What institutions are eligible to apply to this fund?
Canadian universities, colleges, research hospitals and non-profit research institutions recognized as CFI-eligible can apply to this competition.
How often does the CFI hold competitions for this fund?
We hold Innovation Fund competitions at regular intervals of 24 to 30 months.
What are the details of the 2023 competition?
CFI issues draft call for proposals
Oct 28, 2021
Deadline to submit feedback on the draft call for proposals
Nov 12, 2021
CFI issues call for proposals
Nov 24, 2021
Information sessions for potential applicants
Dec 13 and 15, 2021 (English)
Dec 14, 2021 (French)
Deadline to submit notices of intent
Feb 23, 2022
Deadline to submit proposals
Jul 15, 2022
Review by Expert Committees
Oct 2022 – Jan 2023
Review by Multidisciplinary Assessment Committees
Review by Special Multidisciplinary Assessment Committee
Apr or May 2023
Decision by CFI Board of Directors
The CFI will invest up to $400 million in research infrastructure funding through this competition and will fund up to 40 percent of a project’s eligible infrastructure costs. It will also provide up to $120 million for associated operating and maintenance costs through the Infrastructure Operating Fund.
Objectives of this competition
The objectives of the 2023 Innovation Fund competition are to:
- Enable internationally competitive research or technology development through the equitable participation of expert team members
- Enhance and optimize the capacity of institutions and research communities to conduct the proposed research or technology development program(s) over the useful life of the infrastructure
- Lead to social, health, environmental and/or economic benefits for Canadians.
Eligible infrastructure projects
An eligible infrastructure project involves acquiring or developing research infrastructure to increase research capacity and support world-class research.
Total project costs must be greater than $1 million for proposals to be considered for this competition.
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 that you have 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.
Step 1: Submit a notice of intent
Submit a notice of intent if your institution plans to seek funding through this competition.
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.
Consult the list of notices of intent for the 2023 Innovation Fund competition.
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 merit-review process begins. This is how we will decide which proposals receive funding.
Resources for applying to the 2023 Innovation Fund
Consult the Strengths and weaknesses analysis for the 2020 Innovation Fund as well.
Before we get into the presentation, just so you know, a recording of the sessions will be available, as well as the slides, on our website shortly after the info sessions. And if you have any questions along the way, or at the end of the presentation, we ask that you use the Q&A function at the bottom of your screen to ask questions in writing, or at the end of this presentation we’ll have some time to answer questions if you want to raise your hand and ask them with your microphone. Either option works.
Without any further ado, we’ll get on with the info session. Quickly, I’ll just go over how we’ll be covering the information today. We’ll start with some general info about the competition, highlight the important sections of the Call for proposals, and then we’ll provide some more details about how to apply for the competition and respond to the assessment criteria and objectives in your proposal.
To start off, we’ll go sort of at the highest level.
The competition objectives for this fund remain relatively similar to those in the 2020 competition. The three objectives are: to enable internationally competitive research, or tech development, through equitable participation of expert team members; to enhance and optimize the capacity of institutions and research communities to conduct the proposed research or technology development programs over the useful life of the infrastructure; and of course, to lead to social, health, environmental, and/or economic benefits for Canadians.
As you know, if you’ve looked at the Call for proposals, the competition has a $520 million budget, with $400 million going towards capital investments, and the remaining $120 million being provided automatically through the CFI’s Infrastructure Operating Fund (IOF).
The timeline for the competition is on the screen, leading up to the competition decisions going out in March 2023. Some of the consistent feedback that we received for changes following the posting of the draft call for proposals was to change the proposal due date. So, it’s now, you’ll note, June 15, 2022, which is a two-week extension from the original due date. Other than that, the timelines remain the same as they were in the draft call for proposals.
To highlight some of the key changes that have been made since the last IF competition, you’ll see on the screen that we’ve removed the research capacity criterion and moved some of the important aspects there under other criteria in the competition. Given that we removed one criterion, we actually were able to introduce a new one, which splits the team aspect into two sections: one about team expertise and one about team composition. And we’ll talk more about that later in the presentation.
Given the new criteria and the changes that we’ve made, the competition objectives were modified slightly from 2020. A few of the other changes that we made relate to the institutional envelopes, which the minimum envelope is now $2 million, and we also made some slight changes to the page limits for proposals that you can see in the Call for proposals, both related to the amount of funding that’s requested as well as for proposals that are written in French.
One of the key changes in this Innovation Fund has been the integration of equity, diversity and inclusion into the assessment of proposals. We’ll go into more detail about the specifics of the new criterion later, but it’s important to note that team composition will be assessed at both the Expert Committee and MAC stage of the review process and will be a determining factor for the fundability of projects at the MAC stage based on weaknesses that are identified.
We’ve also broadened how applicants can highlight their expertise through both traditional and non-traditional research outputs in the CFI CV section and we’ll highlight this to our reviewers for their consideration during their assessment.
As I mentioned on the last slide, in terms of equity, diversity and inclusion, we’ve also allowed for proposals that are written in French, to have a higher page limit of 25 percent more. Also on this slide, you’ll see the path that a proposal will take in terms of the review of that team composition criterion. So, at the beginning at the Expert Committee stage, it will be assessed as all other assessment criteria are. And based on the cumulative set of ratings, the project either does or doesn’t meet the overall competition threshold of excellence to move on to the next stage of review, which is the Multidisciplinary Assessment Committee or MAC. Then at this second stage, the team composition is also reviewed and for projects that have significant weaknesses or did not at all satisfy the assessment criterion, the proposal will fail under the first objective of the competition and therefore would not be fundable. If the proposal satisfies the criteria, then the MAC will review the project as it does all other projects, to determine, based on the competition objectives, whether or not the project is fundable and the amount that should be awarded at the last stage of review, the Special Multidisciplinary Assessment Committee.
