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College and Community Innovation Program Technology Access Centres Grants

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Duration Five years, renewable
Letter of intent deadline There will be no competition for this grant in 2020.
Application deadline There will be no competition for this grant in 2020.
How to apply See below
Application forms Letter of intent


To complete Form 188, 104 and 103CV, select the links above.

To create or access an application, select On-line System Login. To view forms and instructions, select PDF Forms and Instructions.
Contact View the Contact Directory

Important information

The College and Community Innovation (CCI) Program is managed by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) in collaboration with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Technology Access Centres (TAC) Grants can be across the spectrum of natural and social sciences, engineering, humanities and/or health. All applications must be submitted to NSERC. Grants are given by NSERC, with the exception of grants exclusively in the social sciences, humanities and/or health sciences, which will be given by SSHRC or CIHR, as appropriate.

Equity, diversity and inclusion

NSERC is acting on the evidence that equity, diversity and inclusion strengthen the scientific and engineering community and the quality, social relevance and impact of research. Increasing diversity and gender equity in the research enterprise are key priorities in our current strategic plan, NSERC 2020, and are highlighted in the strategic goal of “Building a Diversified and Competitive Research Base”.


TAC Grants are intended to enhance the ability of companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to become more productive and innovative by enabling them to readily access college expertise, technology and equipment. This access to college capabilities is intended to enhance the productivity, competitiveness and innovation of the participating SMEs.


TACs provide funding for core operations of centres established by colleges to address the applied research and innovation needs of local companies. TAC Grants are awarded for five years and are renewable.

TACs provide capabilities that serve their local companies’ applied research and innovation needs. TAC capabilities may include advice on specific company challenges, specialized technical assistance, applied research and/or development projects for companies, and/or specialized training.

TAC Grant proposals are expected to focus on regional needs. For example, centres might focus on developing a strategic technology for key business sectors in the region* addressing the applied research and innovation needs of key companies; or providing basic capabilities to strengthen a region’s innovation infrastructure. In addressing the innovation capability of SMEs, TACs are anticipated to help their clients be more innovative, productive and competitive.

TAC Grants provide up to $350,000 per year in support of the core operations of the proposed TAC. Eligible expenses include hiring the centre’s manager and administrator, as well as basic operating expenses.

For colleges and cégeps in Quebec, given the substantial network of centres that support SME innovation, proposals will be limited to a maximum of $100,000 per year and must be in support of an incremental administrative, research management or business development position (and associated expenses) for an established centre of the college.

While TAC proposals are not required to contain specified levels of private-sector contributions, the performance of the TACs will be evaluated based on their impact on company innovation. Important indicators of a TAC’s impact and success would include the number of clients served and the level of private sector client-derived revenue. Those invited to submit an application will be required to specify performance metrics and target levels for these metrics indicating the anticipated impact of the proposed centre.

Colleges that have already been awarded a TAC Grant but who wish to launch a new TAC in a different applied research area may apply for another TAC grant, but must clearly demonstrate in the application that the targeted applied research area is distinct from the previously awarded TAC(s). The application must demonstrate that the TAC will create significant incremental value to the region’s innovation capacity in that it will draw on different applied research disciplines, will require different technical expertise and facilities, and will support a different and significant industry sector from the existing TAC(s). 

*Region: For the purposes of this initiative, a business region is defined as a contiguous geographic area where company and centre personnel can comfortably make day trips to collaborate on innovation projects. However, TAC proposals can address an innovation support opportunity where the high value of the services to be offered provides a compelling case for serving a much broader area.


TACs are expected to work within the local/regional innovation system. As such, it is vital that TAC proposals demonstrate support from key regional organizations. This may include regional economic development agencies, chambers of commerce, business groups and key companies. Local and provincial governments may also be involved. Contributions in cash and/or in-kind towards the establishment and operation of a proposed centre signals the support and involvement of these organizations. Letters of support from such organizations demonstrate their support for, and alignment with, the proposed TAC.

As part of their business plan, the TAC proposals must include a plan for working with companies, including the anticipated approach to business development, and projections for the number of clients and annual revenues from those interactions.


Canadian colleges that have been declared eligible to administer grants according to the eligibility requirements for colleges of at least one of the three federal granting agencies (NSERC, CIHR and/or SSHRC) may submit a TAC application.

