Major Science Initiatives Fund
How do we define a facility in the context of this fund?
A facility funded through the MSI Fund addresses the needs of a community of researchers representing a critical mass of users distributed across the country.
This is done by providing shared access to substantial and advanced specialized equipment, services, resources, and scientific and technical personnel.
Whether single-sited, distributed or virtual, the facility:
- Supports leading-edge research and technology development, and promotes the mobilization of knowledge and transfer of technology to society
- Requires resource commitments well beyond the capacity of any one institution
- Is specifically identified or recognized as serving pan-Canadian needs and its governance and management structures reflect this mandate.
Who is eligible to apply to this fund?
Canadian universities, colleges, research hospitals and non-profit research institutions recognized as CFI-eligible can apply to this fund on behalf of a facility. Check our list of CFI-eligible institutions.
With each new competition, we set a list of specific criteria that facilities must meet to be eligible for funding.
How is the funding distributed?
With each new competition, we set an overall budget, which is awarded to successful facilities to cover a portion of their operating and maintenance costs.
We distribute the overall budget based on the needs of each facility, as assessed by the review committees during the competitive process.
Halfway through each funding cycle, we conduct a midterm review of each facility to assess its performance and determine the amount of our contribution for the second half of the funding cycle.
What are the details for the 2023 competition?
The 2023 competition will provide funding to facilities for six years, from April 1, 2023 to March 31, 2029.
Decision by CFI Board of Directors
|Public announcement of competition results||TBD|
The CFI will invest up to $660 million through the 2023 competition.
Funding through the 2023 competition is intended to:
- Enable pan-Canadian research communities to undertake world-class research and technology development that lead to social, health, economic or environmental benefits for Canadians
- Enable facilities to operate at an optimal level to ensure the best use of their specialized equipment, services, resources, and technical and scientific personnel
- Promote responsible stewardship through the adoption of best practices in governance and management.
A facility is eligible for funding through the 2023 competition if it:
- Provides highly specialized equipment, services, resources, or scientific and technical personnel
- Has a demonstrated demand from a research community for equipment, services, resources and scientific and technical personnel
- Has as an established governance model appropriate to its size and complexity, with a clearly defined national mandate
- Has a management structure and practices appropriate to its size and complexity
- Has a publicly available user access policy through which any interested user can request access
- Has demonstrated annual eligible operating and maintenance costs exceeding $1 million to support human and operational resources beyond what is typically available in Canadian research institutions
- Is fully operational
- Is owned by one or more CFI-eligible institutions.
See the call for proposals for the 2023 competition for the specific requirements of each of these eligibility criteria.
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.
Step 1: Send us an expression of interest
If your institution is acting as the administrative institution for a facility not funded in the 2017 competition, submit an expression of interest before you submit a notice of intent.
We will use expressions of interest as a first step toward planning the competition.
Include the following information in your expression of interest:
- Name of the facility
- Website address of the facility, if there is one
- Brief description of the facility (maximum 200 words)
- Annual operating budget of the facility (based on costs and revenues eligible through this fund)
- Your best estimate of the total amount you will request from the CFI for the funding period of the competition.
Email your expression of interest to MSI-ISM [at] innovation.ca
Step 2: Submit a notice of intent
If your institution is acting as the administrative institution for a facility seeking funding through this competition, submit a notice of intent.
Both facilities funded in the 2017 competition and those that were not must submit a notice of intent.
We will use notices of intent to plan the merit-review process and to start recruiting reviewers.
We will also use the notices of intent to determine whether facilities not funded in the 2017 competition meet the eligibility criteria for the competition. We will notify the administrative institutions of these facilities whether or not they are invited to submit a proposal.
Step 3: Submit a proposal
If your institution is acting as the administrative institution for a facility seeking funding through this competition, submit a proposal.
Step 4: The review process begins
After the deadline to submit proposals, the merit-review process begins. This is how we will assess which proposals receive funding.
Resources for applying to the Major Science Initiatives Fund
View recordings of our information sessions and consult the slides from the presentations for details on how to apply.
My name is Michèle Beaudry, senior programs officer at the CFI. I am joined by my colleagues Heidi Bandulet and Mark Legacé. Heidi and Mark will be monitoring the chat in the Q&A. Also online, I have my colleagues Eden and Alexandria, who will be looking to make sure that we have all the technical support that we need if something goes wrong. So hopefully it will not.
So we will focus this afternoon on the next steps to be taken by the applicants and especially the facilities that are not currently supported through the MSI. So go through the steps needed to put in your notice of intent and your proposal. This is why are we focusing on the currently not supported facilities, is they will need to go through extra steps in the process. We will also highlight, as we go, some of the small changes that were done to the call for proposals, following comments we’ve received on the draft call.
