CREATE program – frequently asked questions

The CREATE program was recently re-evaluated to simplify the application process. The program’s renewal made important changes to the application processes and program characteristics for the 2025 competition and subsequent competition years as follows:

  1. The letter of intent (LOI) stage is now non-competitive, meaning that the LOIs are not adjudicated by the selection committee and will proceed directly to the application stage.
  2. LOI submissions are still required, but the information to be provided has been reduced.
  3. The Industrial stream has been eliminated. Industrial participation in CREATE initiatives is encouraged, but the extent and nature of industrial participation is determined by the applicants and their industrial partners.
  4. Mobility experiences are now mandatory for all M.Sc. and Ph.D. trainees, with a minimum duration of one month for M.Sc. and two months for Ph.D. trainees.
  5. The LOI quota remains the same at six for large universities, four for medium-sized universities, and two for small universities. Please refer to the Grants and Scholarships Administrative Portal (GSAP) secure site to obtain your university’s size classification.

On this page

Program objectives

1. How important is it to describe professional skills training within the application?

Professional skills training that complements the trainees’ qualifications and technical skills must be described in the proposal.

2. Can CREATE initiatives be renewed?

No, CREATE initiatives cannot be renewed. If a previous CREATE grant holder applies for a new CREATE initiative, the proposed initiative must differ significantly from the previous one. This must be clearly explained in the new application, section 3.1. Initiatives are expected to be self-sustaining after the six years of the grant.

3. How does NSERC distinguish between new and existing training opportunities?

The CREATE program focuses on initiatives that raise the standards for best practices in the mentoring and training of new researchers. They should bring qualitative added value compared to existing training opportunities or funding for trainees achieved elsewhere.

4. Are proposals that include more than one university preferred over single-university applications?

No, CREATE awards will be decided only on the excellence and merits of the proposal and the expected outcomes targeted to a specific group of students.

5. Is there a requirement for the main applicant to be a more senior, experienced researcher?

No, the program is open to all researchers. The team's excellence will be assessed by a number of factors, including its contributions to the training of highly qualified personnel, as well as the complementarity of expertise and experience of the team. All applicants, co-applicants and collaborators must explain their respective roles and responsibilities within the training program and its management. In this way, teams that compensate for some researchers’ limited research experience by emphasizing the strengths of other team members will maximize the chances of success. Equity, diversity and inclusion considerations should also be reflected in the rationale of the team composition and the designated roles within the team.

Universities are responsible for selecting and submitting applications which best meet the selection criteria and exhibit the excellence of researchers.

International stream

6. Are these international stream initiatives funded separately from the rest of the CREATE program?

No, these initiatives are funded within the existing budget envelope.

7. Does a Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, the German research foundation) partner need an industrial collaborator in Germany, or will the Canadian partner(s) suffice?

An industrial collaborator is not mandatory for a proposed collaboration with the DFG.

8. For a CREATE-International Research Training Groups (IRTG) initiative, is some of the funding coming from the DFG and some from NSERC?

Both organizations (NSERC and DFG) will provide support/funding for their respective grantees and trainees.

9. For a CREATE-IRTG initiative, which expenses would be covered by the Canadian group?

NSERC and the DFG will support the research training group in their countries. For example, the Canadian trainees' travel and dissemination costs would not be shared with the German partner. These groups will support researchers and highly qualified people in their own country and cover the costs of accommodating trainees who visit the partner country. Each research training group also takes responsibility for providing stipends to its trainees for the duration of their stay at the partner institution.

10. When should Canadian researchers contact DFG researchers to plan for an International stream application?

By the May 1 letter of intent (LOI) submission deadline, the DFG researchers' IRTG pre-proposal should already be accepted. If the IRTG pre-proposal evaluation is not completed by May 1, a decision should be rendered by the DFG in time for the September 22 application deadline. Ideally, the research collaborators should submit their pre-proposal to the DFG in the previous calendar year to allow sufficient time for the evaluation process. Canadian researchers should contact their research collaborators to learn the timelines for evaluating the IRTG pre-proposals, as these can vary from year to year.

11. Is it possible to change from the international stream to the regular stream between the LOI and application phases?

Yes, switching to the regular stream is possible if, for example, the DFG does not accept the IRTG pre-proposal between the LOI and application phases. However, this decision must be discussed with the research collaborators and can only occur if the university has not filled its quota. If selected for a grant in the regular stream, collaboration with German researchers can continue, but not under the conditions of a CREATE-IRTG international stream grant. A CREATE international stream grant is conditional on the success of both the CREATE international stream application and the DFG IRTG full proposal.