Sort of on a related note, we just wanted to highlight and remind all institutions that the CFI does support research in the social sciences and humanities through our Innovation Fund as well as our other funding mechanisms. To this end, and with all of our programs, collaborative spaces, computing, digital library infrastructure are all eligible items that can be purchased through the Innovation Fund. We’d also like to remind all applicants that interdisciplinary research projects are also eligible and encouraged in the Innovation Fund and therefore projects in other disciplines can include social sciences and humanities research in their programs and infrastructure requests.
In terms of the application process, the CFI has a two-stage application process for the Innovation Fund, both of which are submitted through our online system, CAMS, and you do need to submit a notice of intent in order to have access to the proposal. And so, you do need to submit the notice of intent in CAMS and then the proposal will be accessible following that.
On the topic of submissions, each institution receives their own envelope for the Innovation Fund and at the NOI stage, can exceed that envelope by up to 10 percent. But, once the full proposals are submitted, the institution must adhere to its envelope in terms of the amount of funding requested from the CFI, unless you are only participating in one proposal as an institution. And that’s explained in the call for proposals if you have any questions.
To go over the first stage of the application process, the NOI, the sections remain the same as they were in 2020 with some general information about the project, to allow the CFI to begin recruiting committees to review these projects.
We ask that you include at least six suggested reviewers, and we’ve changed a bit the information that we’re requesting in that project description PDF attachment of the NOI, where we’re asking a bit more pointed questions about the research that’ll be undertaken, a table of the infrastructure that is being requested, and a list of potential collaborators, both institutional and individuals, to help the CFI in the recruitment of reviewers who are not in conflict with your proposal. If you’re having trouble figuring out whether or not to include a potential collaboration or an existing collaboration in your NOI, we ask that you focus on those that would be challenging for us to find based on your publicly available publication history, because that’s the type of information that we already have access to.
So we’ll now move on to the second stage of the application process, which is the full proposal. And here, you can see the information that’s requested under the first module of the proposal, which is the project module. Some of the information here, including the project information, the team, the collaborating institutions, is copied over from the NOI but can mostly be modified. If you’re making changes to, for example, one of the team leaders, you won’t have access to do that in CAMS and so you’ll need to contact the CFI in order to have us make that change in CAMS, but much of the information that’s copied over is then editable. But we just ask that you let us know if you’re making any of those changes so that we can make sure it’s incorporated into our recruitment process.
In the next slide, I’ll talk about one of the aspects here, the enhancement of past CFI investments. And so what we’re asking for here is for the institution and not any individual researchers, to fill out a few questions in the proposal about how this Innovation Fund project will enhance previous CFI investments. This is done purely for statistical purposes. It allows us to see how projects that are funded by the CFI work together and whether infrastructure that’s funded through the Innovation Fund ends up located at either core facilities at the institution or in CFI-MSI funded facilities to help us with our advocacy with the federal government.
The core component of the proposal is the assessment criteria attachment. On the screen, you’ll see the mapping between the competition objectives above, with the assessment criteria below. And we’ll go into a bit of detail in the next few slides about those individual assessment criteria and what has sort of changed and what are the important aspects to consider with each assessment criteria.
For the first objective, there are three criteria that fall underneath: research or technology development, team expertise, and team composition. If you were familiar with the 2020 Innovation Fund, you’ll notice that the first criterion research or technology development is exactly the same. We’re asking you to highlight the innovative feasible and internationally competitive research or technology development programs that you undertake.
What is now called team expertise criterion looks very similar to what we used to call just team, and here we’re asking you to highlight the breadth of expertise and experience that is needed to conduct the research program and how the team that is in place can do that.
The third criterion is the new one: team composition. And in this criterion, we’re asking you to address how equity and diversity principles were considered in the composition of the team and what will be done going forward to create an inclusive environment for all team members who are doing research. So that is what is covered under the first objective.
Under the second objective, we have two assessment criteria. The first one is infrastructure, which also looks similar to the 2020 competition, but here, we want to highlight that this criterion now also includes the aspect of enhancing existing research capacity and so we’re asking you to explain what the existing capacity is that is related to this research program and how the requested infrastructure will enhance it.
The second criterion under this objective is sustainability, which is exactly the same as in 2020. We’re asking you to explain how the requested infrastructure will be sustained and used over its useful life. And we want to make sure to remind you that there is a table in the financial module of the proposal that talks about operation and maintenance costs and revenue sources, and we want you to be absolutely certain that if you’re referencing that table under the sustainability criterion that the numbers match so that it’s not confusing for reviewers. That’s just attention to detail that we want to make sure that applicants are paying attention to.
The third objective maps directly onto the assessment criteria. Under the assessment criteria, we’re asking you to have a well-defined plan to transfer the results of the research, which will lead to social, health, environmental and/or economic benefits for Canadians.
So that wraps up the six assessment criteria for the competition and how they relate to the objectives.
In CAMS, you’ll see that the next module of the proposal is the finance module which I mentioned earlier. In this module, you’ll be asked to basically budget out your project, explain what the cost of individual items is, provide, if needed, construction or renovation plans as a separate attachment, explain where the partner funding for this project is coming from and highlight the infrastructure utilization, and provide a description if the infrastructure won’t be 100 percent for research purposes.
In order to help you complete your proposal, there are a few different places where you can find tools and resources. The first is when you’re in CAMS; you’ll be able to get a few different valuable sources of information. The first one we want to highlight is the liaison contact information list. And so this is a place where institutional liaisons can accept to have their information shared through CAMS with other liaisons. And once they have accepted to do so, they then gain access to this list. So this is a great way, if you’re planning to collaborate with other institutions, to find out who you should be getting in touch with, who is the person at the institution you want to work with who deals primarily with the CFI, and so this is a way to get their contact information.
