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Memo to potential applicants
Notification of intent to apply for a Discovery Grant 2021 competition

It is time to start preparing your Discovery Grant application. A notification of intent to apply (NOI) must be submitted by the deadline date of August 4, 2020, 8:00 p.m. (ET). NSERC will not accept an NOI after the deadline date.

The NOI is mandatory when applying for a Discovery Grant. Applicants who do not submit an NOI cannot submit a full application. The information contained in the NOI allows NSERC to start some aspects of the review process, including the preliminary assignment to an evaluation group, the selection of external reviewers and the verification of the eligibility of the subject matter.

Before submitting an NOI

If you currently hold a Discovery Grant, you are encouraged to verify the balance of your account. If the available funds are sufficient to cover anticipated expenditures through the next fiscal year, you can request a deferral of instalment or take advantage of the automatic one-year extension to use the accumulated funds prior to submitting a new request for funding. Note that postponing an application does not adversely affect the review of your next application but, rather demonstrates good fiscal management of the funds and allows you to reorganize your activities and postpone the submission of a new application by one year. It also provides the opportunity for the agency to fund other researchers with more urgent needs.

If you currently hold a Discovery Grant and have taken maternity, parental, medical or family medical leave during the grant period, you may request an extension of the term of the current grant, and in certain cases additional funds, for a period of up to two years. Learn more.

To lessen the impact due to COVID-19 and to support all of our researchers and highly qualified personnel, all active Discovery Grants can elect to receive a one-year extension with funds at their current funding level. This includes new grants from the recent 2020 competition.

This one year extension will be granted for the following programs: Discovery Grants, Discovery Grants – Subatomic Physics (Individual, Project and Major Resources Support), Discovery Grants – Northern Research Supplements and Discovery Development Grants.

Please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions and visit the NSERC program information in relation to COVID‑19 webpage, which are updated regularly.

Application process for Discovery Grants

You must submit your NOI and the NSERC version of the This link will take you to another Web site Canadian Common CV (CCV) using the research portal. Refer to the instructions on how to complete the NOI and CCV. We encourage you to start completing your CCV early, as it can be time-consuming to populate the fields the first time.

For more information on the Discovery Grants Program, send an email to

Equity, diversity and inclusion

Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) strengthen the scientific and engineering communities and the quality, social relevance and impact of research.

Applicants should refer to Guide for applicants: Considering equity, diversity and inclusion in your application and to Discovery Grants instructions on how to integrate EDI considerations into their application.

Applicant category early career researcher

Early career researchers (ECR) are applicants who have held an independent academic position for five years or less. The five-year window for being considered an ECR is adjusted to take into account instances where a researcher has had an eligible delay in research. All eligible leaves (for example, maternity, paternity, medical, bereavement) will now be credited as twice the amount of time taken, and the window will be adjusted accordingly. For example, a researcher submitting an NOI in August 2020, and who took a seven-month parental leave within the past five years must have been hired on or after May 2014 in order to be considered an ECR. Professional leaves (for example, training, sabbatical, administrative) will not be credited.

DND/NSERC Discovery Grant supplement

The DND/NSERC Discovery Grant supplement was launched in the 2017 competition. The joint initiative between the Department of National Defence (DND) and NSERC aims to support unclassified university-based research dedicated to the development of non-weapon specific technologies with dual-use applications in defence and security target areas. To apply for this supplement, you must indicate your interest in the Discovery Grant application. Refer to the instructions for details.

Northern Research Supplement

To apply for a Northern Research Supplement (NRS), you must indicate your interest and include the required attachments as part of the Discovery Grant application on the research portal. Refer to the program description for details.

Attestation on confidential research contributions

Applicants to the Discovery Grants and Subatomic Physics grants programs may now include attachments reporting on the nature and significance of any confidential technical and internal reports (if applicable). This attachment is meant for letters from industry or end-users attesting to the importance of any confidential reports that cannot be listed in the application.

Research Tools and Instruments grants

The number of selection criteria for the Research Tools and Instruments (RTI) grants program has been reduced from five to three. The selection criteria are as follows:

  1. need, urgency and suitability of equipment for the research programs
  2. merit of the research programs supported by the equipment and excellence of the applicant(s)
  3. importance of the equipment for the training of highly qualified personnel

In addition to this change, there will also be applied weighting for each criterion. The weighted scoring method is expected to provide applicants with more detailed scoring on their proposals.