What are the objectives of the College Fund?
The objectives of the College Fund are to:
- Create and enhance partnerships with the public, private or not-for-profit sectors that lead to innovation. These innovations must address social, business, health or environmental needs of a Canadian industry or community
- Enhance and optimize the proven applied research capacity of the college that is related to the proposed applied research or technology development activities
- Generate social, economic, health or environmental benefits locally or nationally including the development of highly qualified personnel.
What institutions are eligible to apply to this fund?
Canadian colleges recognized as CFI-eligible can apply to this fund.
What infrastructure projects are eligible?
An eligible infrastructure project involves acquiring or developing research infrastructure to enhance existing applied research or technology development capacity.
Consult our Policy and program guide and the call for proposals for more information on what infrastructure projects are eligible.
How much funding can a college request?
Colleges can submit proposals with total CFI requests between $60,000 and $1 million.
What are the deadlines?
We hold annual competitions through this fund, with the deadlines landing on the same day every year. If a deadline falls on a weekend or statutory holiday, the date will be moved to the next business day.
Deadline to submit notices of intent
April 7 each year
Deadline to submit proposals
June 7 each year
Review of proposals by Expert Committees
July to September each year
Review of proposals by Multidisciplinary Assessment Committee
October each year
Decision by CFI Board of Directors
November each year
What does an institution need to do before applying?
To participate in any of our funding competitions, you must first make sure your institution is eligible to apply for funding, has signed an institutional agreement and has an account on our CFI Awards Management System (CAMS).
What is the process to apply?
Follow the steps below and consult the call for proposals for complete instructions on how to apply.
Colleges can submit up to three notices of intent and three proposals per competition. If your college decides to submit more than one proposal per competition, the proposals must not fall within the same field of applied research.
Step 1: Submit a notice of intent
Submit a notice of intent if your college plans to seek funding through the College Fund.
We use notices of intent to:
- Identify what expertise is needed to assess each proposal
- Recruit committee members
- Ensure that the requested infrastructure is eligible.
Step 2: Submit a proposal
Consult the call for proposals for detailed instructions on how to submit a proposal.
Step 3: The review process begins
After the deadline to submit proposals, the review process begins. This is how we will assess which proposals receive funding.
Mireille Labrie: Okay. I see that I think people have joined. So as people keep trickling in I guess we will be starting the meeting. As I said, my name is Mireille Labrie, I'm the Associate Director for Annual Funds here at the Canada Foundation For Innovation. The College Fund is under the portfolio of the annual funds. With me today, I have … who is a program officer with the annual funds team as well. The webinar is recorded today. It will be posted on our website for future reference if you wish to go back and consult as well. I will have a short presentation today with a couple of slides and after that there will be an opportunity to ask questions. Depending on your preference, you are welcome to use the Q&A function or given that I see there is not too many us, we will probably be able to manage the hand raising function and if you are comfortable asking your questions with your audio and your video you are welcome to do so as well. Give me a moment to share my screen and my presentation and I would imagine that you are all able to see my screen at this point. So again thank you for joining and hopefully you find the presentation helpful.
So, today I would like to speak to you about the fund objectives, the timeline, the application process, as well as the review process. For some of you, it may be very familiar, but for some of you it may consist of new information as well. So, I see we have people from different organizations here, so just a quick note about the Canada Foundation for Innovation. So, you probably know that the CFI, as we shorten our name fairly often, we make financial contributions to Canada’s universities, colleges, research hospitals and non-profit research organizations and the ultimate goal of the CFI is to increase the institutions’ capabilities to carry out high-quality research. So, the way we do that is by investing in research infrastructure that enables researchers to think big, innovate, push the boundaries of knowledge. And we hope that it also helps institutions attract and retain top talent, train the next generation of researchers or highly qualified personnel and support world-class research to help strengthen the economy, obviously, and the quality of life for all Canadians.
So, within the context of the CFI, you probably know that we have many funds that distribute infrastructure, but specifically for the College Fund, so this is a fund that has been designed specifically for the college community. That dates back when … or another to 2012 at CFI. So, the purpose of the College Fund is to support partnerships between colleges in a wide range of public and private or not-for-profit partners. So, if you’ve been familiar with the College Fund for a number of years you probably remember that in the past it was called the College Industry Innovation Fund, so it was very much focused on partnership with private-sector partners.