Some other important information in CAMS is the early notification for collaborating institutions and a few reports that have been updated in the report repository, which I’ll explain in the next slides. You can also look directly on the CFI’s website, innovation.ca, for a list of eligible institutions and what will be posted shortly after this presentation along with these slides and the recordings, is an analysis that’s been done of the 2020 Innovation Fund, looking at the strengths and weaknesses that were noted by Expert Committee in Expert Committee reports and also in Multidisciplinary Assessment Committee reports. We hope this will be useful for you to make sure that when you’re completing your proposal, you’re addressing things that are frequent mistakes in proposals.
The third area to look for information is under the CARA resource library. So, if you’re a member at CARA, you have access to this library, where there’s a best practices for preparing and managing multi-institutional projects document that was developed, I think, in collaboration with the CFI, as well as other institutional representatives. And so that’s a good place to get access to that information.
I’ll now go over one of the reports. Well first, I’ll explain that you can find the envelope management tools in your institutional dashboard under the overview information, which you’ll see on the left of the screen. There are two sets of reports available. There’s one about envelope tracking, which is available for both the notice of intent and proposal stages, and also the team member tracking, also at both stages of the application. Please note that all reports are real-time reports, providing up-to-date information when they are run so you can refresh them throughout the day and if the information has changed, it’ll be captured in the report.
When it comes to the envelope management tool, it’ll export a document that provides a lot of information about how your institutional envelope is being used. So, the first thing I’ll highlight here is it allows institutions to track the use of their envelope in real-time, both for the institution as an administrative or collaborating institution and also includes the amount for institutions sharing a single envelope, for example, affiliated hospitals and the university with which they’re affiliated.
It also provides a running tally of the envelope that is remaining so that you can keep track and ensure that you’re not exceeding your envelope amount. And it also provides a quick view of whether collaborating institutions have agreed to participate and provide their institutional envelope amount towards the project that you see.
I’ll now move on to provide a bit of information about the CFI merit review process. So, for the Innovation Fund, we have a three-stage merit review, which is the same as in other past IF competitions.
The first stage of review is the Expert Committees, which assess the strengths and weaknesses based on the assessment criteria. As outlined in the call for proposals, only projects that meet the threshold of excellence for the competition then will move on to the next stage of review, which is the Multidisciplinary Assessment Committees. So the MACs assess proposals based on the competition objectives and provide a funding recommendation.
As I mentioned earlier, MACs will make a fundability decision based on the team composition criterion and then will move on to assess the competition objectives.
Following the MAC review, all projects that were recommended for funding at the MAC level will move on to the S-MAC, which makes a final recommendation of the best portfolio of investments for the CFI. And those recommendations are then brought to the CFI’s Board of Directors, which makes the final funding decision and that will be made at its meeting in March 2023. And shortly after the Board meeting, those decisions will be released to institutions through CAMS.
Given that the new assessment criterion has been introduced in this competition, we’ll go over in a bit more detail than we do with the other criteria, the team composition section of the proposal and explain what information is requested and how it’ll be assessed. So, you can see from the standard on the screen, and as I mentioned earlier that this criterion will focus on the team’s considerations of systematic barriers specific to the field of research, the principles of equity and diversity that were used in the team’s composition, and the plan that’s provided to ensure an inclusive and collaborative research environment. We want to take this time as another reminder that information about how people self-identify in terms of belonging to one or more underrepresented groups is considered personal information and we would ask that you not provide any personal information of team members in the proposal. So, this is really to make sure that we’re not ending up with a list of every team member’s identity, because that’s really not what’s being assessed, and that information shouldn’t be disclosed in the proposal.
So as I mentioned, there are sort of three key aspects to this criterion. And so right now, we’ll just go over what is needed in order to satisfy the criterion. First, in terms of the analysis of specific challenges or systemic barriers, we expect that the proposal will have clearly demonstrated an understanding of equity, diversity and inclusion considerations, and systemic barriers within the context of the research program, and that’s a key component.
We want you to provide a clear explanation of the team’s specific challenges related to EDI and if possible, to provide examples in the analysis. And we also want to see a broad-based commitment to EDI. And these are the instructions that we’ll be providing to reviewers about how to assess this first aspect of the criterion.
The second aspect of the criterion is the concrete practices to overcome those barriers, and under this aspect we would hope that you’ve clearly identified at least one concrete practice that has been undertaken. It should be relevant given the context of the research program and the challenges that are faced should be discussed.
Moving on to the practice that is undertaken to ensure inclusion, again, we need a clearly identified, at a minimum, one concrete best practice to enable ongoing inclusion. It should be positioned again, in the context of the team’s challenges and provide a clear description of the implementation plan, including potential obstacles to executing it and mitigation strategies.
In terms of the evaluation of this assessment criterion, we’ll leverage the Expert Committee’s knowledge of the barriers and challenges of the given field of research. And then as I said earlier, if the proposal meets the threshold of excellence it moves on to the MAC. And at that stage of review, we can ensure that all committees include members who are well-versed in principles of equity, diversity inclusion in order to confirm whether proposals have significant weaknesses in the team composition criterion in which case those projects will be removed from the competition.
Now moving on to the last few slides we have here, is a bit of a first look at (there will be more information provided on our website shortly), but this is the strengths and weaknesses analysis that was done on Expert Committee, and the next slide is about MAC reports from the 2020 competition. And at this stage, you can see the major weaknesses and major strengths that were highlighted are pretty clear as to why they cause projects not to go forward, or to receive an EX rating on a specific criterion.
