font style and spacing must be followed. The designated reference page cannot be used for any other section of the preliminary application.) providing details regarding the:
    • name of the network (''NSERC'' must be included in the official name of the network and the name should be meaningful and descriptive of the research that is proposed);
    • proposed research and fit with a Strategic Network target area;
    • need for a network approach to the proposed research;
    • strengths and track record of the applicant to lead a large multi-institutional team of researchers;
    • expertise, involvement and role of the key researchers in the network;
    • extent of involvement of partners in all stages of the network;
    • management structure;
    • plans for training highly qualified personnel;
    • benefits to Canada and the partners; and
    • estimated annual budget, including funds requested from NSERC and estimated in-kind and cash (if applicable) contributions from the partners.
  • Category B applications must use the additional five pages to provide the following information, with emphasis on the fourth, fifth and sixth bullets:
    • a brief description of the previous network research activities;
    • the success of that network in fulfilling its objectives and milestones;
    • its success in training HQP;
    • the generation and transfer of new knowledge/technology to Canadian-based organizations;
    • the impacts for the Canadian-based organizations of previously funded work; and
    • how these organizations, in turn, have generated wealth, created employment and/or influenced Canadian public policy in areas of strategic importance.
  • For both Categories A and B - a Personal Data Form (Form 100) for the applicant and theme leaders (maximum of eight Forms 100); and
  • For both Categories A and B - Statements of Interest – a signed letter from each industrial and government partner (letters from federal government departments must be signed at the Director General-level or equivalent).

You can prepare an Application for a Grant (Form 101, pages 1 and 2) using the electronic submission system, but you must print it out and mail two copies of the paper version, along with an electronic copy (e.g., on a USB key, Compact Disc, etc.) of the preliminary application. Preliminary applications cannot be submitted on-line. All preliminary applications must follow the NSERC On-line Presentation and Attachment Standards.

Preliminary Application Review

Preliminary applications are reviewed by the Strategic Projects Selection Panels. NSERC, subsequent to the Panels' recommendations, will invite full applications based on the proposal's strength in the following criteria:

  • the strategic importance of the proposed research topic;
  • the need to investigate the topic through a network approach;
  • the scientific merit of the proposed research; and
  • the proposed leadership skills and expertise of the Principal Investigator and theme leaders.

Full Proposal

Applicants invited to submit a full proposal must do so within six months of the notification of acceptance of the preliminary application. NSERC will review requests for up to $25,000 to assist in defraying the costs of preparing a full Strategic Network proposal. This should be sent to the NSERC contact person assigned to the file in the form of a one-page itemized request estimating the preparation costs and the portion to be paid by NSERC and the partners.

A full application includes:

  • an Application for a Grant (Form 101);
  • a Personal Data Form (Form 100) for the applicant and each co-applicant; and
  • an Information Required from Organizations Participating in Research Partnerships Programs form (Form 183A) and a letter of support from each partner detailing how the results of the proposed network will benefit their organization and the amount of cash or in-kind they will contribute to aid network activities. (Refer to the instructions for completing Form 183A for details.) Letters from federal government departments must be signed at the Director General-level or equivalent.

Refer to the instructions for completing a Strategic Network application.

Full Proposal Review Procedures

Each Strategic Network proposal is reviewed by external referees and a Site Visit Committee. In addition, NSERC will assemble a committee of appropriate experts to evaluate the applications, read the applications (taking into account the comments from external referees and the Site Visit Committee report) and make their funding recommendations to NSERC. Decisions on funding Strategic Network Grants are usually made within six months of receipt of the full application.

Selection Criteria

Strategic Network proposals are evaluated according to the following criteria:

Merit of the Research Proposal
  • Originality of the research – The network research must promise to generate new knowledge or apply existing knowledge in an innovative manner.
  • Quality of the research – The network research must be scientifically sound and technically feasible. It must fall within one of the Strategic Network target areas.
  • Network work plan – The network must have a clear and coherent work plan that demonstrates a high probability of achieving the objectives within the five-year time frame.
  • Quality of the applicants as researchers – The research team must have all the expertise to address the defined objectives competently and complete the network research successfully. The contributions of individuals to the research effort must be clear.
  • For Category B applications – The impacts for the past partners from previously funded work.

Need for a Network Approach – The proposal must demonstrate the need for a network approach to conduct the research and achieve the objectives.

Training (see Policy and Guidelines on the Assessment of Contributions to Research and Training)Training potential – The network must provide opportunities to train students and other highly qualified personnel with skills relevant to the needs of Canadian organizations. There must be a training plan that facilitates interaction of trainees with other network participants from all sectors to encourage collaboration and interdisciplinary training.

  • Partners – The network must encourage the active participation of the partners in training highly qualified personnel through, for example, opportunities for work terms, co-supervision of students, reciprocal laboratory visits and joint workshops.
Interactions and Partnerships
  • Interactions with the partners – The partners must have the capacity to apply the results of the research and must be actively involved in all stages of the network.
  • Interactions among participants – The network must have a plan in place to ensure effective interaction and information exchange among all participants.
  • Knowledge/technology transfer – The network must have a strategy for knowledge and technology transfer to all stakeholders and the general public, as appropriate.
Management and Budget
  • Management – The applicant must have the leadership and other skills necessary to manage a complex, interdisciplinary, multi-institutional project. The network must have an appropriate management structure to direct, manage and integrate the activities of the network (Board of Directors, Scientific Advisory Committee, Network Manager) (see Guidelines for Research Partnerships Programs Project Management Expenses). The host institution, applicant, co-applicants and partners must be committed to the effective management of the network.
  • Budget – The budget must be justified vis-ŕ-vis the proposed research and administrative costs. The appropriateness of the overall budget, including the partners in-kind and cash, if any, will also be evaluated.
Benefits to Canada and the Partners
  • Benefit – The proposal must identify how the network results will benefit the partners and must demonstrate that exploitation of the research results will benefit Canada within a 10-year time frame.
  • Archiving of research data – To encourage the sharing and dissemination of research data and its use by others within a reasonable period of time, an agreement regarding responsibility for the maintenance and preservation of large data sets must be in place at the outset of network activities.


Grantees must submit a mid-term progress report to NSERC, which will be reviewed by members of the original Site Visit Committee and appropriate members of the NSERC evaluation committee. Continuation of funding is contingent upon satisfactory progress. Partners are required to confirm their commitment to the network annually.

Three months after the completion of network funding, all grantees must submit a final report on the network’s achievements with respect to its objectives. Each partner in the network will be asked to evaluate it. Grantees are informed of the requirements for such reports at the appropriate time.

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