Starting last year, we broadened the College Fund to include all types of partners. So it is no longer restricted to private-sector partners, it can be partnerships between your college and a wide range of public partners, obviously private-sector partners are still very much welcomed. It can be not-for-profit sectors as well and that applies to all domains of research from social sciences, humanities, to natural sciences and engineering, health research as well and obviously inter- and multidisciplinary projects.
So what we want to do with the College Fund is to support innovative projects that will enhance the capacity of Canadian colleges to carry out applied research and/or technology development across all disciplines and to provide colleges with the research infrastructure that they need, along with their partners, to foster partnerships in your strategic areas of priority with your partners. So specifically, the objectives of the fund and that’s what the review of the proposals ultimately align with is that we want you to create and enhance partnerships with your partners, whoever they may be, that will lead to innovation and these innovations, they must address social, business, health or environmental needs of either Canadian industry or community.
We want to make sure that through the proposals that you will be submitting and that ultimately we will be funding that there is enhancement and optimization to the proven applied research capacity of your college and that is obviously linked with the applied research activities that you are proposing and ultimately we want all of this to lead to the generation of social, economic, health or even environmental benefits and that can happen locally, that can happen locally, regionally, provincially, nationally. Again, very flexible depending on type of applied research that you are proposing and the partners that are involved in your applied research activities. And we also want to make sure that through the generation of benefits there is development training of highly qualified personnel as well.
So the competition timeline for the College Fund is the same one every year. The notices of intent are always due on April 7. The full proposals are due June 7. We will proceed with the scientific review of your proposals through Expert Committees, that happens between July and September and the proposals that meet the minimum standard of excellence will be forwarded to the Multidisciplinary Assessment Committee. The MAC is the committee that makes the funding recommendation on the projects that it sees and ultimately the approval for the funding is made by our Board of Directors in November 2023. We are trying to keep that timeline the same every year so that maybe if this year is a bit premature for you to prepare your NOI’s and proposals then next year there is another competition as well.
So, you may be familiar with our two-stage application process. So, if you wish to apply to the College Fund you have to submit a notice of intent which is then followed by a proposal. Both of these documents are submitted through our online system, CAMS, and I would like to mention here that the notice of intent is mandatory, although it is not … mandatory. So, the purpose of the notice of intent for us at CFI in the context of the College Fund is that we use it for administrative purposes, including further recruitment of experts that will evaluate the proposal. So, it is very, very important that the information that is contained in the notice of intent be as close as possible to what will be found in your full proposal. We also ask in the notice of intent for suggested reviewers, so people that you think are qualified to perhaps provide an unbiased review of your proposal. So, the suggested reviewers are very helpful to us, as long as there is a couple conditions that are met. So, obviously, we want the suggested reviewers to have the appropriate expertise to review the proposal, so the subject matter expertise. They must not be in conflict of interest with the proposal and the definition of conflict of interest is in line with the other agencies used to define a conflict of interest. And, obviously in the specific context of the College Fund we are always very interested in people coming from the college community, but also from industry. As well as a diverse group of suggested reviewers, as well. So, you can help us have a good pool of reviewers by the people you are suggesting in your notice of intent.
So a little bit more in detail, the content of the notice of intent. So, you will have to submit, it’s very short by the way, but essentially project information, the team composition, a short project description. So, when I say this is very important for us to start planning our Expert Committee review, we will use the key words that you are providing, the information in the PDF as well. And we ask you to suggest at least six reviewers. One of the things that I want to mention here is that if you submit a notice of intent, and as you propose your proposal, your full proposal, you see the information starts diverging a bit from what you submitted in your NOI, so if any major change occurs, it’s very important to notify the CFI because this could obviously have an impact on the recruitment of the experts. So if we need to adjust the expertise on the committee, you need to inform us that we need to make the adjustment, otherwise we will be relying on what’s provided in the notice of intent.
If you are planning on requesting advanced research computing infrastructure we encouraged you to consult with the Digital Research Alliance of Canada to see if their system can one, provide what you need and if not then to seek their input into the systems that you will be buying and see if you can perhaps integrate it to the national system.
In terms of proposals, so obviously the proposal is more detailed than what you will submit in the NOI. So, the full application as we call it, you can see that we will be requesting project information, a plain language summary which is something if your project is funded we will use in our communications in outreach material. You will have your project summary. Obviously the team that will be performing the applied research activities. Any collaborating institutions if you have any. Obviously the financial resources for the operation and maintenance of the infrastructure that you are requesting and what is the core of the project is the assessment criteria which is a PDF attachment. So, some of the project information, the team collaborating institution is copied over from the NOI, but for the most part it can be modified.