I will move on to the MAC stage. Here you can see there’s quite a lot of repetition of what we saw at the Expert Committee stage and I would invite all of you to look at the slides in more detail after the fact and the full analysis that we’ll be posting shortly.
This brings us to the end of the presentation that we have prepared; however, now is a great time for you to either type in a question that you have in the Q&A box or to raise your hand and then we’ll be able to enable your microphone and you can ask your question out loud. And if there are questions that come to you after the info session is over, please feel free to send us an email at 2023IF@innovation.ca and we will be sure to get back to you quite quickly.
So, I’ll now maybe turn it over to my colleagues who have been monitoring the Q&A box to see if there are any questions that should be answered for everyone to hear.
[Sébastien Denizé] Before that Ryan, it seems [attendee] has a question so I’ll give him the microphone.
[Attendee] So at the NOI stage, one that’s submitted in February, there’s no decisions made at that time, acceptance, or it’s just strictly information for reviewers.
[Ryan Gill] That’s correct. It’s only information really for the CFI to build committees to review projects. So the NOIs aren’t sent out and they’re not reviewed. And as you said, no decisions are made.
[Attendee] Okay, thanks.
[Ryan Gill] Great. Thank you.
I’m not sure if there are other raised hands or if we should go to some written questions to answer overall?
[Sébastien Denizé] There are a couple of raised hands still. I’ll let them talk.
[Attendee] Thanks for the presentation. Could you go over where the input from reviewers is used? I remember at one point, I believe CFI asked them to participate on the MACs, but I picked up from your presentation they’ll now be sending written assessments. I just want to clarify what the process is.
[Ryan Gill] So, on your screen now you should see the merit review process. And so what happens is at the end of the Expert Committee stage, the CFI staff who were moderating the committee, write a report for each proposal based on the discussion that was had by the Expert Committee and that report then moves on along with the proposal to the next stage of review, the MAC. And so the MAC has access to the proposal as well as the Expert Committee report to help make their funding recommendation. And then at the MAC stage, again, a report is written based on the discussion and that MAC report, along with the project summary, moves on to the S-MAC. And so you’re right, this review process builds on itself, where each stage of review is fed by the one that preceded it with a report from the committee.
[Attendee] Sorry, I didn’t ask the question clearly enough. So when we’re suggesting reviewers, are we looking for people who would be willing to participate on the Expert Committee?
[Ryan Gill] Yes.
[Attendee] And is that in-person or online depending on what’s possible in November 2022, or are they able just to submit written comments?
[Ryan Gill] So the suggested reviewers, you’re right, are for the Expert Committee level. All our committees will be taking place virtually for the 2023 competition just given the uncertainty that we have around organizing in-person meetings. But those meetings will be taking place as virtual meetings and so Expert Committee members will need to log in to a meeting where the discussion will take place. It’s not a written review like for some of the CFIs other programs like the JELF.
[Attendee] And just so we know what we’re looking, will you be asking the reviewers to participate in a one-hour meeting or is it a two-day meeting?
[Ryan Gill] So the committee could review more than one proposal and so we budget about an hour per project. So if the committee is reviewing only one project it would be an hour meeting, but if the committee’s reviewing five or six projects it could be a five or six-hour meeting spread out over a few days. Given the virtual format, we tend to split them up to make time zones work mostly.
[Attendee] Okay. So it’s a fairly substantial request to the reviewers.
[Ryan Gill] Yeah, we’re very appreciative of the work that our reviewers put into this process.
[Sébastien Denizé] We have another question from [attendee].
[Attendee] Hi, it’s me again. That last question was actually really quite a good one. It might make a difference who you suggest to serve as a reviewer if it requires a commitment for them to actually participate in an online meeting and thoroughly comment on the proposal rather than just an external review. No, it’s good to know because then you’re going to have to think twice about who you choose.
Just a very general question: I’ve written a few CFI grant applications in my time and I’ve mentored many, many Innovation Fund ones and JELF funds and one thing that’s always difficult is you would put up the list of criticisms that reviewers have and not enough detail in methodology was one of them and then of course, there could also be too much detail in methodology, sounding too much like a CIHR grant, where especially new people tend to describe in unnecessary detail their approach to the experiments and their experiments project is not a research program. So what’s your feeling about that in terms of like I say, it’s always consternation, you never know how much detail reviewers want. Some want lots and some less, depending on their level of expertise I suppose. So what would your view on that be?
[Ryan Gill] Well you’re right. I don’t have a sort of catchall answer, given that every reviewer will be looking for a bit of a different thing. But what we do want is for you to be able to provide enough information so that the reviewers know what you’re planning to do and they can assess whether it seems feasible or not.
[Attendee] Well knowing what you’re going to do - I have no problem in describing knowing what you’re going to do. It’s then the detail how. That’s separate, going through sort of the process or the sequence and then how much detail for that. And it goes to address how the equipment will be used like what does this $3 million piece of equipment do? And so you have to go into some detail to describe exactly the input and output and all of that. So it can get hairy.
[Ryan Gill] I agree with you and it’s not a cut and dry type of instruction or criticism that we see from reviewers. But I do think it’s important, as I said, that the reviewers are able to assess the feasibility of what you’re planning to do. And I think providing enough detail in the methodology that that’s clear, that they know that the applicants understand the equipment that they’re requesting, have a plan to be able to use it and know what they’re going to be able to get out of the equipment. Those are the types of things that I’ve seen reviewers question when the methodology doesn’t seem to be clear enough. But again, this is something that’s up to the applicants to use their judgment to make sure that they’re providing what they feel is enough information to justify the request for equipment without, as you said, providing way too much detail that is not relevant for the assessment.
