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Strategic Project Grants

Duration 1 to 3 years
Application Deadline April 1
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.
Contact Consult the Contact List
Other Resources Strategic Project Grants Information and Requirements
Application, Evaluation Criteria and Reporting
Frequently Asked Questions

How NSERC Establishes New Target Areas and Research Topics

Highlights for the 2014 Strategic Project Grants Competition:

The anticipated budget for the 2014 Strategic Project Grants (SPG) 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 program 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.

NSERC and Environment Canada have entered into a three-year agreement whereby 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. There are changes with respect to France and Japan in the call for collaborative proposals under international agreements.


The goal of Strategic Project Grants (SPG) 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;
  • 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.


Strategic Project Grants 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 SPG and fall within one of the targeted areas defined below.
  • 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.

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 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 SPG 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.

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 into 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. Please refer to NSERC’s guidelines on the Use of Grant Funds.

When appropriate, NSERC signs agreements with international agencies to foster international collaboration in research through concurrent calls for joint research projects. For more information refer to the Detailed Application Instructions for International Collaborations, or contact

Supporting Organizations

Each project must have at least one supporting organization that:

  • 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.

The project may also include other participants such as non-governmental organizations, government research laboratories, hospitals and clinics, foreign research institutions, venture capitalists, implementation sites, or potential customers, but these participants do not qualify as 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 (IP) supports the premise that every effort should be made to exploit the results of NSERC-funded research in Canada, for the benefit of Canadians. The research of most Strategic Project Grants 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.

Target Areas

The project must support the goal of SPG and fall within one of the targeted areas defined below. The project must be strategic and clearly fit within the description of the target area including the Context section, the research topic descriptions, and any specific limitations presented.

  1. Environmental Science and Technologies
  2. Information and Communications Technologies
  3. Manufacturing
  4. Natural Resources and Energy

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.”

Application Procedures

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 Programs 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 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).

Review Procedures

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.

Selection Criteria

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 Project Grant 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.

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