Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Common menu bar links

Institutional links

Twitter LinkedIn YouTube Facebook

Discovery Horizons

Instructions for completing an application

General information

About the program

Read the program description before completing your application. You may also wish to review the This link will take you to another Web site Peer review guide for the tri-agency interdisciplinary peer review committee for more details on how applications will be evaluated.

Am I eligible to apply?

Consult the Eligibility criteria for faculty page to ensure that you can participate in this grant program as an applicant.

Whom should I contact for help?

Presentation standards

You must include all requested information in your application, and the submitted application must the Research Portal presentation and attachment standards. Incomplete applications meet and applications that do not meet the presentation standards may be rejected, or be at a disadvantage in comparison with those that are complete and respect the presentation standards. Information that is not required, based on the application instructions, will be removed.

Application deadlines

Your application must be received at your institution’s research grants office by its internal deadline date; contact your research grants office for those deadlines.

The application must be submitted to NSERC by 8:00 p.m. (ET) on October 18, 2021. The research administrators are responsible to submit the full applications to NSERC. Once an application has been submitted to NSERC, it cannot be updated or modified, either before or after the deadline.

Collection and use of personal information

The information you provide in your application is collected under the authority of the This link will take you to another Web site Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Act, This link will take you to another Web site Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Act, and This link will take you to another Web site Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Act. The collection, use, disclosure, retention and disposal of your personal information are in accordance with the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.

Self-identification information (applicant and co-applicants)

You are required to complete the self-identification form in order to apply for NSERC funding; however, you may select “Prefer not to answer” for any or all questions. NSERC appreciates your participation, which supports the granting agencies in monitoring the equity of their programs and strengthening equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the research enterprise.

The self-identification information is collected as part of your user profile when you register in the This link will take you to another Web site Convergence Portal. It is not part of your application and is neither accessible to nor shared with external reviewers and/or selection committee members.

Discovery Horizons applicants and co-applicants will also be asked to provide consent for NSERC to potentially use their self-identification information to improve equity and diversity in funding decisions. Priority may be given to letters of intent to apply (LOIs) and/or applications from those who self-identify as members of underrepresented groups, amongst similarly ranked LOIs and applications.

Completing the application

You must complete the application according to the instructions, using the This link will take you to another Web site Convergence Portal.

Note: If you have not submitted an LOI for this program or if your LOI was not selected to participate in the subsequent stage, you cannot create or submit an application. Consult the program description for more information.

Create an application

  • Sign in to the This link will take you to another Web site Convergence Portal.
    : If you currently have an account on the Research Portal, please use your existing credentials. 
  • In the Applications tab, select the application that was submitted to NSERC and click Application.  

My information (applicant and co-applicants)

CV interruptions

Provide any interruptions in the last six years for formal leaves and personal circumstances, and clearly explain any circumstances that affected your research productivity. To enter interruptions select Add new interruptions, then select the type of interruption from the menu. Follow the instructions and enter the level of activity maintained (%) and start and end dates if requested. If interruptions have already been entered in the Convergence portal you can associate them to this application using Associate interruption. Information from the CV interruptions section will be shared “as is” with committee members and external reviewers; personal information will not be redacted.

Eligible leaves of absence (e.g., maternity and parental leave, personal illness, leave taken for family-related illness or bereavement, extraordinary administrative duties) are those taken within the last six years. For further guidance on how to describe and consider the impacts of COVID-19 delays, refer to Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on research: NEW guidelines for NSERC’s community.

In recognition of those eligible leaves, the participant is allowed to extend the period of eligible contributions in their CV documents for an equivalent duration.

CV documents


No page limit

Applicants andco-applicants must provide their NSERC personal data form (form 100), NSERC CCV or equivalent free-form CV. All CVs documents should be in the same language as your application and saved as PDFs. CV documents will be shared “as is” with committee members and external reviewers; personal information will not be redacted. Only activities and contributions to research over the last six years that are relevant to the application you are submitting to NSERC should be included. The CV document must include research funding history (all sources of support, including NSERC grants and university start-up funds) held as an applicant or a co-applicant, such as:

  • support held in the past six years but now completed
  • support currently held
  • support currently applied for (under review)

Most significant contributions to research

Limit of two pages

Describe up to five of your most significant contributions to research and/or to practical applications over the last six years (applicants with eligible leaves of absence may include contributions from their most recent active research period prior to the last six years for a period equivalent to the duration of the leave). Contributions made more than six years ago that are having impact now (e.g., exploitation of patent, inclusion in a code, etc.) may be described in this section only.