[Attendee] I thought maybe sometimes you might have been a fly on the wall in some of the meetings that was able to sort of—well generally - it seems like this or that, right?
[Ryan Gill] I think given the breadth of proposals that we get across all research disciplines, it would be hard for me to make one generalized statement that applies to all areas of the research. So I wish I had a clear answer for you, but this is one where it’s a bit of judgment on the applicant’s side to make that decision.
[Attendee] And what’s your role at CFI?
[Ryan Gill] I’m a senior programs officer. So you’re right, I have been in these committee meetings. I’ve helped moderate them, written the reports after the fact. But as I said, given the many meetings I’ve been in, I don’t have a clear answer for you where the level of detail is always sufficient.
[Attendee] Okay, thanks.
[Sébastien Denizé] We have a question from the chat that I think needs to be answered. So [attendee] is asking for the sustainability plan and budget. Is there a maximum percentage of time per year that infrastructure or parts of the facility can be leased out to industry, external users, etc., to offset the operating costs or large-scale research facilities?
[Ryan Gill] I wouldn’t say that there’s a maximum percentage, but the infrastructure needs to be primarily used for research and so that’s the expectation that we would have. The policy and program guide does go into a bit more detail about what’s expected in terms of the use of equipment. And I think it’s great that you were already planning to have other users provide user fees to help support the infrastructure. That’s something we definitely see and that reviewers I know like to see is that the infrastructure will be sustained using external funding sources, but there’s not a maximum percentage of the time, but we do expect the infrastructure to be primarily used for research. That doesn’t mean it has to be used primarily only for the research program that was submitted to the CFI, but for research in general.
[Sébastien Denizé] There’s another quite relevant question from [attendee]. It’s asking are there any benefits or disadvantages to applying as a core facility?
[Ryan Gill] That’s a great question, [attendee]. So I think there are, as with any other kind of proposal, there are benefits and disadvantages to all kinds of facilities applying. Some of the benefits to applying with a core facility is that typically they’ll have an established operation plan. They would already typically have personnel in place, support systems ready to go, which is great for the sustainability section.
One of the challenges, and what we’ve tried to explain a bit clearer in this call for proposals, can be making a clear connection between the research and having excellent research program and the infrastructure. And so what we’re asking in this Innovation Fund is for you to highlight at a high level all of the research that could be undertaken at this facility or with this suite of equipment that would go into a core facility, but then to go in depth on some of the key research programs that will really allow you to meet the objectives of the competition and highlight the important research that’s being done and the use of the infrastructure. And so that, I think, in the past could have been a challenge that some people perceived, but we’re hoping this time with a bit of clear instructions both to applicants and to reviewers, we’ll be able to alleviate some concern about core facilities applying to the Innovation Fund, because we did see in the last competition that a large proportion of projects did have some or all of their infrastructure going towards core facilities. So this is something we know institutions want to do. It’s already eligible at the CFI so we just want to make it clearer how this can be done and how a proposal can justify this kind of infrastructure, because we understand that institutions are often moving towards this kind of model of core facility. So, I hope that answered your question, attendee. If not, you know where to find me.
[Sébastien Denizé] We have another question to be answered live, so I’m going to give them the chance to talk.
[Attendee] Hello, this is [attendee] from McGill. Thank you Ryan for this session, it’s been super helpful. My question is about the identity of the reviewers that review the application. So after the funding decisions are made, is the identity of the reviewers revealed to the applicants or not at all? Remain secret during the whole process and after.
[Ryan Gill] So yes at the Expert Committee stage, the report that is produced out of that committee will include the names of all of the reviewers on it because it’s a consensus report and that report will be available to the applicants. And so applicants will be able to see who the reviewers were on the committee that reviewed their proposal. What we don’t do however is identify specific comments provided by reviewers to their names and we do ask applicants if they have any questions not to get in touch with reviewers, to contact the CFI and we’ll be able to answer the questions that you have about the review and the review process. So yes, the Expert Committee members are identified to applicants.
[Attendee] Okay. Thank you, Ryan.
[Ryan Gill] Great. Thank you.
[Sébastien Denizé] We have another question from [attendee].
[Attendee] Hi Ryan. So I have a question, and I’m sorry if this is a challenging one to answer, but when we talk about eligible infrastructure for the fund, I’m curious if the development and piloting of an innovation organizational process would be eligible. So I get the sense that most infrastructures eligible for this funding are mostly kind of technology and equipment and stuff like that. But I’m the manager here at UW, of the social innovation lab that delivers an interdisciplinary process of tackling complex problems. So we’re exploring this fund potentially as a way of scaling our process to engage our universities, researchers and then scale it up to allow all universities to implement this process so that they can have an interdisciplinary way of tackling complex problems.
[Ryan Gill] I’m not sure I have enough background in what it is you’re planning to do to answer this question, so what I’d encourage you to do is get in touch with the institutional liaison…
[Attendee] Which I have.
[Ryan Gill] Okay. And they should be able to get in touch with the CFI senior programs officer and I think it would be good to have a discussion about this to really go into what types of costs are these and how does it relate to the research. And this is a bit of a broader answer, but if anyone does have any questions that are more specific about a certain situation, I’d encourage you to either send an email to us or get in touch with your institutional liaison because it’ll be easier for us to, on a sort of one-on-one basis, answer a question like this, but it sounds very interesting. But yeah, I don’t have the answer for you about whether it’s eligible.
[Attendee] I was worried my question would be too specific and yes, I have spoken to them and they have kind of had the same kind of response as you, where it’s like this sounds interesting. We’ll need to talk about it a lot more. So yeah, thanks a lot for entertaining that question.
