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College and Community Innovation program - Engage Grants

Effective June 1, 2019, Engage and Engage Plus grants will only be available for college applicants.

For university applicants, commitments for previously awarded Engage and Engage Plus grants will be honoured under the original terms and conditions of the grant, but no new applications will be accepted.

For the latest information on the new Alliance grants, consult the Alliance grants web page.

Accessibility notice: If you cannot access the following content, please contact the online services helpdesk by email at or by telephone at 613-995-4273. Indicate the email address and telephone number where you can be reached.

Value Up to $25,000 for up to six months
Application deadline No deadline
How to apply See below
Application forms
  • Form 103CV (form-fillable) – CCI personal data form and instructions
  • Form 103 – application for the CCI program
  • Form 183A – information required from organizations participating in research partnerships
To create or access online applications, select online system login.
To view instructions, select PDF forms and instructions.
Contact Consult the contact list

Important information

Consult the Engage Grants for colleges application checklist and proposal template and these following sections:

Engage Grants are open to eligible Canadian colleges.


Engage Grants are designed to give innovative companies that operate from a Canadian base access to the knowledge, expertise and capabilities available at Canadian colleges (see the list of eligible institutions). These grants are intended to foster the development of new research partnerships by supporting short-term research and development projects aimed at addressing a company-specific problem.

The simplified application and decision processes enable colleges to quickly undertake new research collaborations that extend academic expertise to these problems. The mutually beneficial projects are expected to result in economic benefits to the company and to Canada and build impactful longer term collaborations between the college and the company.

Following an Engage Grant, applicants may apply for follow-on support for an additional six months of related research activity through an Engage Plus grant, in order to further developments from an ongoing or recently completed Engage Grant project, or to continue the project while seeking longer-term support (through, for example, an Applied Research and Development grant [ARD]).

Equity, diversity and inclusion

NSERC is acting on the evidence that equity, diversity and inclusion strengthen the scientific and engineering community and the quality, social relevance and impact of research. Increasing equity, diversity and inclusion in the research enterprise are key priorities in our current strategic plan, NSERC 2020, and are highlighted in the strategic goal, “Build a Diversified and Competitive Research Base.”


Engage Grants support well-defined research projects undertaken by eligible colleges and their industrial partners. A maximum grant of $25,000 over a period of normally six months will be awarded to support the project costs. As the College and Community Innovation (CCI) program funding is used to support Engage Grants , proposed projects can be across the spectrum of natural and social sciences, engineering, humanities or health. Grants are provided by NSERC, with the exception of funded proposals exclusively in the social sciences, humanities or health sciences, which will be provided by SSHRC or CIHR, as appropriate.

The proposal must involve an eligible company that has not previously partnered with the college on applied research; that is, the college should have no existing relationship with the company. A previous research collaboration with a company or any of its divisions, a consulting contract in excess of a few days, or involvement of a member(s) of the college research team with the company is considered an existing relationship.

An Engage project must generate new knowledge or apply existing knowledge in an innovative manner in order to solve a company-specific problem. This problem must relate directly to the goods and services provided by the company, and the company must be capable of further developing the results after the project is completed. The project must be focused on a research challenge with specific short-term objectives. All proposals must provide detailed planning and sound budget justification. The proposal must also clearly spell out the underlying assumptions, intended approaches and methodologies, as well as the key milestones and deliverables.

As the projects must have a meaningful research component, proposals are not eligible for an Engage Grant if they

  • focus on the commercialization of a university or college invention
  • focus on the routine application of existing technology or tools to the industry partner’s operations
  • provide routine analysis or routine use of equipment at the college
  • collect data without interpreting underlying mechanisms
  • seek to certify, endorse, validate or performance test an existing product, process or material (unless accompanied by significant efforts to investigate the underlying scientific or engineering question or to improve or better understand the product, process or material)
  • include excessive literature review and/or patent searches
  • relate to the set-up and operational management of an institute or a formal or informal group of researchers
  • aim to develop an industry standard (unless the partner is an industry association)
  • provide professional practice or consulting services
  • are principally associated with the acquisition or maintenance of scientific equipment

Applications that aim to solve an industry-wide problem affecting a number of companies should be addressed by industry associations or a group of companies. These projects are likely to be more suitable for ARD grants. Please contact the College and Community Innovation (CCI) program team to discuss the appropriate grant type for the project.

Industrial participation

The guidelines for organizations participating in research partnerships must be consulted to determine the eligibility of the participating company.