  • The college must offer programs in the natural sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities and/or health sciences.
  • The college's faculty members involved in TAC Grants must be engaged in applied research in the natural sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities and/or health sciences.
  • The college must provide the basic facilities and services (including space) to enable its natural sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities and/or health sciences faculty members to conduct applied research.

Colleges must offer programs in line with the research area proposed in the TAC application. If the proposed research and knowledge/technology transfer activities lie entirely within the mandate of a single agency (NSERC, CIHR or SSHRC) the college must be declared eligible to receive funding from that granting agency. The agency may require additional information before funds can be released.

Eligible expenses

The table below describes the eligible expenses for TACs. The expenses must be related to the TAC's activities, as proposed to NSERC.

Type of expenditure Eligibility of costs
Administrative personnel of the centre Eligible
Equipment or facility Purchase or rental, up to 20% of the grant
Travel Travel required by centre and college personnel to develop business and deliver services is supported.
Faculty release costs Eligible
Equipment maintenance Eligible
Operating costs and supplies Eligible
Rent of facilities owned by the college Not Eligible
Incremental costs of basic services, such as heat, light, water, compressed air, distilled water, vacuums and janitorial services supplied to all laboratories in a research facility Eligible
Advertising, project management Eligible
Insurance costs for buildings or equipment Not Eligible
Costs of alcohol Not Eligible
Costs of hospitality and promotional material for networking and business development purposes Eligible

For further information on use of grant funds, consult the College and Community Innovation Program Financial Administration Guide.

Application procedures (new TACs)

There is a two-stage application process (Letters of Intent followed by applications from invited applicants). Both stages are peer-reviewed against the TACs selection criteria (see below).

Applications for TACs include many aspects of a business plan for the proposed centre. Proposals for a TAC must include an environmental scan of both the regional needs and available resources. The proposed centre’s expertise should be complementary to other resources serving the specific sector targeted or region. The proposal must demonstrate the expected added value of such a centre and provide a plan for realizing this value, measureable objectives for the centre, and performance targets for those objectives.

Stage I: Letters of intent

Colleges must submit Letters of Intent (LOIs) that describe:

  • the innovation needs of the region/companies that the proposed centre will address (environmental scan);
  • a description of the capabilities to be offered to address that opportunity and how these are complementary to capabilities already provided by others;
  • a brief description of the key personnel and capabilities already in place;
  • the anticipated organizational and management structures;
  • the anticipated key stakeholders;
  • estimates of the anticipated business operating revenue and expenses for the centre.

LOIs must:

  • be prepared according to the detailed instructions pertaining to the initiative;
  • be accompanied by a letter from the president of the college, outlining the institutional support for the application and the relation to the college's strategic plan;
  • include two letters from companies and/or regional agencies, outlining their support of the need for a centre in the area and describing how it will benefit them and contribute to local and/or regional innovation.
  • for colleges that have a previously funded NSERC TAC(s), provide a detailed explanation demonstrating that the proposed TAC’s targeted applied research area is distinct from the previously awarded TAC(s). Describe how the proposed TAC will create significant incremental value to the region’s innovation capacity in that it will draw on different applied research disciplines, will require different technical expertise and facilities, and will support a different and significant industry sector from the existing TAC(s).

An electronic version of the application must be uploaded onto NSERC’s Secure Upload Site which will allow for a secure electronic submission.

Letters of Intent will be reviewed by the CCI Review Committee based on the selection criteria listed below. This committee will provide advice and comments on each LOI and will then recommend to NSERC the colleges to be invited to submit an application.

Stage II: Applications

Colleges invited to proceed to stage II may submit applications. Applications for Technology Access Centres consist of a completed application form (F104), letters of support from the college and supporting groups, and College Personal Data Forms (F103CV) for key personnel. In these elements the applicant should:

  • provide an environmental scan of both the regional needs and available resources, indicating the expected added value of the centre and how the proposed centre's expertise is complementary to other resources serving the specific sector targeted or region. Describe the innovation needs of companies that the proposed centre will address;
  • describe the services and capabilities to be offered to address that opportunity. This description should include other capabilities that are currently available and how the proposed centre’s offerings would be complementary to or differ from the capabilities already available from others;
  • include College Personal Data Forms for the key personnel already in place, a description of the capabilities that exist or will be established for the centre and how the proposed centre builds on the expertise and facilities existing within the college;
  • describe the proposed organizational and management structure and the relationship of the centre to the applying college. Include the proposed general composition of the Advisory Board;