Some housekeeping items as we start. These sessions are recorded and the recordings will be made available on our website along with a Q&A that should be up in a few weeks, so let’s say before the end of the month.
We encourage you to ask questions as we go along. Enter your questions in this chat or the Q&A. If we have time—no, we will not be able to take live questions at this time because of the format we have. We have, only a webinar format, so please type all of your questions. The questions will be recorded and we will answer all the questions we haven’t been able to get to in the FAQs and those answers will be posted on the web.
Then we will go over the application process, the review process, competition timelines, what are the funds available and then the different steps proper, so the expression of interest, the notice of intent, the proposal and as we mentioned, we will go through questions as we go or at the end we will go through the list of questions.
This slide provides an overview of the application and review process combined. The first step is for the facilities that are not currently funded through the MSI Fund, so they will have to submit an expression of interest. We will get into the details later.
Following that, all facilities will need to submit a notice of intent and that notice of intent will serve different purposes. For the currently funded facilities, it’s a purely administrative function. We will know what the budget is and the list of suggested reviewers. But for the facilities that are not currently funded through the MSI Fund, the notice of intent will be required for the determination of eligibility for these new applicants. The NOIs will be reviewed by a multi-disciplinary assessment committee in October, and the MAC will at that point determine which new facilities are able or eligible to apply to this competition.
The next step will be the expert committees. All proposals submitted will be reviewed by an individual and dedicated expert committee composed of five to eight experts. The expert committees will be scheduled over two or three different sessions. Because the committees will be held virtually, we want to try and alleviate the Zoom fatigue and we will be scheduling different sessions. There will be face-to-face meetings with the applicants and the institutions. The expert committee’s role will be to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the proposals in relations to the assessment criteria and to recommend the amount of funding to be awarded to each facility and also any conditions that should be imposed on this funding. For facilities currently funded, the expert committees will also assess the performance and progress made by the facility since the 2019 midterm review, and this is to ensure continuity in the review process and coherence in the recommendations made to the facility.
The last step of the process will be the multi-disciplinary assessment committee and this committee will include members from the NOI. So basically, the multi-disciplinary assessment committee will be one committee that will review the notice of intent and the full proposal. We will need to add some members at the full proposal stage for workload issues as they will be reviewing all of the proposals and not just a subset of the NOIs. So they will review the proposals based on the competition objectives and they will be recommending to the CFI board of directors, a subset of proposals that most effectively meet the objectives of the competition. And also to note, the proposals that are not recommended by the expert committee will not be considered by the MAC. However, if those facilities are currently funded through the MSI Fund, the MAC will be asked to review their request for transitional funding.
The competition timeline hasn’t changed from the draft call. So you’ve noticed two different timelines, one for the currently funded facilities and the new facilities coming into the competition. Important dates to remember: September 20th is the deadline for NOI for all facilities. November 4th is the proposal submission deadline for the currently funded facilities and also the date at which the CFI will invite the new facilities to submit a proposal, and then the facilities not funded will have until February 8th to submit their proposals to the CFI. The MAC will meet in May 2022, and decisions will be made at our June board 2022, and funding will start April 1st 2023.
The budget available for the next competition is $660 million over six years that is a $50 million increase compared to the previous cycle. The CFI may reserve a portion of those funds for potential adjustment at the midterm review, as well as any transitional funding that will be made available for facilities that see their funding not renewed in this cycle. Although this is a modest increase, we believe that it will still allow us to support new facilities within the MSI program.
There is no allocated portion of the competition budget reserved for new or currently funded applicants. The review process will determine the best portfolio of investment for Canada regardless of their current funding status. Although we can’t make any assumption on the current facility’s success rate, the budget implies that if all facilities are renewed, we will quickly reach the limit of the $660 million.
While we prefer the CFI approach in full funding of proposals, rather than implement cuts to budget across the board, there may be cases where partial funding will be deemed appropriate and it will be up to the MAC to consider different factors such as the budget justification of any increases significant increases in O&M cost, or the withdrawal or reduction of existing partner funding. Budget cuts may be discussed at the face-to-face meeting with the facilities, and facilities should be prepared to answer questions regarding their ability to operate without some other requested funding.
Facilities with an annual budget of over $2 million are asked to provide a three-page plan in case the proposal is not recommended for funding, and this transitional funding may be used over a maxim of two years and may not exceed 75% of the facility’s current funding. So 75% if it’s used in one year, 50% for the first year, 25% the second year.
