Strategic Partnership Grants
The goal of NSERC’s Strategic Partnership Grants 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. Research and training under these grants must be conducted through a partnership between academic researchers and industry or government organizations.
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;
- increase the number of highly qualified personnel in the specified target areas; and
- enable 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.
An eligible supporting organization:
- is a Canadian-based company that can apply the research results in a way that generates wealth or employment (organizations without Canadian R&D or manufacturing operations will not be considered), or is a government organization that can apply the results in a way that strengthens public policy (how the research will strengthen public policy beyond a research collaboration must be clearly demonstrated in the letter of support);
- collaborates in all stages of the research project, i.e., helps to develop 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.
Other participants such as non-governmental organizations, government research laboratories, hospitals and clinics, foreign research institutions, venture capitalists, implementation sites, or potential customers may be included, but these participants do not qualify as eligible supporting 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.)
NSERC’s Policy on Intellectual Property supports the premise that every effort should be made to exploit the results of NSERC-funded research in Canada, for the benefit of Canadians. In general, all partners are expected to have unrestricted, non-exclusive access to all IP generated as a result of the grant.
Collaboration Outside the Natural Sciences and Engineering
In recognition that the ability to implement policy or directly apply the research results can depend on socio-economic considerations as well as 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 Partnership Grants proposals as co-applicants if they meet NSERC’s eligibility requirements with respect to type, duration and nature of appointment. Research costs for these collaborations may comprise up to 30 percent of the project costs and must be identified in the project budget. All project expenditures will be subject to NSERC’s Use of Grant Funds guidelines.
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 into their proposals. Current policies enable researchers to interact with foreign colleagues in a variety of ways to enhance collaboration and increase the impact on international research. Please refer to NSERC’s guidelines on the Use of Grant Funds.
The proposed research must support the goal of Strategic Partnership Grants and fall within one of the targeted areas defined below.
- Environmental Science and Technologies
- Information and Communications Technologies
- Natural Resources and Energy
Strategic Partnership Grants for Networks
Highlights for the 2015 Strategic Partnership Grants for Networks (SPG‑N) Competition
- The anticipated budget for the 2015 SPG‑N 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.
Strategic Partnership Grants for Networks (SPG‑N) 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.
- 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 SPG‑N funds between $500,000 and $1 million per year for five years, for a maximum request of $5 million.
- 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 SPG‑N proposal must meet the following requirements:
- The network must support the goal of Strategic Partnership Grants 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 to NSERC’s Policy on Intellectual Property (IP).
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.
Application and Review Procedures
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.
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 Partnership Grants 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).
An Application for a Grant (Form 101, pages 1 and 2) can be prepared using the On-line System, but two printed copies must be mailed, along with an electronic copy (e.g., on a USB key, compact disc, etc.) of the preliminary application. Preliminary applications cannot be submitted online. All preliminary applications must follow the NSERC On-line Presentation and Attachment Standards.
Preliminary Application Review
Preliminary applications are reviewed by the selection panels for Strategic Partnership Grants for Projects. 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.
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 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 SPG-N application.
Full Proposal Review Procedures
Each Strategic Network proposal is reviewed by external reviewers and a Site Visit Committee. In addition, NSERC will assemble a committee of appropriate experts to evaluate the applications (taking into account the comments from external reviewers and the Site Visit Committee report) and make funding recommendations to NSERC. Decisions on Strategic Partnership Grants for Networks are usually made within six months of receipt of the full application.
Strategic Network proposals are evaluated according to the following criteria:
- Merit of the Research Proposal
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)
- 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.
Interactions and Partnerships
- 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.
Management and Budget
- 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.
Benefits to Canada and the Partners
- 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-à-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.
- 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.
Strategic Partnership Grants for Projects
Strategic Partnership Grants for Projects Information and Requirements
Application, Evaluation Criteria and Reporting
Frequently Asked Questions
Highlights for the 2015 Strategic Partnership Grants for Projects Competition:
The anticipated budget for the 2015 Strategic Partnership Grants for Projects (SPG‑P) competition is expected to result in about 15 to 18 new awards per target area. To manage expectations and keep the burden on the research and peer review communities at an acceptable level, the following measures will continue:
- Each application will be strictly screened for fit to Strategic Partnership Grants objectives and fit to target area;
- Applications targeting incremental improvements to existing technologies will not be considered; and
- A pre-selection process will be invoked to retain only the most promising proposals and achieve a nominal success ratio of 25 percent (i.e., approximately 50 to 60 applications per target area); results of the pre-selection process will be final.
The Manufacturing target area now includes Additive Manufacturing as a research topic.
NSERC and Environment Canada have entered into a three-year agreement under which Environment Canada will fund or co-fund selected Strategic Projects in the Environmental Science and Technologies target area.
Where a government organization is a supporting organization, the letter of support accompanying Form 183A must be signed by a Director General (or equivalent level).
