Alliance Advantage

Funding your research project

You and your co-applicants may receive funds from multiple sources to cover the costs of your research project.

These sources of funds could include:

  • Alliance grant funding from NSERC to cover the direct costs of the research, in proportion to the amount provided by the partner organizations recognized for cost sharing (see Cost sharing)
  • cash contributions from your partner organizations for the direct costs of your research project (not including overhead)
  • cash provided by the university or by external sources, such as other funding agencies

The funds from NSERC and the partner organizations must be paid to eligible universities and cannot be used to buy equipment, products or services from any partner organization, or to cover any part of the travel and travel-related subsistence expenditures for partner organization personnel.

Cost sharing

NSERC’s grant is calculated on the basis of cost sharing with partner organizations.

The portion of the cost of your project that can be cost shared with NSERC includes only cash contributions from partner organizations that are recognized for cost sharing (see Cash contributions from partner organizations). You can include cash contributions that were spent, up to three months before the application is submitted, to start the project. However, NSERC funds can only be applied to expenses incurred after an award is approved.

The calculation of the amount you can request from NSERC does not include cash contributions from:

  • partner organizations that are not recognized for cost sharing
  • the university
  • other funders
Alliance Advantage Limit on number of applications per year: none
Value: over $20,000 to $1 million per year
Duration: one to five years
Partner requirements NSERC contribution to project’s direct costs

At least one partner up to an unlimited number of partners. Partners can be from the private sector, government or not-for-profit organizations

66.7% (2:1 leverage)

To calculate the maximum amount of NSERC funding you may request, you must:

  • determine the total project cost
  • subtract any cash contributions from partner organizations not recognized for cost sharing, such as the university or other funders; the result must equate to the total cash contributions from partner organizations recognized for cost sharing plus the NSERC request

To show the full scope of the project, you must include all of the project's direct costs funded by sources other than NSERC in the budget table. All costs must be explained in the proposal and will be considered in the merit assessment of your proposal.

In-kind contributions are important for the success of the project even though they are not taken into account in the cost-sharing calculations with NSERC. All partner organizations participating in the project must play an active role and make in-kind contributions through such involvement. In-kind contributions are considered in the merit assessment of your proposal (see Evaluation criteria).

Cash contributions by partner organizations toward expenses other than the project’s direct costs (e.g., cash contribution toward an institutional research chair held by the applicant) may be described in the proposal to provide broader context about the depth of the partnership. Such contributions are not taken into account in the cost-sharing calculations with NSERC and must not be included in the total project cost.

Voucher for early career researchers 

If you are an applicant who is an early career researcher (see Discovery Grants: What is an early career researcher?), you can apply for a $10,000 voucher to replace some or all of the required cash contributions from your partner organizations. The $10,000 will be counted as part of cash contributions from partners in calculating NSERC’s funding toward the project. NSERC matches partner contributions in a 2:1 ratio for Alliance Advantage grants. Therefore, the $10,000 voucher will be matched with $20,000 for a total of $30,000.

Vouchers are being offered through a pilot program to make it easier for early career researchers to participate in Alliance Advantage grants and to involve partner organizations. The pilot program will provide vouchers to up to 200 eligible researchers. You must submit a Letter of intent through the NSERC online system (see Alliance Advantage — Letter of intent and redemption: voucher for early career researchers). The Letter of intent involves providing basic information about yourself and attaching your personal data form with CCV. You must submit your Letter of intent by February 22, 2024, 8:00 p.m. (ET).

If NSERC receives more than 200 Letters of intent, it will choose recipients through a random selection process.

Eligible expenses

You can include only NSERC-eligible direct costs of research in your project budget, such as:

  • salary support for research trainees (undergraduates, graduates and postdoctoral fellows) to perform research and related training
  • salary support for technicians and research professional personnel
  • materials and supplies
  • activities that support collaborations and knowledge mobilization related to the project
  • activities to develop and grow the research collaborations with the partner organizations

Refer to the guidelines on the use of grant funds in the Tri-agency guide on financial administration.

You can also include the costs of equipment, provided that the equipment is:

  • essential to achieving the objectives of the research project
  • incremental to the equipment already available at the university or at the partner organization’s location

If your total expected equipment cost (including operation and maintenance) exceeds $400,000 over your project’s duration, then you should apply for an alternate source of funding, such as the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund. NSERC and CFI have developed a joint application and review procedure for these cases. You may contact NSERC or CFI for more details.

For projects involving multiple partner organizations and/or universities, you may also include project management costs, up to 10% of the total direct research costs (see Guidelines for research partnerships programs project management expenses).

Extension of grants

Your grant can be extended in various ways. You can take advantage, as required, of three types of extensions: an optional one-year extension with additional funding, an automatic one-year extension without additional funding, or an additional one-year extension without additional funding for extenuating circumstances. These extensions can also be combined.

If you have found new opportunities as your project unfolds, you may request additional funding for a one-year extension period. This option is available only for grants under Alliance Advantage and only if the initial period of your grant was one to four years (five-year grants are excluded). You must apply for a funded extension in the first six months of the last year of your initial grant. If you wish to take advantage of a funded extension, you must complete it before other extensions without funding. For more information, see During your research project.

Following the initial period of your grant or a funded extension, NSERC will automatically extend your grant for one year to allow you to complete your planned activities. No additional funding is provided for this automatic one-year extension. Automatic extensions do not apply to special Alliance calls funded jointly with other organizations unless mentioned in the special call. This extension can follow the initial term or, if you have successfully applied for the optional one-year extension with additional funding, after the funded extension.

If you need additional extensions due to justifiable extenuating circumstances, you can apply for these using a grant amendment form. Such extensions are up to one year at a time and do not include additional funding.

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