Tailoring your proposal development and review process

October 28, 2016

When developing a proposal, an institution should ensure that all important aspects are considered, and that there is an appropriate internal review process in place. This can increase the likelihood of success and help mitigate risks to the institution.

Several institutions tailor their proposal development and internal review processes to the type of fund (e.g. John R. Evans Leaders Fund, Innovation Fund). Furthermore, practices within a fund may differ depending on the nature, size and particularities of a given proposal. For example:

  • Personnel involved at the proposal stage: Based on the type of fund or proposal, some or all of the key support units may be involved in the proposal development process. These units may include research services, finance, procurement, and facilities management (if a construction/renovation component is present). The involvement of units that have the required expertise ensures that key project risks and mitigating measures are identified, and that budgets and timelines presented in the proposal are reasonable and realistic.
  • Internal review process: Internal review committees are created to evaluate proposals based on the type of fund and ensure that the proposals align with institutional priorities as well as CFI competition criteria. They may also review other important aspects such as, for example, the identified risks and mitigating measures for the project, timelines, budgets, and sustainability plans. Membership to internal proposal review committees is tailored based on the type of fund. For larger funds and proposals, a more extensive membership may be in place and include personnel from key units (research services, finance, procurement, facilities management), the vice-president research, deans or associate deans, and faculty chairs. External members are also sometimes included.

Here’s how a few institutions have implemented these practices.

University of Victoria

At the University of Victoria, the Office of Research Services (ORS) and other key units, such as Research Accounting, Purchasing Services, and Facilities Management, are involved with CFI awards throughout their entire life cycle (planning, implementation and operations).

The Research Services Operations Advisory Group (RSOAG), which consists of key institutional stakeholders, supports the development and delivery of institutional research projects including the internal review of proposals and making recommendations for proposal submission to the CFI.

For large competitions (e.g. Innovation Fund), an internal review committee is formed that advises on projects based on the CFI competition criteria and the Strategic Research Priorities. This group includes:

  • Vice-President Research
  • Associate Vice-Presidents (Research, Research Operations, and Financial Planning)
  • Director of Institutional Programs at the Office of Research Services
  • Other relevant internal members, such as selected Deans, faculty members, and professor emeriti
  • At least one external member

The internal review committee is supported by the RSOAG which assesses and advises on the institutional and operational requirements of each proposal. Additionally, the deans are invited to provide input on how each proposal reflects the research and academic objectives of their faculty.

The group provides advice and support during the development of proposals. Important elements considered during the internal proposal review include the strategic fit with institutional priorities and the Strategic Research Plan, enhancement of current capacity (leveraging of previous investments), sustainability and management, budget, and implementation timelines.

A similar review process applies to John R. Evans Leaders Fund proposals, but the review committee membership is smaller and does not include external members. Typically, the Vice-President Research, the Associate Vice-President Research, and Deans are present.


Joaquin Trapero
Director, Institutional Programs
Office of Research Services
Phone: 250.721.7972
Email: cfi [at] uvic.ca

University of Calgary

The Test Your Concept (TYC) initiative was developed by the University of Calgary to connect with potential CFI applicants much earlier in the project development process. Test Your Concept sessions are a forum for faculty members to pitch a potential CFI project and receive feedback from the TYC interdisciplinary panel made up of representatives from across campus including faculty members, service units involved in implementing CFI projects, and research administrators.

TYC opportunities are offered well in advance of official CFI Calls for Proposals for major rounds, and are used on a semi-annual basis for JELF projects. Each presenter is asked to provide a brief overview of the proposed project in advance of the panel. After a brief presentation of the idea, panel members engage in Q&A with the potential applicant, who also receives collated written feedback following the session.

Benefits of participation:

  • Applicants gain insight into the feasibility of their proposed project, alignment with competition objectives, recommendations for potential synergies and partnerships, potential project risks to consider, and assistance in performing an environmental scan of what infrastructure already exists on campus.
  • The TYC session provides an opportunity for new faculty members, or faculty members who have never participated in the CFI process, to learn more about the program and how to be successful.
  • Service units that are ultimately involved in the implementation of new CFI projects receive the opportunity to be aware of potential large initiatives well in advance, which can assist with overall coordination and efficiency.
  • Participation in Test Your Concept sessions has shown a close correlation with stronger, more robust applications and applicant buy-in for internal processes.


Liz Scarratt
Director, Institutional Programs
Research Services
Phone:  403.210.6756
Email: scarrate [at] ucalgary.ca