12. Do researchers need to hold an NSERC grant to be eligible to apply?

No, researchers do not need to hold an NSERC grant, but the applicant must be from an NSERC-supported field at an NSERC-eligible university, and the majority (at least 70%) of the team’s co-applicants must be from a natural sciences and engineering (NSE) field. Researchers at the interdisciplinary frontier between NSE and the areas covered under the umbrella of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) may be incorporated into proposals. NSERC eligibility criteria for applicants, co-applicants and institutions apply.

13. Are researchers from other research institutions eligible to be CREATE applicants or co-applicants?

No, the CREATE program funds training programs and, therefore, requires that the applicants and co-applicants come from an NSERC-eligible Canadian university. Participation of researchers from other research institutions as collaborators is encouraged.

14. Are all trainees registered at a participating university eligible for the CREATE program?

CREATE funds are accessible to trainees registered at a participating university represented by the applicant or co-applicants. The applicant can supervise the trainees, co-applicants or collaborators at one of the participating universities.

15. The CREATE program description mentions that the applicant may not be the chair of the program committee. Could a co-applicant, student trainee or direct collaborator be the chair of the program committee?

No, the purpose of the program committee is to oversee the progress of the proposed CREATE initiative and advise on its future direction. Good governance principles require that the committee chair not be the applicant, a co-applicant, a student trainee, the program coordinator or a direct collaborator (e.g., financial stakeholder, internship host, trainee supervisor, research collaborator or joint author) listed in the application.

16. Can colleges participate in the CREATE program?

Yes, colleges may participate as collaborators, but college students are not eligible to receive CREATE stipends.

17. Can the CREATE program be used to fund students who are medical residents?

No, medical residents are not eligible to participate in the CREATE program.

18. Can an applicant or co-applicant be involved in an existing CREATE grant at the time of application?

A researcher can be involved in a maximum of two initiatives at any given time and a maximum of one as an applicant. So, if a researcher is already involved as a co-applicant on a grant, they can be on only one LOI as an applicant or co-applicant. If the researcher is not involved in a grant, they can be a part of two LOIs but only as an applicant on one. If the researcher is currently on two grants, they cannot be a part of a new LOI until after the expiration year of the grant. For example, if the applicant or co-applicant’s first grant end date is in 2023, they could not be a part of an LOI until May 2024 (i.e., for the 2025 competition year). The 1-year COVID-19 extension to CREATE grants is added to the grant duration and affects the eligibility of applicants or co-applicants for new applications to the CREATE program. Contact the CREATE team to discuss situations with uncertainty surrounding a CREATE initiative's end date.

19. Is it permissible for trainees to conduct internships at their own start-ups or companies owned wholly or in part by the principal investigator or by a co-principal investigator?

No, it is not permissible due to conflict-of-interest considerations. It is permissible for trainees to conduct internships at companies owned wholly or in part by a collaborator.

20. Can the composition of the applicant team change between the LOI and application stages?

If the proposed change involves the principal investigator (applicant), a member of the co-applicant team must be named as the new principal investigator and the identity of the new principal investigator must be communicated to NSERC. If the proposed change involves a co-applicant who withdraws their participation, then an eligible replacement can be found and communicated to NSERC for approval. If the selected individual is from an institution that was not part of the original group of applicant institutions, then the applicant team must notify NSERC and also inform the research grant officer of the university that will be joining the proposed initiative.

21. How does NSERC determine whether an applicant is an NSE versus a non-NSE researcher for the CREATE program?How does NSERC classify NSE versus non-NSE trainees?

The principal investigator on a CREATE proposal must be an NSE researcher. The co-applicant team must be made up of at least 70% NSE researchers. Generally, an NSE researcher is a researcher who conducts the majority of their work in areas supported by NSERC, as evidenced by their publication record. Please contact NSERC to discuss situations where there may be uncertainty surrounding a researcher’s primary field of research. The Selecting the Appropriate Federal Granting Agency web page may be consulted to distinguish between NSE and non-NSE work.

For trainees, the designation of non-NSE versus NSE is usually based on the faculty or department the trainee is assigned to. However, in instances where the trainee is in a non-NSE faculty but has an NSE background, an NSE research theme and an NSE supervisor, NSERC would classify them as an NSE trainee for the purpose of the CREATE program.


