NSERC Engage: How to Qualify for Collaborative Research Grants

NSERC Engage Research Funding for Research and Development

Please Note: This page is an archived and may contain outdated program information. For current details of the Canada Media Fund Experimental Stream, please visit Mentor Works’ NSERC Engage Program Page.

Administered by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, NSERC Engage is a Canadian government funding program that supports businesses partnering with a college professor to drive innovative products and processes. All intellectual property (IP) remains with the business as it works with a professor and small group of college researchers. This collaboration is intended to help companies overcome internal technical challenges and advance an innovation’s technology readiness level (TRL).

Through the NSERC Engage program, businesses may access up to $25,000 in research grants to support collaborative industry-academic innovation projects.

Although this program is inclusive in terms of the businesses that may apply, there are specific eligibility criteria that applicants and projects must align with. This article further explores those eligibility criteria to help companies understand whether the research funding program is a good fit.

About NSERC Engage Collaborative Research Grants

Canadian small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are fortunate when it comes to researching and developing innovative products and processes; not only are there several government funding programs to support research and development, but some even help connect businesses to colleges who can support specific project deliverables.

One of these collaborative research programs, NSERC Engage, supports partnerships for up to six months. During these research partnerships, companies work closely with a college professor to support specific objectives. Upon the completion of the project, companies have full ownership of the project’s intellectual property (IP) and can commercialize its results.

NSERC Engage offers up to $25,000 in Canadian research grants to offset project-related labour and material costs.

If NSERC Engage projects need to be extended beyond six months, partnerships can apply for additional research grants through NSERC Engage Plus. For a more detailed look at how NSERC Engage works, please review Mentor Works’ NSERC Engage Overview article.

NSERC Engage Eligibility for Business Partners

To be deemed eligible for NSERC Engage, industry partners must:

  • Operate independently from a Canadian base and produce goods or services, or perform research and development activities;
  • Be in operation for at least two years or be poised for exceptional growth;
  • Have at least two full-time employees;
  • Have participating staff with relevant expertise to collaborate effectively in the project;
  • Generate revenue from sales or secure significant private sector investment; and
  • Have a plan and capacity for exploiting the research results within Canada.

NSERC Engage Eligibility for Research Projects

NSERC Engage projects are expected to solve technical challenges that are difficult to overcome with internal company resources alone. Projects should generate new knowledge or apply existing knowledge in an innovative manner to advance a product or technology and solve a company/industry problem. Objectives of projects must be short, specific, and completed within a six-month period to be eligible for the Canadian government funding program.

Projects Ineligible for NSERC Engage Research Grants

Some project themes will not be considered for the NSERC Engage program. These include:

  • Commercialization of a college invention;
  • Routine analysis or use of equipment at the college;
  • Data collection without interpreting underlying mechanisms;
  • Certification, endorsement, validation, or testing the performance of an existing product, process, or material (unless accompanied by significant efforts to investigate the underlying scientific or engineering question);
  • Development of an industry standard (unless the partner is an industry association);
  • Excessive literature review and/or patent searches; and
  • Professional practice or consulting services.

Expense Eligibility for NSERC Engage Funding

The NSERC Engage program reimburses project costs including:

  • Research Labour: Labour associated with the research project.
  • Office Supplies: Limited to $250 per project.
  • Equipment: May be eligible if it is mandatory and its use is detailed and justified.
  • Consulting Fees: Only if required to complete specific project tasks outside the expertise of the project team and limited to 20% of the funding request.
  • Publication and Conference Expenses: Eligible only if strong evidence is made that they provide the appropriate channel for transferring the technology to the industry partner.

Companies are also expected to provide in-kind contributions to the project in the form of materials, supplies, software licenses, IP, research background, and/or cash.

Expenses Ineligible for NSERC Engage

Any expenses not directly attributable to the collaborative research project will not be considered for NSERC Engage grants.

Apply for NSERC Engage Business Research Grants

Industry partners start the collaboration process by creating a detailed research proposal, including the project background, objectives, required resources and expertise, and company in-kind contributions. This research proposal should be taken to one or more colleges in search of a professor with the capabilities to support the project.

Once a fit has been established between the school and industry partner, the professor and/or research institution initiates an NSERC Engage application. Decisions are typically made within six weeks of submission; once funding approval is received, partners may collaborate on activities and incur funding-eligible research costs.

To discuss how to get started with the NSERC Engage program, including whether your business or project is a good fit, please contact Mentor Works.

Funding Funding Now, Contact Mentor Works

Posted: March 9, 2016. Updated: May 30, 2019.

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