What is a bit more difficult to modify from the NOI and the proposal is the project leader, so think carefully about who you want to be listed as your project leader. If things change let us know and contact us, there is back doors to our system obviously where we can make those changes, but they require a bit more time.
In the finance module, that is the other big part of the proposal, you will have to list the cost of the individual items that you are requesting. If there is a construction and renovation component we ask that you submit floor plans and a timeline of when the construction and renovation will take place, if it’s applicable, of course. You will have a section that is called contributions from eligible partners and for this specific section I want to take a little bit more time. What we mean by contributions from eligible partners here is that partners who will financially contribute to the purchase of the infrastructure. So, we don’t want information about people who may be providing cash for research purposes, we really want to know who are your partners in the acquisition of the infrastructure. Obviously, CFI pays up to 40 percent of the infrastructure cost. Most provinces will contribute a portion as well. Some of them will contribute up to 40 percent.
And you are responsible to fund the remaining 20 percent. Often what we will see is either a cash contribution from your institution, from foundations. We often see in-kind contributions from suppliers and vendors. In our Policy and program guide that is available on our website we describe each type of eligible contribution for that and obviously if you have any questions regarding that I’m happy to answer and you can reach us afterwards as well, but I really want to specify that this is contributions from eligible partners in the purchase of the infrastructure. And obviously you will tell us how you will utilize the infrastructure and then that’s the financial module.
Just to go back, if you want to suggest different reviewers you can as well, but the system automatically takes the reviewers you had listed in your NOI and pushes it to the full proposal.
I wanted to take a little more time to go over the criteria and the objectives. So, we have five review criteria that fall under the three large objectives that I described earlier on the presentation. The first objective of the College Fund is to create and enhance partnerships with the public, private or not-for-profit sectors that will lead to innovation. And these innovations must address social, business, health or environmental needs of a Canadian industry sector or community. So, under this objective number one we have two assessment criteria. One is related to the applied research or technology development and the second one is related to the partnerships. So, under the applied research or technology development, we want you to show how the activities that you are proposing respond to clearly identified needs of an industry and I will say industry sector or community and has been developed in collaboration with those partners. So, essentially we want to see that the applied research activities that you are proposing are really aligned with the need of a specific community, industry sector, alliance of partners, thinking of like agricultural co-op, things like that.
And so we want to make sure that they mesh together and that it’s very anchored in identified need of your partners.
Then when we ask you to speak about partnerships we want your institution to essentially demonstrate that you have the abilities to build and maintain productive partnerships with industry sectors or communities. We want to make sure that you identify partners, a sufficient number of partners as well, who are interested in the applied research that you are proposing and we also want to see how you are planning on, once you have acquired the infrastructure, how you are going to keep stimulating interests in new partnerships with your community that you are proposing to help solve some of the problems. Most of the infrastructure that is being purchased is going to have a very long useful life, and so we want to make sure that it’s going to be remained used for its useful life.
The second objective of the competition is to enhance and optimize the capacity of institutions and research communities to conduct the proposed research. Just give me a moment. So, under that criteria you will speak about the infrastructure that you want to purchase and the team that is going to be using and maintaining that infrastructure. So, for the infrastructure, because this is what we fund, it is a very important section. It seems a bit obvious that if I’m saying it is because it needs repeating. We fund infrastructure so what we are trying to see in the proposals is the link between the infrastructure and the projects that you are proposing. So you want to show that it is necessary and appropriate to conduct the proposed applied research activities and we ask you to demonstrate that it enhances your capacity, but also show us how it will integrate with your existing applied research capacity. Is it adding to your current infrastructure to increase capacity, is it replacing all their instruments? Is it a combination of both? So, you get the idea. So, tell us how it’s going to integrate, why you need it. Tell us how you will use it. Obviously, we want to make sure that this equipment gets used, but also that it gets appropriately maintained. So that again, it can serve your partners, it can be reliable for the research projects that may come in and again, how you are going to keep ensuring that it’s relevant for your industry partners or your community partners.
You see the logical link with the team. We want to see that your team has the breadth of expertise and experience not only needed to conduct the proposed applied research activities using the infrastructure but also to operate it.
The third objective, which is related to the generation of social, economic, health or environmental benefits. We have one criteria that maps directly to that objective which is the benefits. So, we want you to show us in that section how your activities will lead to social, economic, health, environmental or other types of benefits at the local, regional, provincial, national level depending on the activities and the partners that you have. One section that is often less well explained in proposal is the development of highly qualified personnel and in that context highly qualified personnel it can mean 5 students, it can mean technicians, it can for some of you it can mean undergrads. So, it’s a very broad definition. But we want to make sure that there is training happening. So that wraps up essentially the criteria and how they relate to the competition objectives.