For each contribution, describe its impact and significance to and use by other researchers and end users. For collaborative contributions, describe your role.

Impact can be seen as, but is not limited to, advancing knowledge, developing technology, addressing socio-economic or environmental needs, or contributing to increased equity, diversity and inclusion in research.

A contribution does not have to be a single publication or report. For example, a group of publications on a specific subject could be discussed as one contribution.

Important note: Include the full reference to your contributions in this document or provide the appropriate reference to your CV.

Past contributions to the training of highly qualified personnel (HQP)

Limit of one page

Discuss your most significant contributions to the training of HQP over the last six years. Applicants with eligible leaves of absence may include supplemental contributions from their most recent active research period prior to the last six years for a period equivalent to the duration of the leave. Training recognized by NSERC ranges from undergraduate theses and summer projects to postdoctoral research, and includes technical and other research personnel.

You must clearly explain your role in any co-supervision of HQP.

The assessment of past contributions to HQP training focuses on the quality and impact of training, as demonstrated through three components. Each component should be supported by your CV and/or application text:

  • Training environment

Describe the research training and development opportunities provided for HQP (e.g., science outreach and engagement, interdisciplinary research, promoting EDI in the natural sciences and engineering, collaborations, interaction with the private and public sectors).

Describe qualitatively any challenges or barriers encountered in ensuring an inclusive research and training environment.

Describe specific actions implemented to support equity and inclusion in recruitment practices, mentorship approaches and initiatives aimed at ensuring an inclusive research and training environment and trainee growth (if applicable).

Important: Trainee demographic data is not requested or required to assess impacts resulting from consideration of EDI in the research and training environment.

For more information on equitable, diverse and inclusive research and training environments, refer to NSERC’s Guide for applicants: Considering equity, diversity and inclusion in your application (questions 1 to 4) and New Frontiers in Research Fund’s (NFRF’s) This link will take you to another Web site Best practices in equity, diversity and inclusion in research.

For more information on equitable and inclusive recruitment practices, refer to the Canada Research Chairs’ (CRC’s) This link will take you to another Web site Equity, diversity and inclusion: A best practices guide for recruitment, hiring and retention and NFRF’s This link will take you to another Web site Best practices in equity, diversity and inclusion in research.

For additional context refer to the FAQ on the evaluation of the HQP criterion.

  • HQP awards and research contributions

Describe research contributions by HQP (e.g., publications, patents, key presentations) and highlight awards, scholarships and fellowships won by HQP.

  • Outcomes and skills gained by HQP

Describe your most significant examples of HQP outcomes, and explain how your training contributed to their success (e.g., skills and experiences gained, outcomes such as further studies or career). A successful outcome can be broadly defined as any outcome in which the HQP has an impact. This impact can be in natural sciences, engineering or other fields, but it needs to be clear how the HQP is using the skills gained in the applicant’s research training environment.

Cases of HQP delays (e.g., maternity or parental leave, personal illness, leave taken for family-related illness or bereavement, delays related to COVID-19) that are beyond your control can be considered. A pattern of prolonged periods of study or frequent student withdrawal from programs should be explained, while providing only minimal personal information needed to explain the issue.

For additional context refer to the Contributions to the training of highly qualified personnel section within NSERC’s Policy and guidelines on contributions to research and training.

Finalize (applicant only)

Applicants must finalize their own My information section; they will not be able to modify it thereafter. For assistance please contact Applicants will need to finalize the co-applicants’ My information in the Participant section of the Shared information.

Shared information (applicant)

Application details

This section will be pre-populated from the LOI but editable.

Application title: Provide a short and descriptive title. It may be used for publication purposes. Limit the use of abbreviated forms (e.g., DNA, NATO, etc.), and avoid company or trade names.

Language of the application: Indicate the language in which the application will be submitted. The main body of your application should be written in either English or French, rather than in a mix of both official languages. The CV, NSERC CCV or Form 100 must be in the same language as the application. If you intend to change the language of application from the LOI, please contact

Invitations — co-applicant(s)

This section will be pre-populated from the LOI. You can still invite or remove co-applicants at the full application stage.

