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Discovery Frontiers Call for Proposals: New Materials for Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency

Value and Duration $1 million per year for four years
Application Deadline March 2, 2015 - Letter of Intent
May 4, 2015 - Invitation to Apply
July 3, 2015 - Application, if invited to apply
Application Procedure See below
For More Information See below


Discovery Frontiers (DF) grants are initiatives that identify and capitalize on emerging opportunities where Canada can benefit from its world-class capacity to take a leadership role in key areas of research and innovation. Discovery Frontiers address national research priorities and global challenges by supporting a small number of major new transformative and integrative activities. These initiatives will generate substantial impact from a one-time injection of funding for a defined period, addressing challenges and seizing leadership opportunities in areas of national importance.

The DF initiative will bring together groups of researchers in new ways to address a major research challenge. The groups will incorporate new and emerging ideas, and combine their complementary expertise to conduct transformative, paradigm-changing research.


Discovery Frontiers grants support a limited number of large international activities, opportunities or projects that are of high priority in the context of advanced research in Canada. These will be led by world-class Canadian researchers and will comprise teams that will generate substantial impact, for the benefit of Canada.

This initiative will bring together groups of researchers in new ways to address a major research challenge. The groups will incorporate new and emerging ideas, and combine their complementary expertise to conduct transformative, paradigm-changing research.

The third call for proposals is in the area of New Materials for Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency.

Resource development of a diverse range of energy sources including wind, solar, nuclear, biomass, natural gas and oil will be of strategic importance to Canada’s economic well-being and the overall sustainability of our high quality of life. While conventional hydrocarbon resources will remain important into the future, important efficiencies could ensue from, for example, new technologies which exploit microbially-derived energy sources. Similarly, the development of new chemical catalysts which generate highly valued materials or energy-rich precursors from renewable sources will complement these biocatalysis approaches. Efficiencies associated with power transmission and energy storage have the potential to greatly reduce the need for increased generation of power, and have great promise for reducing the environmental footprint associated with the production of energy.

A common thread that binds together the above areas of energy development and use is materials research. New materials with improved characteristics are key to solving many energy related problems and creating new opportunities for clean energy production and increased energy efficiency. Many energy-related challenges are limited by the physical and chemical properties of currently available technological materials. New materials are only just beginning to lead to solutions to the key grand challenge of energy efficiency.

This DF initiative spans a wide range of disciplines including materials physics, chemistry, microbiology and engineering. It will support research in new materials to improve energy production and the efficiency of alternative and conventional energy systems and provide novel solutions to mitigate environmental challenges associated with energy production. It will also cover paradigm-shifting approaches to making molecules and materials with low waste/energy properties; developing methods to examine the persistence and ecotoxicology of high use molecules and seeking replacements for problematic ones leading to cleaner energy production.

It is expected that this DF grant will:

  • enable cross-fertilization of ideas and out-of-the box thinking across the natural sciences and engineering disciplines;
  • further strengthen Canada’s leadership role and capacity in the area;
  • produce valuable knowledge that will be disseminated in the appropriate fashion to maximize its impact; and
  • build synergies with, but not duplicate, existing materials science funding initiatives.

Approaches used will emphasize bold initiatives and interdisciplinary thinking with potential for long-term impacts. International linkages will be required.


Other than the general eligibility criteria found in the Discovery Frontiers grants description, there are no additional criteria that apply to this call for proposals.

Application Procedure

Applicants begin by submitting a Letter of Intent (LOI). The LOI must include a cover page (one page), a research proposal (maximum five pages) and biographical information on the team (maximum two pages). All documents should follow the NSERC On-line Presentation and Attachment Standards.

The cover page must include:

  • the project title;
  • a list of up to 10 keywords;
  • an approximate budget request, by project year;
  • the applicant’s name, affiliation, telephone number and email address; and
  • a list of all co-applicants, with affiliation and email address.

The research proposal should include:

  • a description of the main research challenges and activities;
  • a discussion of anticipated participation by collaborators, such as international researchers and government scientists, and their roles;
  • a discussion of anticipated outcomes and benefits;
  • a description of the plans for training of highly qualified personnel; and
  • a high level summary of the major budget items with justification.

The biographical information should contain short biographies of the applicant and co-applicants and their areas of expertise.

