FAQ: Changes due to COVID-19

Information about applying to and managing CFI awards during the COVID-19 pandemic

CFI OPERATIONS

Is the CFI office still open? Are staff working?
While our headquarters in Ottawa is closed until further notice to comply with public health recommendations, CFI staff are working remotely. All staff remain connected through email and phone.

You can also direct general queries to feedback [at] innovation.ca or 613.947.6496. We will hold all currently scheduled in-person meetings by video- or teleconference. As we adjust to these new circumstances, please bear with us as we may be delayed in responding to your queries.

CURRENT FUNDING COMPETITIONS

Is the 2020 Innovation Fund proceeding?
The evaluation of the applications for the 2020 Innovation Fund competition is proceeding according to original timelines. However, we have changed the format of our Expert Committee meetings from in-person to video- or teleconference. We have also eliminated face-to-face meetings with representatives from institutions and projects. Researchers should contact their institution’s CFI liaison for information related to their proposals. For all other stakeholders in the 2020 Innovation Fund, please write to if-fi.2020 [at] innovation.ca if you have questions.

Is the John R. Evans Leaders Fund proceeding?
The June 15, 2020 deadline for the next John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF) competition remains unchanged. If your institution is not in a position to meet that deadline, you can still use your JELF allocations for the next competition (October 15, 2020 deadline).

What are the deadlines for submitting JELF partnership proposals (CRC, NSERC Alliance grants and SSHRC Insight and Partnership grants)?
Please submit JELF partnership grants in the CFI Awards Management System (CAMS) at the same time as you submit your proposal to the relevant partner agency (CRC, NSERC or SSHRC). Please verify deadlines on partner agency websites to ensure you have the most updated information. The CFI will continue collaborating with partner agencies to ensure we properly review joint proposals in a timely way. After the review is complete, the CFI’s Board of Directors will make final decisions on the infrastructure portion of the joint proposals at one of their three annual meetings (March, June or November). We will notify institutions about decisions on the infrastructure portion of their joint proposals, while partner agencies will provide information on their decisions.

Is the College-Industry Innovation Fund – Stream 1 competition proceeding for colleges that have submitted notices of intent?
We are extending the application deadline for the College-Industry Innovation Fund — Stream 1 competition to September 15, 2020. If your applications are ready before that date, please submit them so we can initiate the review process as soon as possible. Funding decisions for this fund are scheduled for March 2021.

Is the College-Industry Innovation Fund – Stream 2 competition proceeding?
We worked with NSERC to revise the competition schedule for the College-Industry Innovation Fund – Stream 2 competition. Letters of intent must be submitted to NSERC by June 30, 2020 and should indicate whether a CIIF Stream 2 proposal will be submitted. Colleges invited to submit a full proposal will be notified by NSERC. Among the invited colleges, only those that indicated their intent to request CFI funding in their NSERC letter of intent will be permitted to submit a joint CFI proposal by the deadline of November 13, 2020.

DOCUMENTS REQUIRING SIGNATURES

Will the CFI accept alternatives to wet signatures for documents such as the award finalization form, the institutional agreement and award agreements?
Yes. We recently implemented a digital signature process (using DocuSign) for award agreements. We will continue to accept email approval of the award finalization form and institutional agreement.

AWARD FINALIZATIONS

Is the CFI still processing award finalizations?
Yes. Institutions should continue uploading signed award finalization forms in CAMS in order to initiate the award finalization process. We will accept email approval of this form if you are unable to obtain wet signatures.

Has CFI extended the deadline for submitting award finalization documents?
Yes. We are granting a three-month extension. As such, institutions will have 12 months to submit their award finalization documents. If we had already granted an extension for a particular project, we will prolong this by another three months.

Are hard copy award agreements still being mailed to institutions?
No. We have recently transitioned to a digital signature process (using DocuSign) for award agreements. Once all parties have signed, institutions will receive the final award agreement by email. We will also upload it into the CFI Awards Management System (CAMS), where institutions can access it.