Those invited will receive an email, which will include the applicant’s name, email address and the project title, as well as a link to the Convergence Portal. Once they have selected Accept invitation and completed their own eligibility profile, co-applicants’ names will be displayed in the Participants section of your application.

Eligibility criteria for co-applicants is the same as for applicants; consult the Eligibility criteria for faculty to ensure that potential co-applicants can participate in this grant. It is important that potential applicants consult the eligibility criteria now and discuss any concerns with their institution’s research office.

Note: Email addresses are not verified and bounce-backs are not registered. We strongly recommend that you follow up directly with invited co-applicants if an individual has not accepted your invitation in a timely manner.


This section lists all co-applicants who have successfully joined the application. If an individual has not accepted your invitation, follow up with them to confirm they have received it. If an invited co-applicant is listed as Pending eligibility, they have accepted your invitation but not yet completed their eligibility profile. Before submitting your application, you need to Finalize each of the co-applicants’ sections or remove any invited participant who has not completed their My information section.


This section will be pre-populated from the LOI but editable. Applicants can add and remove collaborators at the full application stage. List the collaborators who will contribute to the execution of research activities but who will not have access to grant funds. Collaborators do not have to provide CV documents.

Any individual whose contributions to the project will be supervised by a member of the research team and/or another collaborator cannot be considered a collaborator.

Field of research

This section will be pre-populated from the LOI but editable. List the fields of research that best describe this specific application according to the This link will take you to another Web site 2019 version of the Canadian Research and Development Classification (CRDC). You must provide at least one primary field of research, and you may list up to a maximum of five fields of research.


This section will be pre-populated from the LOI but editable. List a minimum of five keywords that best describe this specific application. You may list up to a maximum of ten keywords.

Suggested reviewers and reviewer exclusions

These sections cannot be updated at this stage.

Project summary

A limit of 2,500 characters is allowed in the Project summary. Provide a summary of the proposal in language that the public can understand. Using simple terms, state the objectives of the proposed research program, summarize the research approach and highlight the novelty and expected significance of the work.

This summary may be shared with potential external reviewers and used for promotional purposes outside the research community to inform the government, the media and members of the public.

Proposed budget

Discovery Horizons grants are expected to be valued from $50,000 to $100,000 per year, and the duration of the grant will be five years. In this module, you need to enter the requested amount for each year of the grant. The total requested amount should not exceed $500,000. The yearly values must correspond to the amounts calculated in the Proposed expenditures supporting document.

Certification, licenses and permits

Certification requirements: Before completing this section, consult the Requirements for certain types of research.

Research involving the use of animals: If you indicate that your research involves animals, you must provide your institution's administration with the certification from the animal care committee at the institution that the experimental procedures proposed have been approved and that the care and treatment of animals is in accordance with the principles outlined in the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) guide.

Research involving biohazards: If you indicate that your research involves biohazards, you must provide your institution’s administration with the certification from the biosafety committee at the institution that the laboratory procedures being used comply with the safety precautions necessary for the level of containment required by the research.

Research involving human subjects: If you indicate that your research involves human subjects, you must provide your institution's administration with the appropriate certification indicating that research involving humans has been reviewed and has received the required approval.

Research involving human pluripotent stem cells: If you indicate that your research involves human pluripotent stem cells, or if the application is found to fall into this category through peer review and is recommended for funding, it will be forwarded, with your consent, to CIHR’s Stem Cell Oversight Committee (SCOC) to ensure compliance with This link will take you to another Web site Chapter 12, Section F of the Tri-council policy statement: Ethical conduct for research involving humans (TCPS 2). The SCOC review is in addition to the normal review by local research ethics boards (REBs). Funding will not be released until approval has been obtained from the SCOC.

Environmental impact: For more information, consult NSERC’s guidelines on impact assessment.

Supporting documents — attachments

All files must be in PDF format and not exceed 5 MB each.

Note: Any attachments that do not adhere to these instructions will be removed.

Sample of contributions

One PDF attachment containing a maximum of four samples of research contributions—such as reprints, preprints and/or manuscripts, excerpts from your thesis, technical reports, etc.—are to be submitted electronically with your application.

Many contributions to industry or other end users take the form of technical and internal reports, some of which may be confidential to protect proprietary information. If applicable, you may attach letters from industry or end users attesting to the nature, importance and significance of these confidential reports in lieu of a sample contribution.


Limit of ten pages

The primary objective of the Discovery Horizons proposal must be to advance knowledge in the natural sciences or engineering.

