You can apply to support any R&D project that seeks to respond to a research challenge in the natural sciences or engineering (see Selecting the appropriate federal granting agency). However, you cannot use an Alliance grant to support secret or contract research.
Collaborating outside the natural sciences and engineering
Developing and implementing policies or directly applying your research results may depend on socio-economic or other requirements, as well as scientific understanding beyond the natural sciences and engineering (NSE). You are encouraged to collaborate with academic researchers in fields other than the NSE. Such researchers may be co-applicants for Alliance grants if they meet NSERC’s eligibility criteria for faculty. Research costs for these collaborations can represent up to 30% of the cost-shared project costs (see Cost-sharing) and must be specifically identified in the project budget justification.
To increase the impact of Canadian NSE research in the global research community, you may incorporate international collaborations into your project proposal. You may interact with foreign colleagues in a variety of ways to enhance collaboration and increase your project’s impact. Refer to the Tri-agency guide on financial administration regarding the eligibility of expenses you may incur in support of such collaborations.
Projects supported through a higher NSERC contribution (Cost-sharing option 2)
NSERC will provide you with a higher contribution to encourage NSE research aiming to address a societal challenge. These projects must have the three characteristics below to justify the need for a higher level of investment with public funds (up to 90% or 100% of the project costs). Your partnership must include at least one partner organization that could be recognized for cost-sharing, although a cash contribution may not be required. The challenge may have longer-term benefits but need current attention. Although you may not be able to achieve your ultimate goals in the scope and timelines of the project, the NSERC contribution will allow you to make crucial advances toward these goals.
1. Societal impact
Your project should result in both new technical knowledge and societal impact. The research may tackle national priorities or global issues also affecting Canada, or generate societal benefits such as improving quality of life, health and safety, public goods and resources, prosperity and/or sustainability. Public benefits can be realized in any sector—private, public or not-for-profit. But such benefits must be more than improvements to a product or a service for increased profit; the project must aim for impacts beyond near-term economic success. Your project may build capacity to transform a sector and its practices; it may provide the evidence base for new policies or regulations; it could solve an issue affecting a whole business area or create a new area of the economy. The main principle is that the outcomes will reach beyond the partner organizations to impact society.
2. Making connections
Like all Alliance projects, there must be a meaningful partnership. Your collaborative project must be defined by working with end-users and implementers to ensure it is use- and needs-driven. The approach should bring together academic, partner organization and societal perspectives and skill sets throughout the collaboration to merge ideas, overcome existing barriers and find creative solutions. Results and impacts are stronger when the project makes connections among actors in your partner organization’s network, creates new relationships or leverages existing efforts and integrates solutions with decision-makers within and across sectors. These non-academic organizations understand the challenge and have the potential to contribute to solving it, although they cannot resolve the problem on their own. The partner organizations need not always provide a share of the monetary support but instead might advance the project through other important functions. Despite a limited financial contribution, your partner organizations must demonstrate a high level of commitment and participation. They must also show how the project is a valuable opportunity to connect with others and must be committed to sharing results beyond their own organizations.
3. Broad outcomes
Your project must aim for outcomes that do not simply benefit the partner organizations. The results will be shared in various ways, including technical formats, such as publications, and broad channels and formats, such as open guidelines. Your proposal must explain how all interested individuals will both learn about and use the products, services or policies that stem from this research. Any intellectual property management appropriate for these projects should be decided by you and your partner organizations through a plan that ensures that any interested individuals can access the promised outcomes.