Looking back at the 2017 competition, we noticed that several facilities had included non-eligible costs as part of their budget. So it’s important that all facilities pay special attention to these and when in doubt, validate the eligibility of cost with their senior programs officer.
I’d like to note that since 2017, there have not been significant changes in the list of illegible and ineligible costs. Two exceptions: the student participation in operation and maintenance functions and technology development costs. So although all costs related to research activities remain ineligible, cost related to technology development for improving or enhancing services that the facility offers to its users is now illegible, and by that we mean internal research and development to improve user services. So then that means salaries of scientific and technical personnel employed by the facility who are not faculty members that are working on the development of new protocols, integration of new tools, methodology, optimization, as well as information technology development, are now illegible. And we were asked to maybe provide an example of what this could look like and we do have one in case of SNOLAB. In the current funding cycle, they needed to do R&D to develop expertise on the production, purification, storage and transportation of large quantities of noble glass. Without this research and development, they were not able to provide these services and were not were not competitive in attracting the best experiments. So that’s the type of R&D research that is allowed under the MSI Fund.
The portion of student salaries that are conducting O&M activities are also covered now. So if you have co-op students, trainees in the skilled trades that are contributing to maintenance, administration or development of technologies, those portions of costs are also eligible now.
Due to our limited budget, the CFI is not in a position to be able to implement the life cycle approach. So as in the past year, only replacement parts and minor upgrades are eligible as infrastructure costs within the MSI budget. If you do have more significant investments in the facility that needs to be done, you will have to submit proposals through our other programs like the innovation fund.
There is also a common area misunderstanding in the 2017 competition regarding some of the costs that are sometimes covered by the host institution and one of those examples are utilities. So even if the institution pays for those costs, there are still eligible costs on the MSI budget and can be included per se.
Contingency costs are also illegible and by contingency we mean a reserve fund for unforeseen events and not for budget fluctuation, which should already be embedded to some degree in your cost categories. You will be asked to report your contingency in year six of your budget and when you request the use of those funds to the CFI. Then you will be able to bring them into the actual expenses of the current year.
Before I get into the different steps of the process, do we have any questions at this time that need to be answered Heidi? I think we’re good.
[Heidi Bandulet] Yes, we had several questions that we answered in the Q&A function. So I think since we have a lot of material to cover, I invite everyone to look at those questions and maybe we will come back at the end, because I think we need to move along.
[Michèle Beaudry] The expression of interest, this is the first step for facilities that are not currently funded. So administrative institutions for facilities not funded will have to submit an expression of interest before they can submit an NOI. So what will need to be included in the expression of interest? We will need the name in the facility and the website, a brief description, and also the annual eligible O&M costs and the amount requested from the CFI for the next six years, keeping in mind that the CFI cannot provide more than 40%. And the expression of interest will be used to understand the budget pressure and also plan the internal resources so we can deliver this fund successfully. The expressions of interest are to be sent to us via the MSI mailbox by August 10th.
The next step for all facilities will be the notice of intent that is to be submitted to the CFI by September 20th. All of the notice of intent process will be done through the CFI awards management system, so CAMS for short. Although the facilities typically start developing the application in CAMS, it is the administrative institution that will be responsible for submitting to the CFI. So we advise you to stay in contact with your institution and early in the process.
Very important when starting your NOI in CAMS, you will need to choose from three different forms. So if you’re looking for a renewal and you’re currently funded at 40%, renewal for facilities identified in fundamental science review at 60% and the facilities that are not currently funded. So you have to pick the right form, you will not be able to switch once the process is started. So if you have any doubts, please contact your senior programs officer.
The NOI is composed of the following elements: the basic project information. We are asking for the management team, which is replacing the principal users from our usual infrastructure request. In here, we ask for the four individuals that compose your management team. We do understand that some facilities have more than four people in their management team and you will be able to present the skills and expertise of those individuals in the narrative of the full proposal.
Suggested reviewers, we ask for a minimum of six potential reviewers. We ask you to make sure that the suggested reviewers are not in conflict of interest in your facility. We know most facilities have extensive linkage nationally and internationally and it’s a little more difficult for us to work with, so your help is requested here. We also ask that you attach tables 2.5 and 2.6, which is the budget ask overview and consult the call for proposals for more detail and that will provide us with the budget information that we need.
New facilities will need to, in addition to the in the topics above, will need to demonstrate that they are eligible to submit. And they will have a five-page limit to address the eight eligibility criteria and also they will need to submit a historic budget.