PAYMENTS TO INSTITUTIONS

Will the CFI continue to issue payments to the institutions?
Yes.

FINANCIAL REPORTING

Is the CFI extending financial reporting deadlines?
Yes. We are granting three-month extensions.

  • Interim financial reports are due September 15 *
  • Infrastructure Operating Fund annual reports are due September 15.
  • Final financial reports are to be submitted within nine months of the project’s actual end date. This extension only applies for projects whose actual end date is no later than March 31, 2021

* Please note that if there is a July 15 payment scheduled for any of your projects, this will only be paid to you following our review of the interim financial report. We therefore strongly encourage you to submit financial reports for projects that have a payment scheduled on July 15 as soon as possible.

PROJECT PROGRESS REPORTING

Is the CFI extending project progress reporting deadlines?
Yes. The 2020 project progress reports and the operational status question are now accessible in CAMS. While we strongly encourage institutions to respond as early as possible, we are extending the deadline to September 30, 2020.

ELIGIBLE EXPENSES

Some Q&As last updated on April 27, 2020

Our institution has space that is required to house and use CFI-funded infrastructure. We normally claim the costs for services (e.g. electricity, heating, water, sewer, security, cleaning) for this space through the Infrastructure Operating Fund or the MSI Fund. Since campus is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, can we still claim costs for services as an expense for those funds?

Yes. Services such as electricity, heating, water, sewer, security and cleaning that directly support the space required to house and use CFI-funded infrastructure are deemed critical to ensure a research-ready state of the CFI-funded infrastructure. As such, they can still be claimed under the Infrastructure Operating Fund or the MSI Fund even if the campus is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our institution employs highly qualified personnel (technicians or professionals) to operate and maintain CFI-funded infrastructure. In many cases, their salary is supported through the Infrastructure Operating Fund or the MSI Fund. Since campus is closed, can we still claim their salary as an expense from those funds?

Yes. The highly qualified personnel directly involved in the operation and maintenance of the CFI-funded infrastructure are considered critical for the current and future activities of labs and facilities. Institutions can continue to claim their salaries as expenses from the Infrastructure Operating Fund or MSI Fund, retroactive to April 1, 2020.

Restarting Canada’s capacity to conduct science is a priority and these highly qualified personnel will play an essential role in ramping up research infrastructure to resume research activities quickly once campuses reopen.

If the personnel directly involved in the design, engineering, manufacturing, installation, construction or renovation of the infrastructure can only conduct their work from campus, and campus is closed, can we still claim their salary as an expense as part of a CFI-funded infrastructure project?

No.  The salaries of professional, technical and managerial personnel, consultants and contractors directly involved in the design, engineering, manufacturing, installation, construction or renovation of the infrastructure cannot be claimed if they are unable to perform the work.

Will the CFI cover costs for travel associated with CFI-funded projects that had to be cancelled due to the pandemic?
In this specific situation, the CFI will absorb these unforeseen costs and will expect institutions to report them in their financial reports. This applies to travel to a manufacturer, dealer or supplier intended for selecting research infrastructure or associated with operation activities for facilities funded through the Major Science Initiatives Fund.

PROJECT END DATES

Is the CFI granting automatic extensions to project end dates?

Answer updated on April 15, 2020

Yes. We are granting institutions an automatic six-month extension for project end dates to accommodate delays in project delivery and operationalization of infrastructure. This automatic extension only applies to projects that have an approved end date of no later than March 31, 2021. It has been applied retroactively to projects with end dates on or after December 1, 2019.  The extension has been applied directly in CAMS.

For projects which had never had their project end date extended, we have extended the end date by one year to allow for the six-month period between the anticipated end date indicated in the award agreement and the actual end date. For an explanation of this differentiation please refer to section 6.6.2 of the Policy and program guide.

For all projects which have had their end date extended, any further revisions to the end date will require the institution to submit an amendment for CFI review and approval.