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Guidelines for organizations participating in research partnerships

Alliance grants have replaced several university research partnership programs referred to on this page. This page does not apply to Alliance grants. For guidelines for partner organizations participating in Alliance grants, refer to Alliance Grants: Role of partner organizations.

For any ongoing grants funded under the following programs, the guidelines detailed on this page still apply. However, these programs are not accepting new applications.

  • Collaborative Research and Development (CRD) grants
  • Industrial Research Chairs (IRC)
  • Engage grants for universities
  • Experience awards
  • Strategic Partnership Grants for Projects (SPG-P)
  • Strategic Partnership Grants for Networks (SPG-N)
  • Connect grants for universities

For College and Community Innovation (CCI) program grants and Idea to Innovation (I2I) grants, this page continues to apply.

Description

NSERC offers funding opportunities to support academic research in partnership with private and/or public sector organizations. The intent is to support knowledge discovery and application by mobilizing the brain trust available in Canadian universities, colleges and polytechnics. Private and public sector partners can identify which funding opportunities they can participate in by referring to the Summary of participation by organization type. The specific objectives of the funding opportunity determine the most appropriate partner(s).

An application for Research Partnerships funding must include at least one partner that meets the funding opportunity’s eligibility requirements. At a minimum, the partner must have a credible plan for exploiting the research results to provide economic, social or environmental benefits for Canada and Canadians. The partner must demonstrate that it has the necessary expertise and resources to implement the plan. For some funding opportunities, proposals may involve multiple partners, each of which contributes resources toward the research endeavor and has a role to play in maximizing the private and/or public good outcomes. The appropriateness of the partnership in relation to the proposed research objectives is reviewed by NSERC, most often through a peer-review process.

At NSERC’s request, potential partner organizations must provide supplementary information that describes the organization and allows NSERC to determine its eligibility as a partner in the proposed grant. Please contact NSERC if you are unsure about the eligibility of a particular organization.

In addition to the requirements outlined below, partner organizations, including foreign and multinational companies, are responsible for complying with NSERC policies and procedures, and with other Canadian laws, regulations, standards or policies that apply to the collaborative research activities outlined in the proposal. In rare cases, restrictions such as This link will take you to another Web site Canadian economic sanctions may apply to partnerships with foreign companies.

Conflict of interest guidelines for partner organizations

In order to be eligible, the partner organization must be at arm’s length (independent) from the academic institution, applicant and co-applicant(s) or other participants in the academic research team.

A partner organization, by definition, is not at arm’s length if the applicant or co-applicant(s) or other participant in the academic research team:

  • has an ownership position in the partner organization;
  • is employed by the partner organization in any role, whether salaried or not;
  • is a member of a governing board of the partner organization; or
  • is related to a person who controls, or who is a member of a governing board that controls, the partner organization (i.e., are connected by blood relationship, marriage or common-law partnership, or adoption).

Normally, a researcher’s own company would not be eligible as a partner to collaborate on a project in which the researcher is the applicant, co-applicant, or other participant with financial authority on the grant. However, the company may be eligible if these individuals and the academic institution are sufficiently independent from the company’s management and operations, and if they and their relatives (if applicable) do not have a combined controlling interest in the company (i.e., combined or sole ownership must be less than 30%) (see Assessing receptor capacity). The specific situation should be discussed with NSERC in advance of applying.

Note: The university or college, the applicant, and the co-applicant(s) have the responsibility to adhere to and comply with conflict of interest requirements included in the This link will take you to another Web site Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research, university and college policies, and the This link will take you to another Web site Agreement on the Administration of Agency Grants and Awards by Research Institutions; and with NSERC’s Policy on Intellectual Property, which includes the following:

  • The commercial activity of the industrial partner conforms to the university or college’s established policies relating to the disclosure of commercial interest and conflict of interest.
  • The university/college is prepared to ensure that the academic interests of students and postdoctoral fellows are protected.

Summary of participation by organization type

For funding opportunities that allow multiple partners, non-eligible partners are welcome, but only the cash and in-kind contributions from eligible partners will be taken into account to determine the matching funds that can be awarded by NSERC.