So the first three criteria will be reviewed administratively by the CFI, using information provided in the NOI and supporting information. So for new for facilities not currently funded, the supporting data includes four years of costs and revenue from 2019, 2020, to 2022, to 2023. And so they have to demonstrate that they have actual annual costs over a million dollars and that the facility is fully operational and that the facility is owned by one or more eligible institutions. If the facilities meet those three administrative criteria, the NOI will be sent to the multidisciplinary assessment committee for review of the five other criteria. If the total budget request is above $1 billion, the MAC may be asked to rank the NOIs according to the degree to which they fit the eligibility criteria and also identify the facilities for which the loss or absence of support would represent a serious setback for Canada.
To demonstrate their eligibility, facilities will need to demonstrate that they have highly specialized capabilities. And what we’ve seen in the past cycle, is that some facilities were more institutional or regional in nature and in scope, meaning that they have services, equipment that are readily available at other institutions in Canada. In a similar vein, we also received expression of interest from identical or very similar facilities from across the country, and the onus is on you to demonstrate that the facility offers something that is not commonly available and it is important for Canada and that its loss would represent a serious setback.
The user community criterion is really the heart of our definition as it’s mainly through the user base that the national importance and scope of the facility is demonstrated. So here, you need to make the case that the facility serves a community of users that represents a critical mass of researchers in the specific discipline. And again, this subject to interpretation of course, and it will vary by discipline, but we rely on our MAC to be able to make the distinction based on the information you provide and the combined experience of its members.
Also learning from past competition, it’s important not to confuse the term users and collaborators. By users, we do mean individuals that seek to access specialized capabilities and services. So these can be seen more as clients or customers and not just scientific collaborators. You will be asked in this section to provide a table with a three-year distribution of your users, demonstrating that you have users from different geographic areas and domains.
The next slide is presenting the other two criteria: governance model s and management practices. So what we expect in these two criteria is that your governance structures, and governance models and processes reflect the national mandate of your facility. So you need to be able to demonstrate that you do serve a Pan-Canadian user base. Your structures and already documentation policies and plans, need to be commensurate with the size and complexity of the facility and its level of maturity. For example, for larger complex facilities, these may include a board of directors responsible for long-term strategic planning and risk management.
Finally, you will need to demonstrate that you have established user access policy that is publicly available. We do not describe the type of access policy you must have in place. There are a variety of approaches and we do have a lot of those examples in the currently funded facilities. It has to be something that is the norm in your field. However, if access to limited or special resources need to be granted, it has to be done so through an appropriate review process. So here, we are requesting that you provide the user access data for the past three years, so since 2019.
In the past competition, we received a number of UIs requesting funds to cover operating costs and conduct activities under the focus of a research consortium. While there may be shared infrastructure, access to that infrastructure is typically restricted to members of the research group or network and as such, these will not be considered as eligible under the CFI fund.
I know I’m going quickly here, but we still have to get through the proposal. Heidi any questions we need answer verbally right now?
[Heidi Bandulet] I think we’re moving along. There are a lot of questions, so I think it’s still best to use the Q&A and keep it to the end so that we’re sure to go through the whole thing.
[Michèle Beaudry] So we will now go through the process for submitting a proposal. All the proposals will also be done through the CAM system. As a note, all of the forms are now available to you so you can start working on your NOIs as we speak. New facilities will have access only to the NOIs. Currently funded facilities will have access to the NOIs and the proposal forms in parallel so you can work on both of them at the same time.
The proposal form is composed of two modules: the project module and the finance module. And so the project module has a lot of attachments for the different parts. So executive summary: the assessment criteria and budget justification, and then additional attachments for docents that we are requesting. Contrary to the NOI, all of the budget information will be entered through CAMS, so you will not have to attach any Excel spreadsheet for the budget.
So depending on the size of the CFI request, you will have either 30 or 40 pages to provide justification and to address these six assessment criteria so if you requesting under $15 million, you have 30 pages. Over $15 million, you will have 40 pages. We’ll go through quickly in the through the different assessment criteria. A couple of things that we would like to point out in the first criteria are the scientific excellence. So to be able to sustain scientific excellence and world-class research should be the raison d’être of these types of facility. So therefore, you will be asked to explain the scope nature and variety of the research that is enabled by the use of your facility and provide in relation to your strategic plan, the research directions and visions for the next six years. Facilities are required to have the knowledge of its user community and the type of research that they want to carry out. We also ask that you provide a list of selected publications demonstrating the quality of the research enabled by the facility and describe the transformative aspects as well as highlight a few examples of research accomplishments, such as awards or seminal contributions. You must also provide a measure of scientific output through publications and other benefits, including training.