Addressing the points below, describe the proposed research to be supported. Images and graphics are included in the page limit. Applications are rated according to the following selection criteria. The onus is on applicants to address these explicitly in their application.

Merit of the proposed research

  • Quality of the proposal
    • clarity, scope and originality of research questions and objectives
  • Methods and approaches
    • appropriateness of the proposed methods and approaches
    • appropriate incorporation of sex, gender and diversity in the research design, if applicable
    • evidence of commitment to the development of active and meaningful partnerships with appropriate individuals and organizations, if applicable
  • Feasibility
    • appropriateness and justification of the budget in relation to the proposed activities
    • appropriateness of the environment (academic institution and/or other organization) to enable the conduct and success of the proposed activities

Anticipated outcomes

  • Impact
    • potential for the outcomes of the proposed activities to have influence and impact
  • Knowledge mobilization and dissemination
    • quality and appropriateness of knowledge mobilization plans, including effective dissemination, exchange and engagement with stakeholders within and/or beyond the research community, where applicable
  • Training plan
    • extent to which the proposed activities incorporate plans for the training and development of HQP
    • appropriate considerations of EDI in the training plan

Record of the applicant(s)

  • Expertise and experience
    • appropriate expertise to undertake the proposed research, including complementary and interdisciplinary knowledge, expertise and experience
    • experience and track record of the investigator(s)—importance, originality, quality and impact of past research
  • Past contribution to the training of HQP
    • quality and extent of past contributions to the training of HQP

Additional considerations when preparing your proposal

Applicants are expected to increase the inclusion and advancement of underrepresented groups in the natural sciences and engineering, as one means to enhance excellence in research and training. Where applicable, consideration of sex, gender and diversity in the research design should be addressed in the proposal. EDI considerations should be developed into the rationale for the composition of research teams, including trainees. For more information, applicants should refer to the application instructions and the This link will take you to another Web site Guide for applicants: Considering equity, diversity and inclusion in your application.

NSERC expects, when applicable, the meaningful and respectful engagement of Indigenous peoples in research activities. Research respectfully involving Indigenous communities is defined as research in any field or discipline that is conducted by, is grounded in or engages with First Nations, Inuit, Métis and/or urban Indigenous communities, societies and/or individuals and their wisdom, cultures, experiences and/or knowledge systems, as expressed in their dynamic forms, past and present.

For more information, please consult the following resources:

The research proposal should reflect that you are aware of and referring to relevant principles and protocols established for this kind of research—such as, following the principles of This link will take you to another Web site OCAP® (i.e., ownership, control, access and possession/protection), the This link will take you to another Web site CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance and/or other principles as determined by relevant communities.


Limit of two pages

Use this section to provide a list of literature references. Do not refer reviewers to websites for additional information on your proposal or include hyperlinks in your list of references.

Proposed expenditures

A mandatory template is downloadable from the Convergence portal. You must provide a five-year budget. Verify all of your entries carefully. The total amount requested from NSERC is calculated automatically by subtracting the total cash contributions, if any, from the total proposed expenditures.

Use the Budget justification (attachment) section to explain and justify each budget item and any contributions from other sources toward the support of the proposed research activities.

In the case of adjunct professors whose primary position is in industry or government, NSERC will award funds only for the direct support of students (salaries or stipends and student travel costs). All other costs must be covered through other sources of funding.

All project expenditures are subject to the principles and directives governing the appropriate use of grant funds as outlined in the Tri-agency guide on financial administration.

Salaries and benefits

Give the names (if known), categories of employment and proposed salaries (with explicit indication of the non-discretionary benefits) of students, postdoctoral fellows and research staff. Briefly describe the responsibilities for each position and indicate the percentage of time they will be spending on this project over its lifespan. Do not include salaries of faculty in project costs.

Refer to the NSERC CCV instructions for information on obtaining consent to name individuals in your proposal.

Equipment or facility

Give a breakdown of the items requested, models, manufacturers, prices and applicable taxes. Justify each item requested.

Note: While the Research Tools and Instruments grants program provides the primary avenue to obtain support for tools and instruments with a net cost between $7,001 and $250,000, equipment of any value can be purchased using a Discovery Horizons grant.

Fees to be paid for the use of equipment or a facility should be described (e.g., hours and rate).

The need for beam time or other special facilities and whether time has been allocated for these should also be reported.