The company is expected to collaborate with the researchers at all stages of the research project (i.e., assist in developing the proposal and, as the project unfolds, interact regularly with the college research team and other research personnel and provide input on the project). As the project focuses on a company-specific problem, there should normally be only one company partner involved in Engage Grant applications. The participation of an additional, supporting company may be considered, but must be discussed with NSERC before starting an application.

At minimum, an in-kind contribution from the company reflecting its active involvement in the project is required. A detailed description in keeping with the guidelines for eligibility and value of the contributions, including the maximum hourly rate for salary costs (see the guidelines for organizations participating in research partnerships) must be provided and must indicate how the total value of each contribution item was determined.

Industrial partners will be limited to participating in up to two new Engage Grants per fiscal year (April 1 to March 31). However, industrial partners providing cash contributions to ongoing, NSERC-funded projects with a matching requirement (e.g., CRD grants, ARD grants, Engage Plus or Industrial Research Chairs), will be allowed to participate in up to two additional Engage Grants per fiscal year, for a total of four continuing Engage projects. This will allow companies that currently demonstrate a commitment to industrial–academic research collaboration greater opportunity to make use of Engage Grants to expand their collaborative network and to continue collaborations established through Engage Grants.

Intellectual property

Due to the focus on a problem specific to the company and the short duration of this grant, any intellectual property arising from the project will belong to the company. The college must have the right to use the new knowledge or technology in future teaching and research, and faculty and students must have the right to describe the project on their curriculum vitae.

Application procedures

Proposals can be submitted at any time. A letter of support from the company involved in the project must be provided and must outline the company's support for, contribution to, and agreement with the research project plan, by responding to each of the following points:

  • evidence of a corporate objective to grow through the development, in Canada, of innovative, technology-driven new or improved products, services or processes
  • the nature of the company-specific problem
  • the efforts to date that the company has invested towards addressing this problem and the company’s need for this research project
  • the activities that led to the proposed collaboration
  • the business opportunity for the company
  • how the company expects to integrate the research results into its operations and how this will change the offered products, services or processes
  • the subsequent effort the company will invest following the project’s completion to advance the results in Canada
  • what benefits the anticipated outcomes will bring to the company as well as the relevant timeframe for achieving those benefits
  • the anticipated interaction of the company’s personnel with the applicant during the project
  • the plans for longer term, continued collaboration

In order to adequately address the above points, a typical letter of support is two pages. Letters of support that do not adequately address these points will be considered insufficient, and the application will be rejected.

The in-kind contribution by the company (required) must be clearly detailed (e.g., indicate the role of company personnel, the number of hours to be devoted to the project, the hourly rate of compensation used to assess the value of the in-kind contribution, and how the total value was calculated). The calculation of contribution values must also respect the maximum amounts outlined in the guidelines for organizations participating in research partnerships.

Full instructions for the applicant and the participating company on completing the forms and on the online submission process are found on NSERC's online services page. Form 103 (for colleges) should be created before creating form 183A. Please see the online services instructions for more information.

Consult the Engage Grants for colleges application checklist and proposal template for a summary of information that needs to be addressed in a completed application.

Award information

Decisions on funding Engage Grants are usually made within approximately six weeks. Projects are expected to start within a few weeks from the date of the award letter. Grant funds are normally available within 30 days of an award decision. Terms and Conditions of Award detailing the responsibilities of participants in the collaboration and regulations concerning the grant will be provided at that time. Any expenses related to the project incurred before the notice of award decision has been issued will not be covered by the grant. Due to the short-term nature of this grant and its orientation towards solving a company-specific problem with limited funds, resources must be used exclusively on the resolution of the problem.

Budgets that request ineligible expenses will be reduced without opportunity to redirect the funds to other expenditures. Based on the results obtained or problems encountered after the project commences, grantees may propose amendments to the project budget. In this context, requests to change the allocation of project funds by more than 20% per budget line-item require prior approval by NSERC and must be supported by a revised budget, a rationale for the proposed change and documentation from the partners supporting the request.

Specific rules for the use of grant funds

The CCI program will use the 2017 College and Community Innovation program tri-agency financial administration guide as its general guideline for the acceptable use of grant funds until March 31, 2022. On April 1, 2022 the CCI program will transition to the 2019 Tri-agency guide on financial administration. However, colleges that are ready may optionally begin using the 2019 Tri-agency guide on financial administration as of April 1, 2021.

Exceptions to the Use of grant funds section of the 2017 College and Community Innovation program tri-agency financial administration guide and the 2019 Tri-agency guide on financial administration are listed below.