The other criteria are international competitiveness. So here, you must describe how your facility, highly specialized capabilities and human expertise and where the facility stands compared to other similar facilities worldwide. So this element was deemed a weakness by many expert committees in 2017 so it’s important that this aspect is addressed properly. The expert committee is composed of international experts in the field and is important for them to understand that you are aware of similar facilities and that you are able to benchmark against those facilities. So the relationship between its competitive and the needs of the user community is important and needs to be demonstrated as well. The facility and services should be in very high demand and as such, the facility must be seen to respond to the needs of its user base so what are the mechanisms in place to be able to achieve this. The expert committee review will have a specific face-to-face session with the applicants on science and international competitiveness, so there will be a chance to answer the committee questions and provide additional information at that time.
In the need for funds, you’ll also need to explain how the requested funding will allow the facility to exploit its capabilities. Something that is new in this cycle, is we are asking you to describe your budgeting process and how the facility goes about determining the level of funding that is requested from the CFI. And we also ask that you provide an explanation for any variations in the budget compared to the past years. That being said, it’s very important, we made this explicit in the final call. We expect that the amount requested from the CFI and the proposal do not exceed by more than 10% the requested amount in the NOI. So we do understand that there will be some tweaking between the NOI and the full proposal ask, but the accepted variation should not be more than 10%.
In your budget, you should also present the most accurate needs for your facility for the next six years. At this time, we have no indication that there will be an opportunity to request additional funding at the midterm review. We also ask that you provide a plan for maintaining the current sources of funding, or securing or diversifying sources of funding, and what are your contingency plans for any potential funding shortfalls.
We’ve been asked in previous competitions if funds from the MSI can be used to expand the scope of a facility. It is important to remember that the MSI funds are there to allow existing facilities who already have a national mandate to fully exploit their scientific and technical capabilities. They are not intended to help a local or a regional facility become national in scope by encouraging the expansion of their user base. Well this is something that the review process will be watching for very carefully.
The next criteria: operations and user access. In the last cycle for the currently funded facility, the operations were part of the management criteria so we’ve broken that out for this cycle. And here, we are looking at the efficiency of your operation and the access to user. So we ask you to define for your own facility what your optimal level of use is. For example, the optimal level of use, which is a measure of the total facilities capacity so excluding any required maintenance period. For example, you have 10 user stations that can be used 24/7, but for a lack of resource you can only achieve part of that so your optimal use would be to use your 10 stations 24/7. But you’re not there, so you’ll be looking at MSI funds to be able to reach that optimal level. You need to tell us what that optimal level is. In light of this, we want to know what your plans are to improve and maintain this level, or what are the resources necessary to achieve or maintain this level.
The second important aspect is to describe the user access policies and provide, like in the demonstration of eligibility, the annual number of access requests received and accommodated over the past three years, as well as the breakdown of users. And here, we also ask for you to discuss any potential barriers to access the resource of your facility and if so, what steps could be taken to improve this access so that it is fair, equitable and inclusive for everyone.
In the excellence in governance, which is the following criteria: we want you to describe the governance structure of the facility, including the composition and mandate of any committee you may have formed and also provide the affiliation of its members. You will need to explain the relationship of the facility with the host institution and its accountability. We also need to get a sense of how this compares to the governance of similar facilities or organization because here, too, it may vary with the culture of the domain also. You also need to describe what steps are taken to apply equity, diversity and inclusion principles to the composition of the different bodies. We talk about board composition on the slide, but it can be all governance bodies and how in your strategic planning, you take the EDI principles into consideration. And of course, you need to provide the facility’s current strategic plan, describe the process used to define your strategic vision, and describe the long-term vision for the facility. In addition, in this cycle, we ask that if applicable, to let us know of any major upgrades planned over the next 20 years so that we can get a sense of the lifespan of the facility. We also ask that you explain how the facility measures its success and achieves its objectives, including its priority research direction and performance measure.
So you must describe how the facility is managed and by whom. So we ask about your management structure and key individuals who are in management roles. We do have a limit of four people but again, you may introduce more people in your discussion, but you will not be providing CVs for these people. So it’s important to identify the individuals that are actually accomplishing the functions and not necessarily the applicants that have a specific title, like CEO with a director, or it can be a chief scientific officer. So we’re not concerned about the title but more about the function that these people are actually doing. You will also need to provide the current management plan and that should include the financial controls, safety monitoring, human resources, succession planning, maintenance and repair, decommissioning, etc. You must also explain how equity diversity and inclusion principles are applied to the recruitment of staff, describe the facility’s process and mechanism to track and measure outcomes enabled by the facility, and how this information is integrated into the management decision making process. By here, we talk about a feedback loop. So you have a criteria, how do you read how does management react to this and make improvements to move the facility forward? Data management and cyber security are very important in user facilities. So if not included in the management plan, you must describe the facility’s data management policies, and research security policies and procedures. So these six criteria are to be demonstrated within the allocated page count, so the 30 or 40 pages.