Select one of the following:

Canadian public or private for-profit companies, including start-up companies

  • Must be federally or provincially incorporated, or not incorporated but have a significant Canadian presence.
  • Must have the receptor capacity to actively partner with the academic institution.
  • Eligible as a partner for the following funding opportunities:
      • Collaborative Research and Development Grants (CRD)
      • Industrial Research Chairs (IRC)
      • Engage
      • Experience
      • College and Community Innovation Program: Applied Research and Development Grants (ARD), Industrial Research Chairs for Colleges (IRCC), Innovation Links Grants, Innovation Enhancement Grants (IE)
      • Idea to Innovation (I2I)
      • Strategic Partnership Grants for Projects (SPG-P)
      • Strategic Partnership Grants for Networks (SPG-N)

Multinationals (with significant business operations in Canada1)

  • Subset of the Canadian public or private for-profit companies category where the partnering company is:
      • a multinational that is headquartered in Canada; or
      • a medium or large Canadian subsidiary of a multinational, where that multinational has significant R&D facilities located outside of Canada; and those R&D facilities are deemed to be the most suitable location for the collaboration.
  • For CRDs and IRCs, the source of the cash2, in-kind contributions and collaboration can be from any location of the multinational, as long as the benefits to Canada and Canadians are clear.
  • The chosen location must have the research and financial capacity to collaborate, and the objectives of the research project or program must align with the business.

    1Significant business operations in Canada is defined as a company having over 100 employees in Canada (i.e. a medium or large firm as defined by  Statistics Canada) that produces goods or services within Canada, or that carries out research and development (R&D) in Canada.

    2The value of the contributions (cash and in-kind) matched by NSERC will be determined in Canadian dollars at the time of application for the duration of the grant and will not be adjusted by NSERC to reflect fluctuations in the currency exchange rate.

  • Eligible as a partner for the following funding opportunities:
      • Collaborative Research and Development Grants (CRD)*
      • Industrial Research Chairs (IRC)

        * Some restrictions apply to the DND/NSERC CRD
  • Eligible as a partner for the following funding opportunities (but restricted to the Canadian location/unit of the company):
    • Engage
    • Experience
    • College and Community Innovation Program: Applied Research and Development Grants (ARD), Industrial Research Chairs for Colleges (IRCC), Innovation Links Grants, Innovation Enhancement Grants
    • Idea to Innovation (I2I)
    • Strategic Partnership Grants for Projects (SPG-P)
    • Strategic Partnership Grants for Networks (SPG-N)

Foreign companies

  • Defined as a company that is incorporated outside of Canada and that does not carry out R&D or produce /manufacture goods or services in Canada.
  • Must participate in partnership with an eligible Canadian company(ies).
  • Must demonstrate that it has the research capability and financial means to partner with at least one eligible Canadian company.
  • Cash1 and eligible in-kind contributed will be matched at the same leverage ratios as Canadian partners.

    1The value of the contributions (cash and in-kind) matched by NSERC will be determined in Canadian dollars at the time of application for the duration of the grant and will not be adjusted by NSERC to reflect fluctuations in the currency exchange rate.

  • Eligible partner for the following funding opportunities:
    • Collaborative Research and Development Grants (CRD)*
    • Industrial Research Chairs (IRC)

            * Some restrictions apply to the DND/NSERC CRD

  • Not an eligible partner for the following funding opportunities:
    • Engage
    • Experience
    • College and Community Innovation Program: Applied Research and Development Grants (ARD), Industrial Research Chairs for Colleges (IRCC), Innovation Links Grants, Innovation Enhancement Grants (IE)
    • Idea to Innovation (I2I)
    • Strategic Partnership Grants for Projects (SPG-P)
    • Strategic Partnership Grants for Networks (SPG-N)

Industrial associations, producer groups or formal consortiums in Canada

  • To be eligible, the organization must have:
    • a mandate to coordinate research in the area;
    • its own staff with the right expertise to oversee the project;  
    • a credible plan to exploit the research results, as well as the necessary resources to implement it.

If any of these elements are absent, then there must be active involvement in the research project/program from one or more members, or member companies, where the funding opportunity allows multiple partners.