Materials and supplies

Provide details of the budget requested for materials and supplies, and explain major items.


Explain briefly how each travel activity relates to the proposed research.


Provide details of publication costs, user workshops or other activities.

Other expenses

List all items not covered in previous categories and provide a brief explanation for major items.

Contributions from other sources (if applicable)

If appropriate, explain any financial contributions from other sources.

Budget justification

Limit of two pages

Provide a detailed explanation and justification for each budget item identified in the Proposed expenditures page. Provide sufficient information to allow reviewers to assess whether the resources requested are appropriate. Applicants must only use this section for the purpose of justifying the proposed budget.

Relationship to other research support

Limit of 10 pages

This section refers only to other research support that will be or may be active during the funding period of the proposed Discovery Horizons grant by the applicant and co-applicant. Do not include information concerning previous applications or grants that ended or will end before the funding period of the proposed Discovery Horizons grant.

Applications must indicate that the funds requested from the Discovery Horizons program will be for expenses that are distinct from those covered by support from other sources listed in the applicants’ and co-applicants’ CVs. For funding applied for, you must indicate that there will be no duplication of funding for the same expense(s) and explain how funds will be used if all applications are successful. Failure to meet these requirements may result in the application being rejected.

Other sources of research support include grants and contributions (held or applied for) from federal and provincial funding agencies, non-governmental organizations, private sector companies, universities (e.g., institution start-up funds), primary places of employment (for adjunct professors employed outside of academia) and others.

Finalize and submit

Verify all sections are completed.

After clicking on Submit, you will be asked to read and accept the terms and conditions.

After you click on the I accept button, your application is sent to your research administrator for approval and submission to NSERC. The status of your application will be changed to Received by administrator. Once your research administrator has approved and forwarded your application to NSERC, the application status will be changed to Received by agency.

To verify the status of your submission, return to the home page.


NSERC does not require original signatures on applications or other documents submitted electronically using Convergence. User ID/password-based "signatures" allow applicants, supporting organizations and authorized institutional representatives—such as research grants officers, scholarships liaison officers and business officers—to "sign" and submit online applications and other documents to NSERC. Refer to the frequently asked questions in the program guide for professors for more details.

What do the “signatures” mean?

For applicants

Before you can submit your application to NSERC, you must read and agree to the terms and conditions of applying that appear during the submission process. It is your responsibility to retain a copy of the agreed terms and conditions for your records.

The “signatures” of the institutional authorities certify that

  • the institution will abide by the roles and responsibilities set out in the This link will take you to another Web site Agreement on the Administration of Agency Grants and Awards by Research Institutions ("the Agreement") with the three federal granting agencies, including the This link will take you to another Web site Tri-agency framework: Responsible conduct of research, the Tri-agency financial administration guide and the relevant program literature
  • as required by the agreement, the applicant meets the eligibility requirements for the relevant funding opportunity
  • before submitting the application, the institution has obtained written approval from any other institutions involved in the application process
  • you will not use or disclose any information that you obtain or view on the Convergence portal for any purposes other than your participation in the agency's process
  • you understand that the agency reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to terminate or restrict your access to the Convergence portal at any time, without notice

The “signatures” of authorized officers of other supporting organizations certify that the organization

  • agrees with the content of the application and will provide the committed resources
  • agrees to the release of the public summary of the award and to the publication of the organization's name as a supporter of the initiative

If you are both the applicant and a principal of a collaborating organization, another senior official must “sign” on behalf of the organization.

List for a complete application

Use the following list to make sure your application is complete.

  • Applicant’s and co-applicants’ (if appropriate) personal information including:
    • CV interruptions (Convergence portal)
    • free-form CV, NSERC CCV or Form 100 (attachment-no page limit)
    • most significant contributions (attachment—two pages)
    • past contributions to training of HQP (attachment—one page)
  • Fields of research (Convergence portal)
  • Keywords (Convergence portal)
  • Collaborators (Convergence portal)
  • Summary of proposal for public release (Convergence portal—2,500 characters)
  • Proposed budget (Convergence portal)
  • Certification, licences and permits (Convergence portal)
  • Supporting documents (attachments)
    • sample contributions (up to four, in one PDF not exceeding 5 MB)
    • proposal (ten pages)
    • references (two pages)
    • proposed expenditures (downloadable template)
    • budget justification (two pages)
    • relationship to other research support (ten pages)