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College-Industry Innovation Fund


Canada’s prosperity in the 21st century depends increasingly on our ability to innovate — to generate knowledge and ideas from which we derive new products, services and policies that create economic wealth, enhance social foundations, sustain the environment and improve quality of life.

These concepts are central to the Government of Canada’s science and technology strategy — Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage. It states that building a science and technology advantage for Canada depends on three key elements: a leading-edge research and development enterprise (Knowledge Advantage); a highly educated and skilled workforce (People Advantage); and a business, regulatory and social environment that facilitates entrepreneurship and creativity (Entrepreneurial Advantage).

Over the last 10 years, there have been profound changes in Canada’s research and technology development landscape. Key to this transformation has been the provision of instruments and resources that enable the country’s institutions to plan and implement their research priorities.

Colleges1 have taken advantage of their strong linkages with the private sector, mostly with small- and medium-sized enterprises at the local, regional and national level, to play an increasingly important role in supporting Canadian business innovation2. Because colleges develop and test new products, help businesses adopt innovative processes and adapt technologies to gain new competitive advantages, they are well positioned to address some of the key challenges identified in Canada’s science and technology strategy.

As a result of a recent pan-Canadian consultation on its new program architecture, the CFI is launching the College-Industry Innovation Fund. It provides colleges with funds to acquire significant research infrastructure that will enable partnerships with the private sector to support business innovation. This will boost their applied research and technology development capacity in any field of the natural and social sciences, engineering, humanities and health sciences, in order to help them expand existing partnership opportunities and attract additional private sector partners. These investments will allow colleges to strengthen their participation in college-industry clusters in which they already play a pivotal role. And ultimately, the business innovation that results from these partnerships will lead to socio-economic benefits both regionally and nationally.


Proposal characteristics

The College-Industry Innovation Fund seeks to enhance the capacity of colleges to support business innovation in Canada by providing them with state-of-the-art, industry-relevant research infrastructure to foster partnerships with the private sector in a specific area of strategic priority to the institution.

Proposals should:

  • Stimulate competitive college-industry applied research and technology development partnerships that lead to business innovation by:
    • encouraging interactions between the college and its industrial partners;
    • enabling the college to respond to specific technological challenges of their industrial partners;
    • allowing the college to undertake large-scale collaborative projects with industrial partners.
  • Enhance applied research and technology development capacity at the college in an area of institutional strategic priority;
  • Provide highly qualified personnel with opportunities to participate and gain know-how in applied research and technology transfer activities through direct hands-on experience with state-of-the-art instrumentation;
  • Generate regional and national socio-economic benefits through partnerships with the private sector and other relevant stakeholders.

The applicant needs to clearly demonstrate how the requested infrastructure will fulfill the above-mentioned objectives.

The fund is intended to support significant research infrastructure — made up of a single item or a collection of items — and should add to the existing applied research capacity of the college. It should also provide tools and capabilities to a group of college researchers to expand their network of partners and increase the number of collaborative projects with the private sector.

Participation from the private and other sectors

The purpose of the fund is to support partnerships between colleges and a range of private sector partners involved in any area of economic activity. Participation from enterprises, regardless of their size, is essential to the infrastructure project described in the proposal.

The level of involvement of industrial partners is a key consideration when making funding decisions. Close collaboration between the college and private sector partners is considered essential to enabling business innovation. The CFI expects private sector partners to be actively engaged throughout the life of the research infrastructure project, including the application stage. The CFI requires letters of support from private sector partners that demonstrate their tangible commitment to the project and anticipated benefits.

The fund aims to support partnerships between colleges and the private sector. Nevertheless, participation from other sectors (e.g. public and non-profit), where appropriate, is encouraged as it broadens the impact of the proposal at the local, regional and national scale.

Funding streams

The CFI offers two competition streams under the College-Industry Innovation Fund.

Stream 1: Research infrastructure
The CFI accepts infrastructure requests for enhancing existing applied research and technology development capacity in colleges. Colleges with an established capacity are encouraged to apply to this stream. For example, those who have received a Five-Year College and Community Innovation (CCI)3 Innovation Enhancement (IE) grant or research and development funding from provincial, industrial or other sources are encouraged to apply to this stream. The CFI plans to run two competitions under this stream.

Stream 2: Research infrastructure associated with a Five-Year CCI-IE grant application
The CFI accepts research infrastructure requests associated with a Five-Year CCI-IE grant application submitted to NSERC. The CFI partners with NSERC for their 8th, 9th, 11th and 12th CCI-IE grant competitions. This joint initiative allows colleges to apply for a comprehensive funding package supporting both research costs (through a CCI-IE grant) and research infrastructure (through CFI’s College-Industry Innovation Fund-stream 2).

Competition timeline


Letter of intent



Stream 1: Research infrastructure

Competition 1*

June 10, 2011

September 30, 2011

March 2012

Competition 2*

June 13, 2012

September 28, 2012

March 2013

Stream 2: Research infrastructure associated with a Five-Year CCI-IE grant application

CCI-IE Grants competition 8*

June 3, 2011

October 28, 2011

March 2012

CCI-IE Grants competition 9*

November 25, 2011

April 20, 2012

Fall 2012

CCI-IE Grants competition 11*

May 31, 2013

November 1, 2013

March 2014

CCI-IE Grants competition 12 May 30, 2014 October 31, 2014 March 2015

*Competition closed

Available funding

A total of $2.0 million is available under the CFI College-Industry Innovation Fund under stream 2 for CCI-IE competition 12.

Applying its usual funding formula, the CFI funds up to 40 percent of the eligible costs of a funded project (subject to appropriation by Parliament in the year in which the funds are to be disbursed).

The CFI contributes to the operating and maintenance costs of approved proposals through its Infrastructure Operating Fund (IOF). The IOF allocation is equivalent to 30 percent of the total finalized CFI contribution. Please refer to section 4.7 of the CFI’s Policy and Program Guide for additional information on the IOF.

Application process

Colleges can submit one proposal per competition for each stream requesting up to $1.0 million from the CFI.

While the overall objectives of both streams are identical, the application forms and review processes are different. Please consult College-Industry Innovation Fund: Stream 1 Call for proposals , and College-Industry Innovation Fund: Stream 2 Call for proposals for further details.

1 The term college refers to a community college, institute of technology or post-secondary college (e.g. CEGEP) that has the primary mandate and ability to grant diplomas or “diplômes d’études collégiales (DEC)”, in accordance with provincial or territorial standards.

2 Business innovation is broadly defined as the creation, adoption or adaptation of knowledge and technology to develop or improve a product, process or service, with the goal of improving the productivity and competitiveness of a company or a sector.

3 The College and Community Innovation 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 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).