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College and Community Innovation program – Innovation Links grants

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Overview
Duration Up to three years
Application deadline No deadline
How to apply See below
Application forms
  • F103CV (form-fillable) – CCI personal data form and instructions
  • Form 100 – Personal data form
  • Form 103 – Application for the CCI program
  • Form 183A – Information required from organizations participating in research partnerships programs
To complete the F103CV or to view its instructions, select the link above.

To create or access online applications, select Online system login. To view forms and instructions, select PDF forms and instructions.
For more information Consult the contact list

Important information

The College and Community Innovation (CCI) program is managed by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) in collaboration with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). All applications must be submitted to NSERC. Innovation Links grants support projects across the spectrum of the natural and social sciences, engineering, humanities and/or health sciences fields. Grants are given by NSERC, with the exception of funded proposals exclusively in the social sciences, humanities and/or health sciences, which will be given by SSHRC or CIHR, as appropriate.

Equity, diversity and inclusion

Achieving a more equitable, diverse and inclusive Canadian research enterprise is essential to creating the excellent, innovative and impactful research necessary to advance knowledge and understanding, and to respond to local, national and global challenges. This principle informs the commitments described in the Tri-agency statement on equity, diversity and inclusion.

Applicants are encouraged to consider sex, gender and diversity in the project’s research design. Diversity and gender equity should also be considered when developing the research team and considering how to promote and support a variety of forms of mentoring to ensure trainees’ equitable participation and growth. Applicants should refer to the Guide for applicants: Considering equity, diversity and inclusion in your application for more information.

Objectives

Innovation Links grants are intended to develop and strengthen research links between colleges, universities and businesses to accelerate the development of promising technologies and promote their commercialization into the Canadian marketplace.

Description

Innovation Links grants support college-university collaborations working with the business sector to realize successful commercialization. Direct project costs are shared by the company partner(s) and the CCI program. Projects may span up to three years in duration.

All proposals require evidence of strong partnerships with firms, close collaboration between academic institutions, detailed planning, sound budget justification, and a clarity and focus of research objectives, and must clearly spell out the underlying assumptions, intended approaches, milestones and deliverables.

Innovation Links grants are intended to support college and university participation in the improvement or extension of existing company technology or commercial products, processes and/or services. Commercialization projects that seek to deliver new products, processes or services based on intellectual property developed in academia should seek support from NSERC’s Idea to Innovation grants or CIHR’s Proof of Principle program.

Innovation Links grants can be up to $250,000 per year for both the college and university participants combined. The maximum grant for either participant is $125,000 per year. The eligible company partner(s) contribution(s) must be at least equal to the amount requested from NSERC, in cash and/or in-kind – of which at least one third must be in cash (e.g., for a maximum request of $125,000 for the college participants and $125,000 for the university participants the company partner(s) total contribution(s) must be at least $250,000, of which a minimum of $83,333 must be in cash). The award amounts to the institutions do not have to be equal and the distribution of funds may vary from year to year. See the Form 103 Innovation Links application instructions for more details.

Partnership arrangement

Innovation Links grants capitalize on the broad spectrum of capacities available in Canadian colleges and universities. Either the college or university applicant can be the project lead.  The project lead must be eligible to administer federal granting agency funds according to the eligibility requirements for colleges or universities (as appropriate) of at least one of the three federal granting agencies (NSERC, CIHR and/or SSHRC). Grants will be given to and administered by the project lead’s institution. Once the grant funds have been transmitted to the lead institution by NSERC, CIHR or SSHRC, the project lead’s institution will transfer funds to the other institution in accordance with the application’s approved budget.

The company partner(s) must participate in the project and contribute to the direct costs of research with the required cash and in-kind contributions. The proposal must state to which academic institution the company partner’s contributions will be directed, particularly any cash contribution, if applicable.

Year-to-year funding profiles may change due to the progress of the project and the associated activities in which each of the institutions engages. For example, one institution may receive the majority of funding in early years for technology development, while the other institution may receive greater amounts in later years for technology transfer activities.

NSERC will recognize only those in-kind contributions that are fully documented and considered essential to carry out the work outlined in the proposal. For a full discussion of the eligibility and value of in-kind contributions, refer to the Guidelines for organizations participating in research partnerships programs.

Cash contributed by the partner(s) before the proposal is submitted may be used to start the project, but NSERC will not recognize company funds spent more than three months prior to the submission date of the application. Innovation Links grant funds cannot be applied to expenses incurred prior to the project’s approval.