Applicants are encouraged to incorporate international collaborations into their proposals. One mechanism for international collaborations is a call for collaborative proposals under international agreements. The agreement with the Japan Science and Technology (JST) Agency has now concluded.
Strategic Partnership Grants for Projects (SPG‑P) fund early-stage project research in targeted areas. To be funded, a research project must meet the following requirements:
- The project must support the goal of Strategic Partnership Grants and fall within one of the target areas.
- The objectives and scope of the project must be well-defined. The duration may be from one to three years.
- At least one academic researcher and at least one supporting organization must collaborate in the project.
- The supporting organization must be actively involved in all stages of the project; therefore, in-kind contributions are required, but cash is not.
NSERC has signed a number of agreements with international agencies to foster international collaboration in research through concurrent calls for joint research projects, which are implemented through the SPG‑P competition. For more information refer to the Detailed Application Instructions for International Collaborations, or contact SPG_international@nserc-crsng.gc.ca.
The research of most SPG‑P is at the early stage of the innovation spectrum where there are few issues related to intellectual property. Consequently, a signed research agreement is not usually required. However, if it is anticipated that the proposed research will lead to disclosure of intellectual property or if a research agreement already exists, then a copy of the research agreement between the supporting organization(s) and the university must be submitted to NSERC and reviewed for conformance to NSERC’s Policy on IP prior to the release of funds.
The competition budget is expected to be approximately $12 million for Year 1 of the projects, which could fund about 15 to 18 new awards in each target area. Priority will be given to applications that address the research topics identified in each target area. Projects that make a compelling case for research within the Context section of a target area description, but are outside the research topics, will be considered “exceptional” and may be funded subject to the availability of funds. No more than 20 percent of the budget will be allocated to “exceptional opportunities.”
NSERC must receive the application by the deadline date.
A complete application includes:
- an Application for a Grant (Form 101);
- a Personal Data Form (Form 100) for each applicant and co-applicant (when completing Form 100, academic researchers outside the natural sciences and engineering may provide the requested information related to “Contributions” in an alternate format within the five-page limit);
- a curriculum vitae of no more than six pages for each collaborator (refer to NSERC’s Eligibility Criteria – For Faculty section); and
- an Information Required from Organizations Participating in Research Partnerships form (Form 183A) for each supporting organization (refer to the instructions for completing Form 183A for details). Where a government organization is a supporting organization, the letter of support must be signed by a director general (or equivalent level).
Please refer to the instructions for completing an SPG‑P application.
Applicants who require equipment to conduct the research must incorporate their request for equipment (up to a maximum of $150,000 for major items or systems) into the research proposal and justify the need for the equipment to conduct the research. Separate equipment requests will not be accepted.
Certain expenditures related to project management are now eligible as a direct cost of research up to a maximum of 10 percent of the total direct costs (see the Guidelines for Research Partnerships Programs Project Management Expenses).
NSERC evaluates applications in an annual competition. If the number of applications is very high in relation to the expected number of awards, selection panels apply a pre-selection process using the seven selection criteria. External reviewers evaluate the proposals that pass the pre-selection. In late August, selection panels review the proposals and make recommendations to NSERC. The awards are announced in October.
Applications are evaluated according to the following criteria. More details on each criterion, along with a rating scale, are provided in the application instructions. Each criterion is given equal weight in the evaluation.
- Originality of the Research – The project must promise to generate new knowledge or to apply existing knowledge in an innovative manner.
- Quality of the Research – The project must be scientifically sound and technically feasible. It must fall within a specific target area.
- Project Work Plan – The project must have a clear and coherent work plan that demonstrates a high probability of achieving the objectives in the proposed time frame.
- Quality of the Applicants as Researchers – The research team must have all the expertise to address the defined objectives competently and to complete the project successfully.
- Training Potential – The project must provide opportunities to train students and other highly qualified personnel with skills relevant to the needs of Canadian organizations.
- Interactions with the Supporting Organizations – The supporting organizations must have the capacity to apply the results of the research and must be actively involved in all stages of the project.
- Benefits to Canada and the Supporting Organizations – The proposal must identify how the work will benefit the supporting organization and must demonstrate that exploitation of the research results will benefit Canada within a ten-year time frame.
During the second year of the project, all grantees must submit a progress report and supporting organizations will be asked for their feedback. NSERC will pay the final installment of the grant only if satisfactory progress and collaboration with the supporting organizations have been demonstrated.
Three months after the project end date, all grantees must submit a final report on the project’s achievements with respect to its objectives. Each supporting organization in the project will be asked to evaluate the project. NSERC may use the supporting organization’s evaluation when reviewing subsequent Strategic Partnership Grants for Projects applications from the same applicants.
During the five years after project completion, NSERC will collect information on the impacts of the funded research. Of particular interest is the fate of the trainees involved in the project, the benefits derived by users from outside the university sector and tangible evidence of knowledge and/or technology exploitation resulting from the research.