And in addition to that, we are requesting some additional docents and we’ve mentioned a few of them: the strategic plan, the management plan, the list of selected publications over the last three years, the four management CVs, which should be in all put into one PDF to be attached, and the transitional funding plan, if your facility currently receives more than $2 million per year from the CFI. To note, there is a 20 MB limit per attachment so this should not be an issue when you try to upload your documents.
The proposal is also composed of the financial module, and for the currently funded facility you will notice a difference from the finance module at the midterm. So all of the financial information must now be included in CAMS and this will be done through four different tables. So a historical budget will include fiscal years 2019, 2020 up to 2022, 2023. We realize that it is not historic because it is next year, but it is previous to the next funding cycle, which starts April 1st, 2023. Any detailed forecasted budget for the six years of the funding period, so 2023 to 2029. When entering your detailed forecast budget, you can now include the number of FTEs or any discrete items, so per category of expense and to remember that the CFI ask should not be more than 10% of the amount requested at the NOI.
This slide summarizes the relationship between the competition objectives, which are evaluated by the MAC and the assessment criteria, which are reviewed by the expert committee. So I would like to point out that the review guidelines for each of the committees will be made available on our website in the following weeks and it might be interesting for the applicants to go through the guideline and understand the point of view of the reviewers and it can help you in drafting your NOI and your proposal.
For each objective of the competition, we have two criteria that are linked directly to it and of course, in reality these things are interconnected so we ask that you avoid duplication and to use figures and tables as much as you can to simplify and to make the message more clear. Within these objectives, we have introduced some considerations where appropriate for equity diversity and inclusion and that will be part of the assessment made by the committees, but with acknowledgement that this is a work in progress for most institutions and facilities.
And the last point is in addressing the criteria, keep in mind that these will not be reviewed as our pass/fail but using our five point rating scale, which is a little more nuanced and we will take into consideration your unique and operational context. So therefore, there might be requirements which apply in your case and that it’s okay. Each facility will be judged for its own merit within its own operational context and that will be clearly articulated to the MAC.
So now it’s question time so Heidi, over to you.
[Mark Lagacé] Sorry, I jumped in here, but could I suggest that we spend a couple minutes talking about the impacts of COVID, because there’s been a number of the Q&A questions that have come up asking well what if our O&M costs are lower for a particular year because of COVID? What if our users are lower for a particular year and so on?
[Heidi Bandulet] So there’s that and then linked to that are questions about ramping up activity. So how much room there is for that and so there is a link with COVID because you might have less activity in the previous years so then when you present your budget. So maybe you want to go ahead Michèle?
[Michèle Beaudry] Okay. Let me see. I’m trying to find what the questions are and I can’t find them in all of my screens so maybe you can jump in Mark while I try to find my…
[Mark Lagacé] Having seen some of the questions, it was more terms in general because a number of specific questions came up about specific topics, but I think some of the questions that came around the $1 million threshold, for example, and O&M costs of eligibility and what happens if you know in one particular year because of COVID, they’re lower than what we would normally do. And so I think in all cases, I think the important thing is to explain the situation, so in the notice of intent and also in the proposal as going forward. So if there is any variation that is due to the COVID pandemic, to provide a clear explanation of what that is and we will take that into account and the expert panels will take that into account as they’re assessing the proposals. I mean, we all understand this is a very unique situation. 2020 was perhaps not a typical year for many of us and so we will certainly do our best to be cognizant of that fact and so if, for example, your O&M costs for that year are lower than the $1 million threshold, we will not automatically exclude you from eligibility because of that. I think you need to demonstrate that your O&M costs are at that level in in sort of normal situations and going forward, and so that’s something that you to just explain. And if there are any concerns, I always do encourage you to get in touch with, as the institution, get in touch with your senior programs officer, if you have any specific questions or concerns about your particular situation, whether it relates to COVID or otherwise.
So Heidi what was the topic that you had suggested we bring up?
[Heidi Bandulet] Well the ramp up. So it’s sort of linked somehow with the COVID, questions about those who are planning to ramp up their activity during the six year period. And I think the answer here is, well realistically, we do have a limited budget so we’re working in that reality. So we have limited room and leeway to entertain big increases from one facility, however, some increases might be justified and you need to make the case for it. So I cannot give you a straight answer. And of course in the future, along the six years, there will be a midterm review. We have no idea at this moment whether or not there will be additional funds added to the program. This is mere speculation at this point, but it is a possibility. There will be a check at midpoint, like in 2025 where you might be able to adjust your budget. But going in with a steep increase, you would have to make a really strong case for it. So I hope this answers the question, or Mark do you have anything to add, or Michèle?
