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Terms of Reference

Objectives and Mandate

Within guidelines provided by Council, the Advisory Committee on University-Industry Grants (ACUIG) makes recommendations to:

  1. the Vice-President, Research Partnerships, or the Director or Energy, Environment, and Resources (EER) or the Director of Manufacturing, Communications, and Technologies (MCT) as per the Delegation of Financial Authorities on awards to be made under NSERC’s Research Partnerships’ Programs on the basis of application documents, established program criteria, external referee comments or site visit reports, staff analysis and recommendations;
  2. the Committee on Research Partnerships on policy modifications to the programs; and
  3. NSERC staff on changes in administrative procedures.

More specifically, the ACUIG makes funding recommendations for:

  • CRD applications requesting, on average, in excess of $200,000 per year from NSERC, while taking into consideration the recommendations of the Site Visit Committee (SVC);
  • All new IRC applications, and those renewal IRC applications requesting in excess of $150,000 a year from NSERC, while taking into consideration either the recommendation of a SVC or the recommendations of external peer reviews; and
  • Other proposals that the Directors refer to it for advice.

Principles Governing Membership

Roles and Responsibilities of the Chair and Members

The Chair

The ACUIG is co-chaired by an NSERC Director1 (internal co-Chair) and a former ACUIG member (external co-Chair).  The internal co-Chair provides policy and program information and manages the internal operations. The external co-Chair chairs the meeting by guiding the members through the agenda, summarizing the discussion, moving to the vote, and reviewing and signing the minutes.  The internal co-Chair and external co-Chair do not vote; however, in the event of a tie, the external co-Chair will vote to break the tie.


The main responsibility of the ACUIG is to make funding recommendations to NSERC, taking into account expert reports provided by Site Visit Committees or external referee reports. As the ACUIG members review applications spanning numerous research areas, it is expected that the Committee would establish a bar of excellence commensurate with the large investments made by Canadians in scientific research through NSERC. This is especially important when considering the stature of IRC candidates in order to be consistent in terms of expected quality across research domains. 

ACUIG members rely on the outcome of the peer review by subject matter experts and are expected to read all of the material associated with each application except if there is a conflict of interest with an application or the member is unable to read an application due to language. 

Committee Composition

The ACUIG is multidisciplinary, and has broad experience in university-industry interactions. The ACUIG has, on average, 15 members, including the external co-Chair.  The appointment of members conforms to Council standards with respect to stature and discipline representation, gender, sector, regional and linguistic considerations.  In order to perform its task effectively, the Committee as a whole must possess broad expertise in the fields of research covered by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, an ability to evaluate the potential contribution of proposals to Canadian industry, and an ability to assess referee reports, site visit reports and staff analysis reports to ensure consistent standards within the programs. To provide the appropriate blend of expertise, the presence of a balanced mix of researchers, research managers and administrators drawn from university, government and industry is required on the Committee.  Individual members are selected on the basis of their research background and personal expertise; therefore, no individual should be considered as a representative of his or her university, industry or government department or agency.


Members are appointed for terms of up to three years and/or 12 meetings.  The external co-Chair is appointed for a term of two years and/or eight meetings.  To retain the Committee’s overall experience, some terms may be staggered and lengthened to ensure continuity.

Modus Operandi

Applications for university-industry grants (principally Collaborative Research and Development (CRD) and Industrial Research Chair (IRC)) are reviewed through one or several of the following mechanisms: external referees, site visit committees and staff analysis.  Following peer review by external referees and/or Site Visit Committees (SVCs), additional advice is sought from the ACUIG on CRD and IRC applications and on selected other proposals as decided by the appropriate RP Director.  Recommendations are made by the Committee and by staff and are transmitted to the Vice-President or the appropriate Director for decision.

Decision Making Process

Following the deliberation of an application, the external co-Chair will call for a vote on whether or not the recommendation of the ACUIG is to fund or not to fund the application.  While the committee aims for a consensus opinion on each application, a vote is always held regardless.  Members do not vote on an application if they are in conflict with it or cannot read the language in which it is written.  In the case of a tie, the external co-Chair will vote to break the tie.  The majority decision usually becomes the ACUIG recommendation to NSERC. 

In the rare cases where the ACUIG cannot come to a recommendation on a particular application, the application is either deferred to the next meeting or a sub-committee of ACUIG members is struck to review additional information and make a funding recommendation on behalf of the rest of the Committee.


Each meeting of the ACUIG must have a minimum of 10 members in attendance, either in person or available via teleconference.  There must be a minimum of five readers on any given application.  In the case where there are less than five readers, the external co-Chair may act as a reader and vote on the application under review, or the review of the application will be deferred until such time that a suitable number of members can be assembled to discuss the application (e.g., may be done in a teleconference following the ACUIG meeting, or at the next meeting of the ACUIG).

Meeting Schedule

The ACUIG meets for one day four times a year in March, June, September and December.

Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality Guidelines

NSERC must meet the highest ethical and integrity standards in all that it does in order to continue to merit the trust and confidence of the research community, the government and the public. NSERC review committee members, external reviewers and observers must meet the highest standards of ethical behaviour to maintain and enhance public confidence in NSERC’s ability to act in the public’s best interest and for the long-term public good.  Where a conflict arises between private and public interests, review committee members, external reviewers, and observers will be expected to take the necessary measures to ensure that the public interest is protected.

All reviewers of NSERC applications and NSERC selection committee members are required to sign a This link will take you to another Web site Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality agreement for Review Committee Members, External Reviewers, and Observers.

If a member or external co-Chair of the ACUIG is in conflict with an application (same university) or they are a representative of one of the partnering organizations, they will be asked to leave the room during the discussion.  The discussion will be co-Chaired by another member during the co-Chair’s absence.

A member or external co-Chair of the ACUIG who is an applicant or co-applicant, or a named representative of the partnering organization, on an application under review will not attend the meeting.

1The Internal co-Chair rotates between the Director of EER and the Director of MCT.