  • Eligible partner for the following funding opportunities:
      • Collaborative Research and Development Grants (CRD)
      • Industrial Research Chairs (IRC)
      • Engage
      • Experience
      • College and Community Innovation Program: Applied Research and Development Grants (ARD), Industrial Research Chairs for Colleges (IRCC), Innovation Links Grants, Innovation Enhancement Grants (IE)
      • Strategic Partnership Grants for Projects (SPG-P)  
      • Strategic Partnership Grants for Networks (SPG-N)
  • Not an eligible partner for the following funding opportunity:
    • Idea to Innovation (I2I)

Public utilities in Canada

  • Must operate on a fee-for-service basis from clients (e.g., electricity, water treatment, and public transportation).
  • Utilities collecting operating fees from the general tax base are not eligible.
  • Eligible partner for the following funding opportunities:
    • Collaborative Research and Development Grants (CRD)
    • Industrial Research Chairs (IRC)
    • Engage
    • Experience
    • College and Community Innovation Program: Applied Research and Development Grants (ARD), Industrial Research Chairs for Colleges (IRCC), Innovation Links Grants, Innovation Enhancement Grants (IE)
    • Idea to Innovation (I2I)
    • Strategic Partnership Grants for Projects (SPG-P)
    • Strategic Partnership Grants for Networks (SPG-N)

Canadian municipalities

  • Must have active involvement in the research project and be able to implement the research results.
  • Eligible partner for policy development in:
    • Strategic Partnership Grants for Projects (SPG-P)
    • Strategic Partnership Grants for Networks (SPG-N)
  • Not eligible as a sole partner for the CRD or IRC funding opportunities but can participate by bringing its own resources to, and having a defined role in, the project or program of research. Cash and in-kind contributions will not be leveraged by NSERC.
  • Not an eligible partner for the following funding opportunities:
    • Engage
    • Experience
    • Idea to Innovation (I2I)
    • College and Community Innovation Program: Applied Research and Development Grants (ARD), Industrial Research Chairs for Colleges (IRCC), Innovation Links Grants, Innovation Enhancement Grants (IE)

Government-owned organizations (includes Crown corporations) in Canada

  • Must operate as a regular for-profit enterprise or on a cost-recovery basis.
  • Eligible partner for the following funding opportunities:
    • Collaborative Research and Development Grants (CRD)
    • Industrial Research Chairs (IRC)
    • Engage
    • Experience
    • Idea to Innovation (I2I)
    • Strategic Partnership Grants for Projects (SPG-P)
    • Strategic Partnership Grants for Networks (SPG-N)
  • Not an eligible partner for the following funding opportunity:
    • College and Community Innovation Program: Applied Research and Development Grants (ARD), Industrial Research Chairs for Colleges (IRCC), Innovation Links Grants, Innovation Enhancement Grants (IE)

Government departments or agencies in Canada

  • At the provincial, federal or territorial level
  • Eligible partner for policy development in:
    • Strategic Partnership Grants for Projects (SPG-P)
    • Strategic Partnership Grants for Networks (SPG-N)
  • Not eligible as a sole partner for the CRD or IRC funding opportunities but can participate by bringing its own resources to, and having a defined role in, the project or program of research. Cash and in-kind contributions will not be leveraged by NSERC.
  • Not an eligible partner for the following funding opportunities:
    • Engage
    • Experience
    • Idea to Innovation (I2I)
    • College and Community Innovation Program: Applied Research and Development Grants (ARD), Industrial Research Chairs for Colleges (IRCC), Innovation Links Grants, Innovation Enhancement Grants (IE)

Not-for-profit organizations in Canada

  • Not eligible as a partner.* However a not-for-profit organization can bring its own resources to the research project or program and can contribute to guiding the research and disseminating the results for the public good.

* Unless an industrial association, producer group or formal consortium (see above).

Canadian-based venture capital firms, angel investors, seed funds or other sources of investment

  • Eligible in I2I Phase IIA only.
    • Through direct support of the research.
    • All requirements listed under “Assessing Receptor Capacity” may not apply.            
    • Conflict of interest is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Assessing receptor capacity (applies to the private sector)

Indicator The company must
Organizational activity
  • produce goods or services within Canada or carry out research and development (R&D) in Canada
  • have a corporate objective to develop, in Canada,  technology-driven, new or improved products, services or processes or actively participate in driving such innovations in Canada
  • have been in operation for at least two years or be poised for exceptional growth
  • not be a holding company
Location/facilities
  • operate from a Canadian base
  • have separate offices or facilities (i.e., not work from a home address, a virtual work setting or be located on the campus of a university/college except in a recognized incubator or similar reserved space for start-ups)
Financing/investment
  • generate revenue from sales or have secured significant private sector investment
  • not derive the majority of its revenue from government aid
Governance
  • operate independently (e.g., have a Board of Directors or similar oversight)
  • not be under the control of a Canadian government body (i.e., not be mandated by a government body to undertake specified activities) unless operating on a fee-for-service basis, such as a public utility
Employees/staff
  • have at least two individuals dedicated full-time to the organization
  • have participating staff with relevant expertise to collaborate effectively in the project
  • be under the effective day-to-day management control of someone other than the academic institution, applicant and co-applicant(s) or other participant with financial authority on the grant. (This precludes these individuals from holding key executive positions such as President, CEO, Chief Scientific Officer, Vice President R&D etc. However, partners with these individuals in key positions may be accepted for Idea to Innovation Grants in some cases. Please contact NSERC to discuss.)
Utilization of project results
  • have a credible plan for exploiting the research results within Canada and demonstrate that it has the necessary expertise and resources to implement the results