I want to give you a different view of the timelines that we have. So, once you submit your proposal, as I said, we will form Expert Committees. These committees have for a mandate to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal against the assessment criteria. So their job is to really look at your proposal, find out you provided information, what are the strengths, what are the weaknesses, how does it relate to the criteria, the five criteria that are used for review and really make an informed judgement on what those strengths and weaknesses are. So that’s why when you suggest, suggested reviewers it’s important that they be able to assess your proposals. We will find our own reviewers as well, but ultimately together they will look at proposals and make their assessment.
As I said, if your proposal meets the minimum standard of the competition it will be sent to a Multidisciplinary Assessment Committee. The Multidisciplinary Assessment Committee will see all the proposals in the competition that have met the minimum standard. I should say the Expert Committees will see proposals grouped by subject matter, whereas the Multidisciplinary Assessment Committee will see all the proposals that have met the minimum standard of the competition. They will assess those proposals against the three competition objectives and determine which ones are recommended for funding or not.
One of the things which I actually did not mention in the French webinar is an idea of the budget. Normally, our budget is around $10 million, but we have flexibility based on the cohort of the proposals that we have, but usually anywhere between $8 and $12, based again on the merit of the proposals that are in front of us.
Ultimately, the recommendations of the Multidisciplinary Assessment Committee are forwarded to our Board of Directors and they make the final funding decision and you are notified shortly after they meet, of the decision for your award.
On that we have an email address that you can use to contact us, colleges [at] innovation.ca. Someone from the team monitors that email address and responds. You also all have a designated liaison in your institution, so they are a good resource as well to answer your questions. At this point, I think I will stop sharing my screen and I’m happy to take any questions. Oh, there’s one. Will applicants be able to name the reviewers they do not want to review their proposals? Yes, so the question is will applicants be able to name reviewers they do not want to review their proposals.
So yes, you can send those to the college email address and we will group them properly internally, but, yes, the idea is please provide as much as you can, a reason, like, we do our own check for conflicts of interest and things like that, but if there are specific reasons why a specific person should be excluded please send it and we will do our best to accommodate it.
The second question, I see is what are the key challenges colleges often face to succeed in the application process? That is a good question. It varies quite broadly but the most often seen reasons why a proposal would not succeed in the application process is what I was alluding to a little bit earlier in my slides. So that link between who are your partners, what do you want to do with them in terms of applied research projects, why you need the infrastructure to do that and then who is going to be the team performing that and to what end. So, often what we see is kind of a disconnect between those sections and it’s very hard for reviewers to see the whole, if you will. So it’s very important to be clear in the information you present, use clear language as much as you can, so it’s easy for experts and Multidisciplinary Assessment Committee members to understand your proposal as well. So I would say that’s one. The other thing I would encourage you to do is make sure you have a good, what’s the word, a good read and a good assessment on the partnership and the needs of the sector. Sometimes we see very interesting projects that come in, but it’s really hard to anchor into the need of the private sector, the community, the not-for-profit. So, it’s really good ideas but that connection to the need of the partners is sometimes less explicit, so I would say that’s another key point to remember. I hope it answers your question.
For resubmission will there be a space to address how previous reviewer’s comments have been addressed in the current application? So, no. Every single application that we receive we consider a fresh application. So what we try to do in the background is we do check for proposals that are resubmitted. We try not to reuse the same experts as much as it is possible and the reason why we do it that way is we found it’s more helpful to see it as a new application versus answering comments because as I said we will try to send it to different reviewers, and so they will not have seen what came in the previous year, so sometimes the comments may lead to confusion. So we decided to adopt an approach where we are going to get your application, you got the comments from last year, you have a chance to improve it and address them implicitly in the content of your application, but not in the specific section.
For the non-CFI portion of the project funding, is this limited to non-federal or government funding programs? So if the underlying question is can you use … answer to match CFI, then the answer is no. So normally what we see as a CFI contribution for up to 40 percent. We often see provinces coming in with another 40 and then the 20 is very often in-kind contributions or cash contributions from the institutions. I know there has been multiple new programs in the federal landscape and the provincial landscape. So if there is a specific program that you are thinking of, contact us and then we can look into whether it’s an eligible match or not, but in general tri-council is not an eligible partner contribution, any research funds, so something that is targeted for you to perform research and that you’ve obtained to do research can’t then be redirected to purchase infrastructure. So again if you have a specific program in mind, let us know and we will check. Normally tri-council … not an eligible partner.