[Michèle Beaudry] No, I think that addresses it very well.
[Mark Lagacé] So one more question came in that’s open. I don’t know if you want to address that live Michèle rather than having me trying to type something in, in our last three minutes here?
[Michèle Beaudry] Where is it?
[Mark Lagacé] That’s a good question.
[Michèle Beaudry] Which window?
[Heidi Bandulet] So it’s regarding research activity costs. Sorry… so some cause maybe the responsibility of a research unit therefore might be mistaken as an impact to conduct research activity, does that the illegible…? Well, it has to be clear that researchers using the facility, and if even if it’s internal researchers conducting their own research using the facility, that the research costs associated with that even though they might be employed by the facility directly would not be illegible because it’s considered a purely research cost. However, if their internal R&D is meant to improve the offering to the users, then we have broadened our eligibility to include that. So there’s a nuance there.
[Michèle Beaudry] And I would add that if you have any doubt, just please contact the CFI and we can talk through and give you the correct information at that time.
[Heidi Bandulet] For sure, specific examples, you can get a better answer if you have a specific and then you can go to your senior programs officer.
[Michèle Beaudry] Any clarification on users? Should we be counting all users of the facility or only Canadian users? I think you should be counting all users and reporting them in the right categories. So you do have some boxes in the table to report your international users as well as your industry users. What is important here is that you only report a user once. So wherever you report it, then that’s fine. It has to be the most fitting place to put it, but only report it once.
[Heidi Bandulet] Another question. The $1million threshold for eligibility applies to the total cost regardless of the CFI ask. So there is no threshold on the CFI ask itself, it’s more the size of the facilities operations basically. So it could be less than 40% of that and it would still be illegible.
[Mark Lagacé] So in the interest of time, I realize we’re at our one hour limit.
[Heidi Bandulet] Yes.
[Mark Lagacé] I think we can take all of the Q&A questions that we’ve got here. It came up in of the questions, but I wanted to reassure people we will be putting together a frequently asked questions document that we will post that will summarize some of these questions here. We will make the recording available and there have been some requests to make the slides themselves available and they don’t see my video they can do that we wouldn’t be able to do that as well.
[Michèle Beaudry] We can do that.
[Mark Lagacé] So we should be able to provide all of that. If there are further questions, by all means get in touch with your senior programs officer, or you can send them through the MSIemail@example.com email address. As I said, first port of call is your programs officer, is probably the best the best option. But if you if you want to send that to the MSI web email box that works as well and we will certainly get back to you with anything and any follow-up that’s needed.
[Michèle Beaudry] There’s maybe one quick question that I can address verbally. Can you comment on the statement: facility must be owned by one institution? It’s one or more. So institutions are the owners of the infrastructure or the facility so there has to be that ownership link there with the administrative institution. And I think that’s time, so we will leave it at that. I thank you everybody for participating and don’t hesitate to be in touch if you have any other questions. And we will have the French session tomorrow at one o’clock. So thank you everybody.
[Heidi Bandulet] Thank you everyone.
[Mark Lagacé] Thank you.
[Heidi Bandulet] Have a great day.
How is my proposal assessed?
After you submit your proposal, it is assessed through our merit-review process.
We tailor the review process to the nature and complexity of each proposal. It includes these stages:
1. Administrative review
We review each proposal to make sure it’s complete and adheres to our guidelines.
2. Expert Committee
Expert Committees assess each proposal against the assessment criteria for the competition. For each proposal that meets the standard of excellence for the competition, they recommend to the Multidisciplinary Assessment Committee (MAC) the amount to be awarded to the project.
3. Multidisciplinary Assessment Committee
From the proposals recommended by the Expert Committees, the Multidisciplinary Assessment Committee:
- Identifies the ones that best meet the competition objectives relative to other competing requests
- Establishes the amount that should be awarded to each proposal, within the competition budget
- Reviews requests for transitional funding from facilities that were funded in the 2017 competition but which are not successful in the current competition at either the Expert Committee or Multidisciplinary Assessment Committee stage
- Provides the final funding recommendations and funding amounts to the CFI Board of Directors.
Who makes the final funding decisions?
Funding decisions are made by the CFI Board of Directors, typically at one of their three annual Board meetings.
What are the assessment criteria?
