Canada is known for many things, one of which is the quality of our education. Canada’s post-secondary institutions continue to prove themselves as global contenders. In fact, McGill University, the University of Toronto, and the University of British Columbia all ranked among QS World University Rankings 2015/2016’s top 50 universities in the world.
With such a strong academic community, Canada’s business sector should also be a top innovator, however that is simply not the case. According to the Global Innovation Index 2015, Canada sits in 15th place behind Iceland and New Zealand. Canadian businesses must tap into local academic resources in order to improve their innovation output and stay competitive in international markets. The Canadian federal government has stepped in and created several Canadian government funding programs, including NSERC Engage, to encourage post-secondary, industry R&D partnerships. NSERC Engage offers matchmaking services, as well as grant funding to foster these powerful R&D partnerships.
NSERC Engage: Enabling Post-Secondary, Academic Partnerships via Grants and Incentives
The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) created the NSERC Engage program to create a framework for universities and businesses to collaborate in order to solve innovation challenges. The program will provide up to $25,000 in small business grants directly towards the research project, which lasts 4-6 months.
Businesses interested in NSERC’s Canadian business grants must first create a project overview detailing their innovation challenge, the expected outcome, required expertise and resources, and in-kind contributions. This project overview is then given to the NSERC liaison at the business’ universities of choice and distributed to relevant university professors. If a professor is interested in collaborating on the project, a meeting is initiated for the business team and professor to meet and confirm the project details and suitability of the partnership.
Research & Development Project Details
Businesses preparing a project overview should keep in mind that it should be written for a professor. The topic, language, and details must excite and intrigue suitable professors, so it’s critical to show that the business has conducted a preliminary analysis, a needs assessment, and has identified the uniqueness of the project. Professors will apply to projects that provide them with interesting, challenging opportunities to innovate within their areas of expertise. A strong project proposal will also contain:
- Project and business background;
- Desired partner information (what type of partner is the business looking for);
- 1-3 primary objectives of the project;
- Duration of the project;
- Project costs;
- The criteria for measuring the goals;
- Project plan, including timelines, company requirements, laboratory requirements, and performance objectives at each phase; and
- Impacts of the project.
Leverage Research Funding to Support Complex Technical Projects: The NSERC Engage Plus program can be used to extend regular NSERC Engage projects, including up to $12.5k in additional funding.
Your business should also identify a lead contact for the university to communicate with throughout the project. NSERC Engage projects are typically carried out by the university professor and his/her team, however some business involvement may be required to ensure the project’s success.
Extending an NSERC Engage Project beyond 4-6 Months
NSERC Engage restricts the length of research projects to 4-6 months in length, however the institution provides other Canadian business grants for research that can be used to extend NSERC Engage projects.
- Option 1: NSERC Engage Plus: This program will extend the project with the same professor by up to six months and provide an addition $12,500 towards the project. Applicants can submit an NSERC Engage Plus application, preferably while the original NSERC Engage project is still being conducted.
- Option 2: NSERC Collaboration Research & Development (CRD): This large-scale research grant can extend projects an additional 1-5 years and provide up to $150,000 in research grants per year.
Please note that with NSERC Engage and NSERC Engage Plus, intellectual property (IP) created will belong to the business, however with NSERC CRD, IP ownership will be agreed upon by all research parties. Each program has its own application process and forms, so ensure that you fill out the forms in advance.
Learn More About NSERC Engage Small Business Grants
To explore whether NSERC Engage is ideal for your upcoming project, please contact Mentor Works. Our team of Canadian Government Funding Planners can answer questions about this program and help optimize your application process.