Alliance Missions grants

Call for proposals: Critical minerals research


University researchers collaborating with private-sector, public-sector and/or not-for-profit organizations

How much?

$100,000 to $500,000 per year

How long?

3 years


Budget 2023 highlighted Canada’s prime position to be a global supplier of choice for critical minerals that are central to major global industries such as clean technology, auto manufacturing, health care, aerospace and the digital economy.

To increase the supply of responsibly sourced critical minerals and support the development of domestic and global value chains for the green and digital economy, Canada’s Critical Minerals Strategy was released in December 2022 with the intent of continuing to provide foundational support to Canada’s mining sector to take advantage of existing and emerging opportunities.

Among the 31 minerals that Canada considers critical, Canada’s Critical Minerals Strategy identified six minerals which were initially prioritized for their distinct potential to spur Canadian economic growth and their necessity as inputs for priority supply chains. These six minerals are lithium, graphite, nickel, cobalt, copper and rare earth elements (Canada’s Critical Mineral Strategy - Annex B). Furthermore, nine other priority minerals, namely vanadium, gallium, titanium, scandium, magnesium, tellurium, zinc, niobium and germanium, also present significant prospects for the future. This funding opportunity targets research projects that will support the growth of Canadian expertise at every point along the value chain of those fifteen prioritized critical minerals – from exploration to recycling.

Alliance Missions grants are intended to provide support for research activities that will

  • advance Canadian knowledge, models, processes, tools and technologies to optimize efficiency, minimize environmental impacts, and/or support data-driven decisions along domestic critical mineral value chains, from exploration to recycling (e.g., geological and economic modelling of critical mineral deposits, flowsheets, life-cycle analyses, etc.); and/or
  • develop efficient options to advance a domestic circular economy with less reliance on primary mineral resources through mine reclamation and/or critical mineral recycling or reprocessing (e.g., mining and industrial waste, end-of-life products, etc.); and/or
  • support the development of best practices in technology, innovation and collaborative ventures (e.g., best practices to advance vertical integration across the sector, etc.).

Growing Canadian expertise at every point along the critical mineral value chain – from exploration to mining to manufacturing to recycling – will contribute to growing the Canadian economy, fighting climate change at home and around the world, and improving the resiliency of Canada’s supply chain and that of its allies to future disruptions.

Partnerships are strongly encouraged across academia, government, private-sector organizations and not-for-profit organizations to develop new tools, methods and models, and to facilitate the uptake of new knowledge to support sustainable and responsible development of Canada’s critical minerals sector. The participation of at least one partner organization that is recognized for cost-sharing is required.

NSERC is committed to supporting research that respectfully involves and engages with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples, and their wisdom, cultures, experiences or traditional Indigenous knowledge, as expressed in their dynamic forms, past and present, regardless of their locale. For more guidance, refer to the College and Community Innovation program’s guide for research involving Indigenous Peoples and communities.

Grant support ranges from $100,000 to $500,000 per year, for a duration of three years. NSERC will provide support for 100% of the eligible costs of research. Although partner organizations do not need to provide cash contributions to participate, they must actively play a role in the project and support it through in-kind contributions. A broad range of in-kind contributions could be made toward a project; refer to the Partner organizations web page for additional information.

Developing and implementing policies or directly applying your research results may depend on scientific understanding beyond the natural sciences and engineering (NSE). Alliance Missions grants support collaborations with academic researchers in fields other than the NSE. Research costs for these collaborations can represent up to 30% of project costs.

Who can apply?

If you are a Canadian university researcher who is eligible to receive NSERC funds, you can apply on your own or as a team with co-applicants who are also eligible academic researchers. Given the limited funding, applicants will be allowed to participate in only one Alliance Missions grant application for this call, either as the principal investigator or a co-applicant. However, you may concurrently apply to Alliance grants Option 1 and/or Alliance grants Option 2 to support other research activities not included in your Alliance Missions application.

NSERC encourages the participation of early career researchers (ECRs) as applicants or co-applicants on Alliance Missions grant applications. Accordingly, a proportion of awards equal to the proportion of applications submitted that are led by early career researchers will be reserved for these researchers. For more information on how NSERC categorizes an applicant as an ECR, refer to the Discovery Grants—applicant categories.

National Security Guidelines for Research Partnerships

In the case where your application involves one or more partner organizations from the private sector (including industrial associations and producer groups), as well as when they participate alongside other partner organizations from the public and/or not-for-profit sectors, you must complete the National Security Guidelines for Research Partnerships’ Risk Assessment Form and include it as an integral part of your application.

At all times, Canadian researchers are encouraged to exercise appropriate levels of due diligence to safeguard their research. Resources to do so are provided by the Government of Canada on the Safeguarding Your Research portal.

What’s next?
Partner organizations
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Letter of intent deadline
September 7, 2023, 8:00 p.m. (ET)

Application deadline
November 9, 2023, 8:00 p.m. (ET)

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