With each new competition, we set a list of criteria against which review committees assess each proposal.
The assessment criteria for the 2023 competition are:
- Scientific excellence
- International competitiveness
- Need for CFI funding
- Excellence in governance
- Excellence in management
- Operations and user access
Have you been recruited as a reviewer?
If your institution is the administrative institution for a funded facility, there are a few things you will need to do to finalize, manage and report on your award.
What is the timeline for reporting on and managing awards?
The timeline for reporting on and managing your award depends on which competition your facility is funded through. Check the table below for what is coming up.
Facilities funded in the 2017 competition
Facilities funded in the 2023 competition
Deadlines to submit annual reports
June 15, 2021
June 15, 2022
June 15, 2024
June 15, 2025
June 15, 2026
June 15, 2027
June 15, 2028
Deadline to submit final report
June 15, 2023
June 15, 2029
About once a year
How are awards finalized?
Help us establish the facility’s customized oversight activities
Before we can finalize a facility’s funding, we need to establish its customized oversight activities. We will contact the administrative institution to begin this process.
We use a framework to guide how we customize our monitoring activities.
Finalize your funding
Next, you will need to finalize your award before we can release funds to your institution.
What is required of administrative institutions for reporting on and managing an award?
Administrative institutions must submit annual financial and performance reports and budget updates.
Financial reports and budget updates include:
- Actual and forecasted eligible costs
- Actual and forecasted contributions to eligible costs from eligible partners
- Actual and forecasted changes that have not been previously approved by the CFI.
Annual performance reports include:
- Information on the status, progress, outcomes and upcoming activities of your facility
- Progress on meeting funding conditions imposed by the CFI (if any)
- The latest measures for your facility’s performance indicators.
The CFI and key funding partners (provincial or others) will use the annual performance reports to monitor the progress and achievements of the facility.
Use our form to complete your annual performance report (Please download Adobe Reader to read and use this form.)
Email your annual performance report to your Senior Programs Officer.
Participate in a midterm review
Halfway through each funding cycle, we conduct a review of each facility to assess how well it has used our funding to maximize its scientific and technological capabilities, and to determine the amount of our contribution for the second half of the funding cycle.
During the midterm review we will look at:
- The overall impact of our funding on the scientific excellence of your facility’s research program(s)
- The research outcomes and impacts of your facility
- Your facility’s governance, management and operations
- Your facility’s plan for the second half of the cycle
- The need for operating and maintenance funds for the remaining part of the funding cycle.
We will notify you when the process for the midterm review is beginning.
Submit final financial and performance reports
Submit a final performance report and final financial report at the end of the funding cycle for the competition.
These reports include:
- A summary of your facility’s progress and key achievements in relation to the objectives of the MSI Fund during the funding cycle
- Both annual and cumulative data over the funding cycle.
Submit your final financial report in the CFI Awards Management System (CAMS)
Email your final performance report to your Senior Programs Officer.
We will notify you when the final reporting process begins and provide a final performance report template at that time.
Participate in our workshops
Read and share good practices for managing your funding
Staff at facilities supported through the MSI Fund have developed good practices, policies and processes for managing the funding they receive through the MSI Fund.
Read some of them here and good.practices [at] innovation.ca (write to us) to share your own.
*Numbers have been rounded up. Research outputs generated include peer-reviewed publications, conference proceedings and others.
Discover past fund recipients and funded project details through our funded projects dashboard
2010: The Government of Canada mandates the CFI to design a systematic approach to evaluate and address the operating and maintenance needs and scientific performance of research facilities of national importance.
2011: We create the Major Science Initiatives (MSI) Fund and launch the first competition. The inaugural competition sets out to support large-scale research facilities that had previously received a one-time contribution of at least $25 million in infrastructure funding from the CFI.
2014: We launch a special competition through the MSI Fund, expanding the eligibility to include a greater range of research facilities of national importance, both in size and complexity and across all research disciplines.
2016: We launched the 2017 competition to contribute to the ongoing operating and maintenance needs of research facilities of national importance for which the loss or absence of support would represent a serious setback for Canada. The 2017–23 MSI Fund competition currently supports 16 research facilities.
2019: After the 2018 federal budget awards permanent funding to the CFI, it allows us to extend the funding cycle for the MSI Fund from five to six years, providing for a longer planning horizon for facilities and greater stability to help retain highly qualified personnel.
Acting upon a recommendation made in Canada’s Fundamental Science Review report, we increase our share of funding from 40 percent to 60 percent of a facility’s operating and maintenance costs for facilities the report identifies as major in scale.
2021: We launch the 2023 competition.