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NSERC announces improvements to Alliance grants program

Program news Professors Alliance

December 5, 2023

NSERC is pleased to announce the launch of several improvements to its Alliance grants program. This update is in response to feedback received and builds on our experience with the program over the last four years.

Alliance grants were launched in 2019 to encourage university researchers to collaborate with partner organizations from the private, public or not-for-profit sectors. By partnering with organizations that can use their work, researchers can turn their discoveries into impact.

In 2022–23, NSERC evaluated the program through surveys, consultations and interviews with stakeholders. The perspective of the community, along with NSERC’s experience to date, shaped the changes described below.

These changes aim to make the Alliance grants program even more simple, flexible, modernized and responsive. They will help to:

  • remove barriers to collaboration 
  • champion more research partnerships 
  • provide efficient and responsive proposal assessment 
  • strengthen relationships with the research community 
  • ensure inclusive research support 

NSERC will offer webinars for research grants officers and potential applicants to present these changes on January 23 and 31, 2024 (in French) and on January 24 and 30, 2024 (in English).

New names for cost sharing options

The first visible change is new names for Alliance grants cost sharing options 1 and 2. This rebranding makes it easier to distinguish between the two options.

Alliance Advantage (formerly cost sharing option 1) is designed for partner-driven projects. The grants support the objectives of Alliance with a focus on the partners’ goals, with at least one partner sharing in the costs of research. NSERC will contribute up to 66.7% (2:1 leverage) of the project’s direct costs for successful applications. For more information, see Alliance Advantage.

Alliance Society (formerly cost sharing option 2) is designed for projects with societal impact as the main driver. NSERC covers 100% of these project costs. For more information, see Alliance Society.

Removing barriers to collaboration, championing more research partnerships and strengthening relationships with the research community

Extensions with funding

One of the barriers to continued collaborations is the time limit on grants. To date, NSERC has extended grants automatically for one year (and by request in extenuating circumstances), but these extensions did not involve additional funding. Now, Alliance Advantage grants may be extended for an additional year with funding, to allow universities and their partners to take advantage of new research directions that arise during a project. For more information, see Alliance Advantage – During your research project.

Broadening the range of partner organizations recognized for cost sharing

A greater range of partners can now be recognized for cost sharing in Alliance grants. Potential partner organizations now include:

  • all registered charities
  • unions
  • registered companies

Additionally, industrial associations and producer groups have been more clearly differentiated to better recognize the unique role that each type of organization plays in the research and innovation ecosystem.

The requirement that partner organizations must operate from their own offices or facilities has been relaxed in light of the expansion of virtual work. Provided the partner can exploit the research results and interact with highly qualified personnel, NSERC will consider a partner organization that works virtually.

For more information, see Alliance Advantage – Partner organizations or Alliance Society – Partner organizations.

Conflict of interest guidelines

These guidelines have changed to provide flexible access to NSERC Alliance grants while ensuring that funds are used responsibly and that all research participants are protected. Institutions will now manage conflicts of interest and put mitigation plans in place according to their own policies. For more information, see Alliance Advantage – Partner organizations or Alliance Society – Partner organizations.

Providing efficient and responsive proposal assessment 

Streamlined merit criteria

The merit criteria used to evaluate applications have been streamlined, with the number of sub-criteria reduced from 11 to 8. The changes will make assessment more clear-cut for both applicants and reviewers.

The Alliance grants proposal template has changed to reflect the revised, streamlined merit criteria. However, applicants with a proposal under way may use the previous proposal template until March 31, 2024.

For more information, see Alliance Advantage – Apply or Alliance Society – Apply.

Improving assessment times for more projects

To reduce turnaround times, NSERC is changing the threshold at which it will consider an internal review for Alliance Advantage projects from an annual request of $30,000 to $75,000. Internal reviews are typically completed more quickly than external assessments. For more information, see Alliance Advantage – Review of your application.

Ensuring inclusive research support 

Cost sharing voucher for early career researchers

In support of early career researchers (ECRs), NSERC is launching a pilot initiative to offer 200 vouchers of $10,000 each to replace some or all of the required cash contributions from partner organizations in an Alliance Advantage grant. Since NSERC matches partner contributions in a 2:1 ratio, the $10,000 voucher will be matched with $20,000, for a total of $30,000. The deadline to signal interest for a voucher is February 22, 2024. If more than 200 ECRs express interest, NSERC will randomly select 200 recipients. For more information, see Alliance Advantage – Funding your research project.

Promoting participation of early career researchers in Alliance Advantage

To help more ECRs participate in Alliance Advantage grants, they will no longer be required to hold an active peer-reviewed grant from NSERC as a condition for internal review when they are co-applicants for small Alliance Advantage grants (now up to $75,000 annually). This will encourage established researchers to mentor ECRs as co-applicants and provide ECRs opportunities to build relationships with partners. For more information, see Alliance Advantage – Review of your application.

NSERC online system updates

New modules have been added to the online system to streamline the application process. In the Partnership module, applicants will attest their compliance with the new conflict of interest guidelines and indicate if their partnership involves a private sector organization. For private sector partnerships, applicants must attach the National Security Guidelines for Research Partnerships’ risk assessment form to its dedicated upload module. These new modules are captured in the validation step to help ensure that submission requirements are met.

If you have questions about these changes, contact the Alliance grants team by email at or by phone at 1-855-275-2861. You may also submit questions for the January 2024 webinars via

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