Yes, for all the other federal economic development funding programs, yes, please be in touch and we can look at that more specifically.
I hope that this was useful. If there is anything else that comes to mind later on that you would like to chat about please contact us through the inbox and someone from the team will be in touch and we can answer your questions. I would like to mention as well that obviously our website is always the best source of information, the call is there.
There is other information, as I mentioned, the Policy and program guide that has reference to what is an eligible in terms of expenses and what is not. How you will be expected to manage your award should you get one. So, again, if you need help locating any kind of information, let us know, but our website is a good source as well.
Yes, very good question, yes. So, we will be sharing this slide deck. So, as I mentioned, this is being recorded. So we will put the recording on the website. Currently there is still the recording from last year, but in the same location we will be putting this one up. There will also be a transcript if that’s easier for you to refer to and the slide deck will be there as well along with the webinar and the transcript, so in the next two weeks I think we will be able to put those up.
Questions on managing the grant. Award finalization process and after. So this is something that we did very early in the history of the College Fund with the first couple of cohorts that got funded we had sessions on that. If this is something that is potentially useful, there is a couple of ways that we can do it. We could potentially do a group one with the team that manages the post-award processes or depending on the level of interest this is something that could be done one-on-one as well with the operations team. So let us know if you get funded or if you have a current award and you need help and we can tailor the approach based on that.
There is also a little bit of information on the website if you go to the College Fund there is a subsection called Manage your award and there is information there as well to help you manage it.
I guess on that note, I will thank everyone for coming. I wish you a good rest of your day and please don’t hesitate to be in touch if you need anything.
How is my proposal assessed?
After you submit your proposal, it is assessed through our review process.
1. Administrative review
We review each proposal to make sure it is complete and adheres to our guidelines.
2. Expert Committee
Expert Committees review small groups of proposals from the same area of research to assess their strengths and weaknesses in relation to the assessment criteria. Only proposals with ratings that meet a minimum threshold will advance to the next stage of review.
3. Multidisciplinary Assessment Committee
The Multidisciplinary Assessment Committee (MAC) assesses the proposals that meet the minimum threshold at the Expert Committee stage.
- Identifies proposals that best meet the three competition objectives relative to other competing requests
- Establishes the amount that the CFI should award for each proposal
- Makes funding recommendations to the CFI Board of Directors.
Who makes the final funding decisions?
Funding decisions are made by the CFI Board of Directors.
What are the assessment criteria?
The assessment criteria for the College Fund are:
- Applied research or technology development
See the call for proposals for details of each of these assessment criteria.
Have you been recruited as a reviewer?
If your college receives funding through this fund, there are a few things you will need to do to finalize, manage and report on your award.
How are awards finalized?
After the CFI Board’s decision, colleges have up to nine months to finalize an award. Submit the following documents to finalize your college’s award:
- Award finalization form
- Revised budget
In some cases, you will also need to provide:
- Responses to conditions
- Inter-institutional agreement
Email your responses to conditions and inter-institutional agreement to colleges [at] innovation.ca
Consult the call for proposals for more details on finalizing awards.
What is required of institutions to mitigate security risks?
Recipient institutions must conduct a consistent and appropriate due diligence review of potential security risks for funded projects and put in place timely measures to appropriately mitigate those risks.
Tools and guidance are available through the Government of Canada’s Safeguarding Your Research portal, National Security Guidelines for Research Partnerships and Safeguarding Science workshops.
What is required of institutions for reporting on a funded project?
Once a project at your institution is up and running, you will need to submit progress and financial reports in CAMS. (The specific reporting requirements for each project, including deadlines and frequency, are included in the terms and conditions of each award agreement.)
How can institutions access operating support for funded projects?
Institutions can access financial support for the operating and maintenance costs of CFI-funded research infrastructure through our Infrastructure Operating Fund.
Read and share good practices for managing your funding
Staff at our funded institutions have developed good practices, policies and processes for managing the funding they receive from the CFI.
Browse our good practices for institutions and write to us at good.practices [at] innovation.ca to share your own.
Number of projects funded from 2012 to 2021 through the College Fund
Total CFI investment through the College Fund
Number of colleges across Canada that received at least one award through the College Fund
*Number has been rounded up