The LOI should be saved as a single portable document format (PDF) document, and uploaded to NSERC’s secure portal before the deadline.

Note that details concerning proposals that are successful at the LOI stage will be published on NSERC’s website.

Review Procedures and Selection Criteria

An international committee will review the LOIs. The review process at the LOI stage is intended to select those proposals that best fit the program objectives and best address the LOI review criteria with an emphasis on the merit of the proposal. The review criteria are as follows:

Merit of the research proposal

  • Novelty of the proposed approach
  • Potential to be transformative and have high international impact
  • Potential to create new fields of research
  • Potential to extend and/or complement national and international work in the area
  • Appropriateness of the methods and approaches in terms of the research objectives
  • Feasibility of the research given the projected resources and timeline
  • Degree of integration across disciplines and with international collaborators
  • Anticipated outcomes and benefits to the wider community

Excellence of the applicants and complementarity of expertise

Potential for value-added training of highly qualified personnel

Full Proposals


Applicants who are invited to submit a full proposal will be given further instructions on submission details at the time of invitation.

Review Procedures and Selection Criteria

Full proposals will be reviewed through a rigorous independent peer review process, undertaken by a multidisciplinary international committee, to assess their eligibility, research merit and potential for benefits to the research community as well as to ensure that sound management and financial practices are implemented. Excellence in terms of the review criteria at the very highest of international standards must be demonstrated for funding to be awarded to the most meritorious proposal.

The applications will be reviewed using the following criteria. Please note that the descriptive phrases that follow the criteria below are not exhaustive.

Research Proposal

Research Context and Originality

  • To what extent does the proposed research lead, extend and/or complement national and international work in the area?
  • To what extent does the proposed research reflect creative, original thinking?
  • To what extent could the proposed research have an impact beyond the field of materials science?

Research Plans

  • How appropriate are the methods and approaches (including handling of data and resources) in terms of the research objectives?
  • How feasible is the research given the projected resources and timelines?

Research Expertise

  • How appropriate is the expertise of the research team in terms of realizing the research goals?
  • How effectively will the project bring together expertise from complementary disciplines?

Research Environment

  • How suitable are the available facilities and equipment?



  • To what extent have the applicants identified appropriate deliverables in terms of their potential to have practical applicability to the research community in the long term?

Expected Benefits

  • How significant are the anticipated benefits described in the proposal?
  • What is the potential for the initiative to achieve excellence in the training of highly qualified personnel?

Strategy for Realizing Benefits

  • How appropriate is the plan for access to, and dissemination of, the tools and methodologies developed?
  • Quality of the plan describing how the deliverables from the research will be transferred, disseminated, used, and/or applied to realize the benefits.
  • How high is the potential for community impact and/or uptake, regardless of the type of dissemination plan proposed?

Expertise for Realizing Benefits

  • To what extent are likely end-users involved in the project and the strategy to realize benefits?

Management Plans and Expertise

  • How well does the management plan cover project governance, accountabilities of personnel, and processes for decision-making on research direction and strategy for realizing benefits?
  • How convincing is the management plan in terms of coordination of current and future partnerships?
  • How realistic is the project schedule?
  • To what extent do the project leaders have experience in managing projects with multidisciplinary teams involving research?
  • How good are the plans to ensure that an adequate number of highly qualified personnel—both support personnel (e .g., technicians) and trainees (e.g., post-doctoral fellows)—are available to meet the needs of the proposed research through recruitment and/or training?

Budget and Expenditure Controls

  • How reasonable is the proposed budget in terms of the anticipated level of effort and deliverables?
  • To what extent does the proposal provide assurance that expenditures from a funded project would be closely and critically monitored?

Use of Funds

Refer to the Use of Grant Funds section of the Tri-Agency Financial Administration Guide for details on eligible expenses.


Regular reporting will be required for this award. A scientific review committee will assess scientific progress annually. The review will provide information regarding the progress of the project according to the proposed timelines. The scientific review committee can also provide advice to the project team if it feels that changes to project milestones or direction are necessary. NSERC will use the scientific review committee’s report to determine whether funding for the project will be continued, reduced or terminated.

Financial reports will also be reviewed annually.

Specific details on the format and schedule and other required information will be available at the time of award.


Dave Bowen
Discovery Frontiers
350 Albert St.
Ottawa, ON  K1A 1H5

Tel.: 613-992-1482