The following expenditures are eligible:

  • Overhead and administration costs up to 20% of the annual grant amount
  • Course load reduction costs to cover the salary of a replacement faculty hired to backfill a faculty member’s involvement in an applied research project and expenditures associated with recruitment related activities
  • Salaries and non-discretionary benefits for non-faculty researchers and part-time faculty
  • Salaries associated with project management activities leading to the optimal use of project resources to meet the objectives of the research in a timely and budget efficient manner
  • Equipment, operating, supplies, and consultant fees up to 20% of project costs

Selection criteria

Applications are evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Technical merit: The proposal must describe the research challenge to be addressed through the project. The project must be scientifically sound, technically feasible and promise either to apply knowledge in an innovative manner or to lead to new knowledge. The project plan must be appropriate and sufficiently detailed. It must outline the tasks that will be undertaken and the associated research challenges.
  • Applied research competence: The research team must have all the expertise required to address the defined objectives competently and to complete the project successfully. For example, the project lead is expected to have conducted a research project of comparable scale with partners in the past. Academic expertise may be complemented by the know-how in the partnering company.
  • Industrial relevance and potential for innovation impact: The proposal must clearly identify and describe the company-specific problem; how the work will lead to improved products, processes, procedures or service delivery that benefits the company; and how the company will incorporate the results of the project in-house and exploit the outcomes within a reasonable timeframe. Timelines for realizing innovation impact should be specified in the application. These considerations must also be clearly reflected in the company’s support letter, as indicated in the Application Procedures section, above.
  • Industrial participation and plan for technology transfer: As an Engage Grant aims to develop a new research relationship, the project plan must detail regular interactions between the participants in order to create a strong partnership between the college researchers and the company. The proposal must identify how the company will be involved, how the college research team and the company's scientific/technical staff will work together to ensure that the knowledge/technology will be transferred effectively to the company, and the expected deliverables. Any plans for longer term, continued collaboration must also be outlined in the proposal.
  • Benefit to Canada: As well as the economic benefit to the company described under the Industrial Relevance criterion above, the proposal must briefly outline any additional economic, social and environmental benefits that could be realized in Canada.


A report on the project’s outcomes is required from the grantee and company representative within one month following the end of the grant. Near the end of the grant, the grantee and company representative will be contacted by NSERC and asked to complete separate reports on the project. A message with instructions for completing the reports will be sent to the email addresses indicated in the application. Please note that subsequent applications from either of the participants may not be evaluated until outstanding project reports or company comments are provided to NSERC for previous Engage Grants or other grant types. NSERC may also contact the participants for further information on the impacts of the grant. Colleges must also submit a completed Grants in Aid of Research – Statement of Account (form 301) at the end of the project.

Engage Plus

To further developments from an ongoing or recently completed Engage Grant project, or to continue the project while seeking longer-term support, applicants may apply for a subsequent Engage Plus grant to support a project for an additional six months. As was the case with the initial Engage Grant, the intellectual property will belong to the company. The project must involve the same college and the same industrial partner. Additional academic and industrial participants can be included in the Engage Plus project, provided that the original Engage Grant team remains in place and continues to participate in the Engage Plus project. Any new companies added to the Engage Plus project must address their participation, rationale and ability to exploit the results in their letter of support (as outlined in the Industrial participation section).

Only one Engage Plus grant can be awarded as a follow-on to an Engage Grant.

To demonstrate its commitment to furthering the project, the industrial partner must contribute cash to the direct project costs in an amount at least equal to the amount requested from NSERC. NSERC will match the cash contribution of the partner up to a maximum of $12,500. Any portion of the cash contribution that college requests as overhead will not be matched. In-kind contributions are also required to reflect the company’s ongoing involvement in the project, but will not be matched by NSERC. The company’s cash contribution is normally required within 30 days of an award decision. Company cash contributed before the proposal is submitted may be used to start the project. Only funds available as of the date the application was received at NSERC can be leveraged. NSERC funds cannot be applied to expenses incurred before a project was approved. The limitations described in the Award information and the Specific rules for the use of grant funds sections apply to Engage Plus grants as well.

The application procedures are the same as described, but must also include a summary of the progress achieved within the original Engage project as well as a clear explanation of the goals of the Engage Plus grant and their relationship with the results obtained to date. Accordingly, applications for an Engage Plus grant will be accepted only once some progress has been reached within the Engage Grant or within the six-month period following the end of the grant. The industrial partner must provide an updated letter of support that addresses the points listed in the application procedures section, as well as outlining an assessment of progress to date, and the industrial partner’s expectations for the Engage Plus project. Decisions will be communicated within approximately six weeks.

An Engage Plus grant does not count towards the limit of one Engage Grant awarded per fiscal year for a company.