22. Is the 70% for students’ stipends and the 30% for other expenses a firm ratio?

Yes, at least 70% of the CREATE grant must be used for trainees’ stipends. However, NSERC does not specify how students may use a CREATE stipend and does not establish limits for stipend amounts. These are a part of university policy. Travel or other expenses may be supplemented from other sources, such as an NSERC Discovery grant or other NSERC grant, as well as non-NSERC funding sources.

23. Will NSERC restrict how these additional funds contributed by collaborators can be spent, or could they be spent at the collaborator’s discretion?

NSERC does allow flexibility in the way collaborator contributions are allocated but expects the expenditures to support the goals of the CREATE program. This should be well explained in the proposal.

On the other hand, CREATE funding provided by NSERC must be spent according to the information provided in the CREATE program description and the relevant sections of the Tri-agency guide on financial administration.

Program content

24. Is it possible to combine research training with courses given by other partner institutions within the applicant team?

Yes, it is possible to combine resources in this way, which may encourage student mobility between institutions.

25. Would the inclusion of a technology transfer/commercialization type of internship be an eligible training activity?

Yes, technology transfer/commercialization training is an eligible training activity.


26. Can students holding a scholarship from NSERC, Mitacs, SSHRC or CIHR participate in the CREATE program? Can they receive a CREATE stipend?

Yes, students holding a scholarship from any one of these granting agencies should be encouraged to participate in a CREATE training program. It is permitted for trainees to hold a scholarship in addition to receiving a CREATE stipend during the tenure of their other scholarships in accordance with the university’s guidelines (except Mitacs-Elevate).

27. Can students receiving awards from provincial funding agencies receive stipends from CREATE?

Yes, NSERC allows students to receive simultaneously awards from provincial funding agencies and a CREATE stipend; however, students should verify whether the provincial funding agency’s award conditions allow this combination.

28. Can international students be supported by CREATE grants?

Yes, international students and fellows may be offered stipends while visiting or enrolled at a Canadian university. The CREATE program allows for international travel expenses, so a proposal could also include an opportunity for foreign students to visit Canadian labs as part of the training program.

29. What is the maximum period of support for visiting international exchange students or fellows?

International exchange students not enrolled at a Canadian university for their degree or visiting fellows may be supported for a maximum of 125 days (per year, per person).

30. Are CREATE trainees eligible for family or medical leave?

Yes, CREATE stipend holders are eligible for NSERC family and medical leave. See NSERC’s policy on family and medical leaves for more details.

Eligible expenses

31. Are venue rental costs eligible expenses?

Yes, economical and efficient venue and catering costs are allowed if they are being used for the delivery of a CREATE training activity (e.g., summer school, workshops, etc.) where individuals from out of town are participating.

32. Are honoraria or gifts for invited speakers paid from CREATE funds permitted?

The salary, honorarium or gifts for invited speakers or subject matter experts should be covered by other sources, such as the university.

In recognition of the cultures and traditions of First Nations, Métis and Inuit, Elders and other Knowledge Keepers who also fulfill another role (i.e., an independent researcher) are eligible to receive honoraria and/or gifts in a ceremonial or other context. Their travel expenses are also considered eligible expenses.

33. Are incentives for trainees permitted?

Yes, prizes for trainee achievement are permitted.

Collaborations with industry

34. What intellectual property policy should be followed?

The intellectual property (IP) policies of both NSERC (NSERC’s policy on intellectual property) and the university should be followed.

35. How much should industry contribute (cash or in-kind)?

There is no minimum financial contribution required. In-kind contributions are acceptable.

36. What is the incentive for industry to collaborate in a CREATE initiative?

Trainees can become future employees of the collaborating company. The company is assured that the students are trained with the professional skills they require. Students could address research issues of importance to the company during the term.

37. How different is management training from a management program?

One of the objectives of the CREATE program is to facilitate the acquisition of skills required by industry. Skills acquired through an MBA program may not necessarily fulfill these needs.

38. Can the same company host internships and also have a representative on the program committee?

Yes, as long as the representative does not directly benefit from the internships. The internship provides value-added training for the intern and is not just technical support for the company. However, the Chair of the Program Committee may not host trainee internships as a supervisor.

39. Are incubators or facilities located on campus eligible internship locations?

The mandatory mobility experience must be located off campus. However, a CREATE initiative may have additional mobility deliverables, including on-campus internships.

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