Intellectual property

NSERC makes no claim to the ownership of any intellectual property (IP) generated from the research it funds. As a general principle, colleges and universities need to develop and sign an agreement with each company partner on the ownership and disposition of IP arising from Innovation Links grant-funded applied research before initiating any Innovation Links activities. Any agreements made regarding the ownership of the IP resulting from Innovation Links grant-funded research must take into account the objective of Innovation Links grants—creating partnerships. This implies a sharing of eventual benefits between the partners commensurate with their respective contributions, and the sharing of the costs to protect the IP.

Application procedures

Applications can be submitted at any time, using an Application for a grant Form (form 103), a Personal data form (form 103CV or form 100), and an Information required from organizations participating in research partnerships programs form (form 183A). An application must include at least one eligible college and one eligible university, as well as an eligible supporting company. Full instructions for the applicants and their company partner(s) for completing the forms and the on-line submission are found on NSERC's online services page.

Decisions on funding Innovation Links grants are anticipated to be made (after receiving a complete application) within three to five months.

Selection criteria

Applications are evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Technical merit: The project must be scientifically sound and technically feasible, and must promise to apply knowledge in an innovative manner and/or to lead to new knowledge. The project plan and budget must be appropriate, sufficiently detailed and reasonable. For complex applications, the proposal must demonstrate adequate college and university support for the project by detailing the institutions’ specific commitments regarding the provision of financial support, equipment and/or access to facilities.
  • Synergies from the college-university collaboration:The application must clearly demonstrate how the collaboration between the college, university and company partner(s) will lead to synergies and enhance the research proposal. This may include enhanced activities resulting from the
    • enrichment of essential technical expertise
    • availability of highly qualified personnel (HQP)
    • access to specialized research tools and facilities
    • background IP
    • increased interactions with private-sector partners
  • Team expertise: The research team must have all the expertise required to address the project objectives competently and to complete the work successfully. Institutional expertise may be complemented with the know-how residing with the company partner(s).
  • Potential for innovation, technology transfer and commercial benefits and other benefits to Canada: The proposal must identify how the proposed project will lead to commercialization impact for the company partner(s). For example, it must identify (in reference to company operations) potential new business opportunities, new or improved products or services, increased competitiveness, and the creation or maintenance of jobs. In addition, the proposal must demonstrate that the exploitation of the project results will benefit the Canadian economy within a reasonable time frame, and should outline any additional economic, social and environmental benefits that could be realized in Canada.
  • Private-sector support: The company partner(s) must contribute an appropriate amount from its own resources to the project, consistent with the risks and rewards involved, and must be in a position to exploit the research results.
  • Contribution to the training of highly qualified personnel:The proposal must include a student training component. It should indicate how the knowledge and experience gained by students, research assistants and others (including company personnel) are relevant to developing practical applications of knowledge, or strengthening the industrial innovation and applied research base. The number of students trained is expected to be commensurate with the size of the project.

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 college 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 college 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

Reporting

The reporting requirements vary with the project duration.

  • For projects up to 12 months in duration, grantees must send NSERC a final report and two Grants in aid of research – statement of account forms (i.e., form 301 for the college and form 300 for the university). The company partner(s) will be asked to submit comments on the project's success directly to NSERC.
  • For projects of more than one year, two annual Grants in aid of research - statement of account forms (i.e., form 301 for the college and form 300 for the university) are required after each year. Also, companies are required to confirm their continued participation in the project and indicate their level of satisfaction with the progress to date. Where the company satisfaction with the project’s progress is not clear, NSERC will request a progress report and appoint a technical liaison officer to assist in monitoring progress.

Final reports presenting the impacts of the applied research and development are required for all projects. In cases where the partner is a large consortium of private-sector companies and/or where a formal administrative structure exists within the consortia, one company or the consortium administrator may provide the company partner’s portion of the report on behalf of the group if appropriate.

Based on the results obtained or problems encountered, grantees may propose amendments to the project objectives, milestones or budget. Grantees proposing to change the allocation of project resources by more than 20% per budget line-item require prior approval by NSERC and must provide NSERC with a revised budget, a rationale for the proposed change(s) and documentation from the partner(s) supporting the proposed change(s).

For projects of more than one year, the amounts of the second and subsequent installments are contingent on a demonstrated need for NSERC funds. The next installment will not be released until the company partner(s) has made its previous year’s contribution(s), re-confirmed its commitment to contribute in the next year and commented on the project’s progress.

Grantees or companies that have failed to provide the requested feedback on projects may be declared ineligible to apply for, or sponsor, new proposals.

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