[Ryan Gill] Perfect. Well great, thank you, [attendee].
[Sébastien Denizé] We have an anonymous question asking could you please clarify what is meant by partners in the following sentence. It’s from the CFI call for proposals. It says “table of current and planned partners and other potential conflicts of interest. The table should include the name of the partner organizations and the name of individuals involved in the research”. So, they’re asking you to clarify what is meant by partners in that sentence.
[Ryan Gill] So these would be research partners, or they could be partners if there’s sort of like a tech transfer program happening with the research, where there’s the research happening at the institution and then there’s a partner who’s taking that research and bringing it out of the academic sphere into somewhere else. So those would be the types of partners we would want to know about to make sure we’re not inviting them to review this proposal because that would present a conflict of interest. So, when we talk about partners, it could either be research collaborators or some other type of organization or individual that’s involved in the program who would have the right expertise to review this but would be in an obvious conflict of interest and so we’d like to avoid inviting them to review. That’s who we’re looking for in the NOI.
[Sébastien Denizé] So we have another anonymous question. For applications in which one institution is providing part of its envelope to support another institution’s application, how is the evaluation done? Is there separate consideration of the benefits to both institutions or just to the lead institution?
[Ryan Gill] So, in projects where their envelope is being shared like the sort of split up of the cost between institutions isn’t generally part of the review process really. What is important for reviewers is to be able to see that the team is able to work together, that there will be benefits for Canada, but they’re not going to be generally looking at the specifics of is this research benefitting both institution a and b. It’s looking more at will this infrastructure set up an environment where the research that’s proposed can take place because it’s excellent research. The team is able to undertake this kind of research. The sustainability of the infrastructure has been properly planned for and there are plans to provide benefits for Canadians. So the split of a project between multiple envelopes isn’t part of the assessment of a proposal.
[Sébastien Denizé] Thanks Ryan. There’s another question, it’s also anonymous. It’s asking you to go back and go through where to find the information in CAMS regarding the project management tools, allocation and that kind of information.
[Ryan Gill] So on the screen now, you’ll see from an institutional dashboard, so this would be for institutional liaisons and other people in the research services office, where they would be able to see on the left, the drop-down menu with the overview information section. And to find the two reports that I highlighted about the envelope management and also the team member tracking, those are under the report repository and so that’s where they can be found. And when it comes to finding the institutional liaison list, I would have to double check in the document getting started with CAMS for institutional administrators, but we do have in that document on our website, the place to go to find that. I believe it’s under institutional agreement and access privileges, but I’d need to double check to make sure. I’m not sure if one of my colleagues can quickly check in the CAMS document and confirm that in writing maybe?
[Sébastien Denizé] I think we’re working on that. In the meantime, we have another question from [attendee] asking in terms of team expertise, what is the difference between the team as it pertains to the PIs members and users, as opposed to the current and planned partners/organizations. If I have experts, how do European universities, for example, who have decided to provide their expertise to the project, are they a partner or on the team? That is, do I get to count their expertise if they are not on the team?
[Ryan Gill] So when we talk about the team expertise criterion, we’re looking as broadly as you’re willing to describe the people who are working on this project. So, those can be the project leaders and the team members, but they could also be partners that you have outside of those, up to 10 individuals. Really, the difference between a team leader and team member and the rest of the potential people on the team, is that those 10 people who are clearly identified in the proposal as a team leader or a team member, will have their CV added to the proposal. And so then for the reviewers, that information is available for anyone else who is relevant, for example, back to [attendee’s] question about core facilities. Sometimes we’ll see an important person for this project is the core facility manager, but they don’t necessarily get counted as a team member because perhaps their CV isn’t particularly relevant for the project. But they would be an important member of the team and so they could be described in the team expertise section of the proposal. The only difference is their CV isn’t added to the end of the proposal. So, when we talk about the team, we’re talking generally quite broadly about everyone involved in the research.
[Sébastien Denizé] We have another anonymous question asking if health authorities are eligible to apply.
[Ryan Gill] A health authority, I’m guessing that means kind of a group of hospitals in a province or something like that. You can check already on the CFI’s website if you’re already an eligible institution and I believe in some provinces, the health authority may already be an eligible institution. If not, I would get in touch with the CFI. I’ll bring back up that slide. You can email us at the Innovation Fund email address and we’d be able to send you the information about eligibility in order to get that process started, because there are specific requirements that the CFI has in order to become an eligible institution. So it would be on a sort of case-by-case basis whether or not that would be possible.
[Sébastien Denizé] Another question also [anonymous] is asking: what has been the success rate of small institutions in the competition?
[Ryan Gill] So, I actually off the top of my head don’t have that information, but you could look on the CFI’s web page under our past competitions section, which is under the apply and manage section at the top. You’ll be able to look at both the 2020 Innovation Fund and the 2017 Innovation Fund. We do have what we call IF by the numbers documents where we highlight this kind of information in terms of success rates for institutions, so I would point you to that area. If you have a specific question, you can also follow up with us. We would be happy to send those links directly to you if you follow up by email.
[Sébastien Denizé] Another question from [attendee] is asking can the two team leaders be from different institutions or do they need to be from the same institution?
[Ryan Gill] No, they can be from different institutions. Also, the team leaders and team members don’t need to be from CFI eligible institutions. They don’t even have to be from institutions in Canada. They can be from anywhere.
[Sébastien Denizé] Another question that [anonymous] is asking: in the fund when you mentioned the fact that EDI or the equity, diversity and inclusion aspects of the lead should be considered, how is this meant to be satisfied? For example, if the lead is a woman, if we cannot declare this due to the inability to identify anyone.