 

Guidelines on eligibility and value of in-kind contributions

The contribution provided by the eligible partner organization(s) in collaboration with a university or college must be documented in order to assess the level and nature of the partner involvement and the importance of its contribution to the success of the project. NSERC will recognize only those in-kind contributions that are considered essential to carry out the work and that have been thoroughly documented and justified.

In-kind contributions considered essential to the research could take the form of cash-equivalent goods or services that represent an incremental expense the partner organization would not normally incur and that would have to be purchased by project funds if not donated. In-kind contributions may also include the time of the partner organization’s scientific/engineering and technical or expert staff that will be providing direction and participating in the project. In some cases, the partner organization may provide access to special equipment or data.

NSERC will not leverage contributions to the indirect costs of research—such as secretarial or accounting services, cost of time attributed to research management, and general overhead costs at the partner organization. While post-project activity at the partner organization may be critical for the commercial exploitation of the results, these activities would not be essential to carry out the immediate project and would not, therefore, be recognized by NSERC in determining a cost-sharing ratio.

Regular industrial membership or subscription fees in industrial consortia, or payments to cover general operational costs or overhead charges to institutions eligible to receive NSERC grants, are not eligible as contributions to NSERC grants programs.

Each case is considered on its merits. The aim of assigning a value to the in-kind contribution is to arrive at equitable cost sharing between NSERC and the eligible partners for funding opportunities that leverage cash and/or in-kind contributions; however, quantitative assessments may prove difficult. NSERC exercises discretion in making the final decision.

Goods, services and staff time provided by the partner organization are considered to be in-kind contributions. Under no circumstances can project funds flow back to a partner organization, nor can NSERC funds be used to leverage partner cash contributions that have already been leveraged by another federal public source.

The eligibility and value of in-kind contributions

This list is not all-inclusive. If in doubt as to the acceptability of a particular item, consult NSERC.

Category Accepted Not accepted
Access to unique
databases
  • Incremental costs of access
  • Cost of developing the database and collecting the data
Analytical and other
services
  • Internal rates or incremental cost of providing service
  • Commercial rates
Equipment
  • Donated (used)
    • fair-market value
    • company book value
    • price for internal transfers
  • Donated (new)
    • selling price to most favoured customer (if stock item)
    • cost of manufacture (if one-of-a-kind)
  • Loaned
    • rental equivalent based on depreciation
    • rental equivalent to highest-volume rate
  • List price or discounted list price
  • Rental equivalents exceeding accepted values if the equipment has been donated or sold
  • Development costs
Faculty remuneration
  • Payment to the university/college for release time from teaching duties
  • Payments to the grantee as consulting fees or honoraria (additional to normal salary)
Materials
  • Unit cost of production (commercial products)
  • Selling price to most favoured customer
  • Price for internal transfers
  • Cost of production of prototypes and samples
  • Development costs
Patents and licences
  • Licences acquired from third parties for use by the university/college
  • Patent protection
  • Licensing fees paid to the university
Salaries
  • Actual salary cost (including benefits) for scientific/engineering and technical or expert staff (up to a maximum of $100.00 per hour)
  • Salary overheads, external charge-out or consultant rates
  • Salary and costs of administrative support staff
  • Salary and costs of management activities not directly related to scientific and technical contributions to the project
Software
  • Cost of training and support (at the university/college site) for software by industrial partner personnel
  • Price to most favoured customer for one licence per software package
  • Cost of equivalent commercial product (if donated software is not commercially available)
  • Development costs
Travel
  • Travel costs to meet with university/college personnel
  • Conference travel
Use of facilities
  • Internal rates for logistical support, food, and lodging for university/college personnel working on company premises or on field work
  • Internal rates for use of specialized equipment by university/college personnel or use of process or production lines
  • Internal rates for value of lost production resulting from downtime
  • Space for company activities outside the scope of the specific proposal
  • Equivalent commercial rates