    Note: Two possible organizational structures are (1) centres as not-for-profit corporations owned by the college or (2) centres as specialized departments within the college. Centres structured as not-for-profit corporations are expected to have Boards with representation from key stakeholders from the college, regional groups, and key business groups. Centres structured as specialized departments are expected to have Advisory Boards that also draw on key college, regional and company stakeholders.
  • forecast the anticipated business operating revenues and expenses for the centre;
  • provide letters of support from relevant stakeholders including the college, companies, provincial and regional agencies. These letters should outline the proponents' planned contributions to the centre, and the role they anticipate playing to realize and benefit from the centre's capabilities;
  • provide an Information Required from Organizations Participating in Research Partnerships Programs (Form 183A) for each partner organization making a cash and/or in-kind contributions. Please note that organizations that make cash and/or in-kind contributions in exchange for TAC services are not considered to be partner organizations.

To assist Colleges in their preparation of the application, NSERC is willing to cover the travel expenditures of one college participant to attend an NSERC workshop. If requested, NSERC will allow for the attendance of an additional college representative at the workshop travelling at their own expense.

Applications will be reviewed by a site visit review committee. At these site visits, reviewers selected by NSERC will discuss the proposal with the application’s proponents. The recommendation of the site visit committees will be considered by the CCI Review Committee. The Committee will provide advice and comments on each application and will recommend to NSERC the applications to receive TAC Grants.

Selection criteria

Applications are evaluated on the following criteria. In order to be considered for funding, the applications must receive a passing grade for each of the criteria:

Value added
  • The value added of the centre to the targeted sector's/region's innovation capacity and the potential for the centre to play a significant role in innovation in SMEs in their region, including potential for synergies between the proposed centre, the host college(s) and other innovation support organizations in the region.
  • The incremental value that the TAC Grant will bring to the college's current activities in this area.
    • For existing centres that already receive other government or college support for the centre’s core operations, the incremental value from the TAC support must be clearly demonstrated.
    • Colleges with a previously funded NSERC TAC(s) must demonstrate that the new TAC will create significant incremental value to the region’s innovation capacity in that it will draw on different applied research disciplines, will require different technical expertise and facilities, and will support a different and significant industry sector from the existing TAC(s).
Organizational structure
  • The organizational structure of the centre; the degree of engagement and support from the college, public, and company stakeholders in the proposed centre; and the centre's integration with the strategic plan of the college.
  • Evidence of an accountability framework likely to result in effective leadership and sound financial decision-making.
Market opportunity
  • The ability of the TAC to attract investment, the potential for private sector revenue for rendered services, and the ability to meet the performance metrics and investment targets identified.
Delivery plan
  • Focus, coherence and feasibility of the service delivery plan. This includes the scope of support capabilities and the approach planned for reaching and delivering innovation support to companies in their region.
Applied research competence
  • The current strength of the expertise (both human and technical) and the anticipated quality and quantity of expertise and support capabilities to be offered by the centre in support of SME innovation needs.

Application procedures (renewals)

This section applies only to existing TACs applying to renew their funding for an additional five years.

Renewal of a TAC Grant provides continued support for the activities of an established TAC in good standing. The application review will be based on an up-to-date progress report, a new detailed application for the subsequent five-year term, and demonstration that the TAC Grant objectives in the current five-year term have been met. Applications are assessed by the CCI Review Committee in the last year of each five-year term and involve a competitive process that takes into consideration the available funding (budget) for TAC Grants. Applications for renewal will be evaluated against the same selection criteria as new proposals. The CCI Review Committee will make the final funding recommendation for all renewals. Annual funding for renewed TAC Grants will be contingent on their performance. TACs that are not meeting their objectives may have their grant terminated prior to the end of their five-year term.


Annual financial and progress reports will be required. Grantees will be required to report progress against the objectives and performance metrics proposed, and discuss issues, best practices and opportunities. The annual reports must be endorsed by the oversight body (i.e., Advisory Board).