[Ryan Gill] So what we’re looking for in terms of the team composition criterion is the actions that were taken or are planned rather than the outcomes. That’s really what we’re trying to assess here. And so we’re not looking for you to say we did our best and we’re able to recruit a person who was from an underrepresented group. What we’re looking for is these are the actions that we took to remove barriers and address systemic challenges that are specific to the context of our research and these are the actions that we took or that we plan to take, so that’s really what we’re focusing on here. So given that, we wouldn’t expect that you would need to identify the personal information of any team members or team leaders.
[Sébastien Denizé] We have another [anonymous] question. It says that the list of liaison agents seems to be incomplete. Is there any way we can encourage institutions to share this information by, for example, sharing with them the procedure to complete this process?
[Ryan Gill] So, the list of liaisons only includes those who have agreed to have their information shared and so we do encourage all liaisons to accept that so that their information appears on the list. I think that’s a good point. Maybe we can add that to some communication that we have in the future. So I’ll note that down and pass it on to our communications department. And everyone who’s on this call who is an institutional liaison, you’re encouraged to accept to share your information in CAMS. And if you have any questions about how to do that, get in touch with your senior programs officers or programs officer at the CFI and we’ll be able to explain how to get to that section in CAMS.
[Sébastien Denizé] There’s another question from [attendee] asking when we respond to the team composition criterion, can we construe the team broadly as we can in the expertise section or do we define more narrowly as the core team of 10 that submit their CVs?
[Ryan Gill] Well, I think in this case, it would be the same as we say for team expertise. So what we’re looking for is for you to have put in place actions that apply not only to the 10 people that you have on the team, but in general to this research program. And so we would hope that you haven’t implemented something that only applies to those 10 people, we would be looking for actions that apply to the whole research program and so that would be up to 10 people who have their CVs included. So that actually is not just a possibility, but an encouragement to implement actions that apply broadly.
[Sébastien Denizé] The last question that I see here from our Q&A is slightly confusing, but I think the question is asking whether international researchers need to be collaborators or partners in order to be able to access the funds.
[Ryan Gill] So, the CFI funds go towards institutions and CFI eligible institutions, and so one thing that maybe should be clarified is that the applicants to the CFI are the institutions themselves. There’s a team that does the research and understands the infrastructure that’s requested, but the actual applicant is an institution or a set of institutions in the case where there are collaborators and so that’s who would have access to the funds. And CFI eligible institutions are all within Canada so the funds would flow to Canadian institutions.
[Sébastien Denizé] That was the final question in the Q&A, but if anyone would like to ask another question, feel free to use the raise hand function before we finish.
[Ryan Gill] Well while we see if there are any last questions that come in, I do want to take this time to thank everyone for coming in today and watching this information session. As you are probably aware, we have two more sessions this week: one tomorrow in French, and then one again on Wednesday in English. So, if you have a question between now and then, feel free to pop by in either sessions and ask it there. Otherwise, we wish everyone good luck with their Innovation Fund proposals and as we said earlier, if you have any questions, please get in touch with the CFI and we’ll do our best to be able to answer them.
Any last questions?
[Sébastien Denizé] We’ve got two last questions that maybe we can squeeze in. The first one’s from [attendee] asking in the team composition section. There’s no longer a requirement to discuss collaborations or partnerships, is it still worthwhile to discuss this?
[Ryan Gill] I think it would be up to the applicant to decide whether it’s worthwhile. As I said just in the question right before, we’re hoping that the actions that you put in place and the analysis of the context as well, it looks more broadly than just at the 10 people who end up on the proposal. And so we would hope that you’re also not necessarily I guess that you have to specifically address the partners and collaborators but that you’re putting in place actions that are having an impact for the whole research program.
[Sébastien Denizé] And the final question from [attendee] is asking is there a way of saving the Q&A transcript at the end the webinar or are these going to be posted? I think I can answer that. We’re going to try to collate all of the questions and answers and try to put that into an FAQ document.
[Ryan Gill] So that will also, I guess, be available along with the recording of these sessions and the slides on our website. So keep an eye out for those.
I guess that was the last question, so thank you to everyone and have a great rest of your day. Bye-bye.
How is my proposal assessed?
After you submit your proposal, it is assessed through our merit-review process.
1. Administrative review
We review each proposal to make sure it is complete and adheres to our guidelines.
2. Expert Committees
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 for the competition. Only proposals that meet the competition’s threshold of excellence will move to the Multidisciplinary Assessment Committees (MAC).
3. Multidisciplinary Assessment Committees
Multidisciplinary Assessment Committees review groups of proposals of similar size and/or complexity and assess them against the three competition objectives in order to:
- Identify proposals with significant weaknesses in the “Team composition” criterion. These will be removed from the competition
- Identify proposals that demonstrate the highest standard of excellence and best meet the three competition objectives relative to other competing requests
- Provide the Special Multidisciplinary Assessment Committee with a funding recommendation and funding amount for each proposal.
4. Special Multidisciplinary Assessment Committee
A Special Multidisciplinary Assessment Committee (S-MAC) reviews reports from the MAC meetings for the proposals recommended for funding to make sure the committees were consistent in their assessment.
If recommendations from the MACs exceed the available budget, the S-MAC recommends to the CFI Board of Directors the proposals that best support the CFI’s mandate, meet the objectives of the competition and represent the most beneficial portfolio of investments for Canada.
What is the role of the Expert Committee?
This enhanced and optimized institutional research means ever increasing benefits for all Canadians in the social, environmental, economic and health sectors.
We provide funding to eligible Canadian institutions for equipment acquisition, technology development programs and the spaces needed to conduct world-class research, as well as support for their ongoing operations and maintenance.
For each of our various funding competitions, we invite institutions to submit project proposals that outline their research goals and the infrastructure they’ll need to reach them.
We then recruit experts from around the world to participate in our merit-review process.
Here’s how it works and what you – members of the expert committee – need to know…
First, we group proposals together, by research fields. Then we assign a committee of experts in those fields to provide assessments.
An expert committee is typically composed of a Chair and two to six members, depending on the number and breadth of proposals it will review.
The Chair ensures that the expert committee functions effectively and objectively in accordance with CFI policies.
As a member of the expert committee, your job is to review each proposal independently and submit individual assessments to the CFI before meeting with other committee members.
Using a five-point rating scale, you will need to judge how well each proposal meets the competition’s assessment criteria.
You will need to substantiate your ratings by listing the strengths and weaknesses you’ve identified for each criterion.
To help you properly assess the propositions according to the competition criteria, we encourage you to consult the guidelines for reviewers that can be found alongside the review material in CAMS and on our Innovation Fund website page.
We also ask that you comment on the appropriateness of the proposed budget.
This exercise allows you to identify key talking points that will help focus your committee’s discussion so you can reach a consensus.
If there are many proposals assigned to your committee, they may be divided up between members to ensure that every proposal gets thoroughly reviewed.
All materials necessary to make your assessments are available within two to three weeks of the submission deadline. They can be found in CAMS, our awards management portal.
You will need to activate the account we have created for you to gain access to these resources
Expert committees will meet virtually once or twice, depending on the number of proposals and a CFI representative will participate in every meeting.
With the members of your committee, you will be asked to reach a consensus on the strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately on ratings for each assessment criteria.
The CFI will then draft a report for each proposal outlining the expert committee’s conclusions and send them to the committee Chair for approval.
If a proposal meets the expert committee’s threshold of excellence, the proposal and the report will proceed to the Multidisciplinary Assessment Committee or MAC, for stage two of our merit review process.
At this stage, we regroup proposals based on the size of the applicant institution and the amount of infrastructure funding requested from the CFI.
Guided by the expert committee reports, MAC members are asked to evaluate proposals based on the competition’s objectives and recommend which projects to fund. Note that all funded projects will need to have received one of the top three marks from the MAC for the Team composition criteria.
If the number of proposals recommended by the MAC exceeds the competition’s available budget, a third committee, known as the Special Multidisciplinary Assessment Committee, or S-MAC, is responsible for narrowing down the choices.
The recommended proposals are then sent to the CFI Board of Directors
As you can see, the expert committees are the foundation of our valued merit review process.
Your expertise allows us to fund trailblazing projects with the greatest potential for impact — projects at the forefront of exploration and knowledge that address global challenges and make meaningful contributions to Canada’s social, health, environmental and economic development.
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 2023 competition are:
- Research or technology development
- Team expertise
- Team composition
See the call for proposals for details of each of these assessment criteria.
Have you been recruited as a reviewer?
If your institution 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?
Funded recipients need to submit an award finalization form in the CFI Awards Management System (CAMS)
We will require additional documentation if the project involves a private-sector partner that meets any of the following criteria:
- Has an active role in the research activities described in the funding proposal (e.g., sharing of intellectual property, providing expertise, actively participating in research activities, contributing financially to the research activities); or,
- Houses all or part of the research infrastructure; or,
- Contributes more than $500,000 to the infrastructure through a cash or in-kind contribution to any single item.
Funded recipients need to either provide confirmation by email that the project involves no private-sector partner that meets any of the criteria above or submit the following documentation to finalize their :
- A completed Risk Assessment Form (Please refer to Completing a Risk Assessment Form for projects funded through the Canada Foundation for Innovation's 2023 Innovation Fund competition);
- A completed Private-sector partner – Identification form for each private-sector partner that meets any of the criteria above;
- A completed Institutional consent form to allow the CFI to share the RAFs and the project proposals with the appropriate Government of Canada department or agency in case a more in-depth security review is necessary. Such sharing of information will only occur if the CFI cannot ascertain the risk, or if it cannot determine if the proposed mitigation measures are sufficient or not.
- A completed consent Form from all team leaders and team members (you may use the Researcher consent form) to allow the CFI to share, if needed, the following with the Government of Canada departments and agencies, for the purpose of assessing risks to Canada’s national security in agreement with the NSGRP:
- All information included in the proposal submitted to the CFI, including the personal information found in the researchers’ CV’s (this does not include self-identification data in their CFI profile), and elsewhere in the proposal; and,
- The risk assessment form
Funded recipients need to finalize their award before we can release funds to their institution.
What is required of institutions to mitigate security risks?
Funded recipients will be required to ensure the security and integrity of projects. This includes:
- Conducting due diligence to identify potential security risks to the project, including, as applicable, physical security, personnel, cybersecurity, data, IP and partnerships
- Identifying and implementing measures to mitigate any identified risks, reflecting best practices in risk management and operations.
Following award finalization and until they submit the final financial report, recipient institutions are asked to notify the CFI of any changes to a funded project that would impact the national security risk under the National Security Guidelines for Research Partnerships by submitting an updated Risk Assessment Form (RAF).
Examples of situations warranting an updated RAF include:
- The development of new partnerships;
- An increase in a partner’s financial contribution to the infrastructure as per the threshold above;
- The relocation of research infrastructure to the premises of a private sector partner.
Tools and guidance are currently 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 from institutions and write to us at good.practices [at] innovation.ca (good[dot]practices[at]innovation[dot]ca) to share your own.
Number of world-class research projects supported since the Innovation Fund started in 2006
Amount invested through the Innovation Fund so far
Number of students and postdocs who report having advanced their research using infrastructure funded through this fund since 2006
*Number has been rounded up
A review of data from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s Innovation Fund and John R. Evans Leaders Fund