NSERC's College and Community Innovation Program - Engage Grants

NSERC Engage Applied Research Funding for Innovative Technology ProjectsAdministered by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, NSERC Engage is one of nine grants under the College and Community Innovation Program. 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).

The program provides up to $25,000 in Canadian government grants to support short-term research and development projects.

Application packages can be submitted at any time; however, all applications should be submitted in correspondence with an upcoming research and development project. At the time of application, businesses must have a solidified project and be ready to begin the process of working with a Canadian college.

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NSERC Engage: Funding Snapshot

Canadian Government Funding SnapshotThe NSERC Engage program supports short-term applied applied research and development projects conducted at a Canadian college.

  • Amount: up to $25,000 from NSERC (no cash required from company).
  • Timeline: Rolling applications, no deadlines, 4-6 week turnaround on approvals. Projects can span up to six months in duration.
  • Eligibility: Industry partners must be Canadian-based with the intention/capacity to develop tech in Canada, have a minimum of two employees, and be in operation for at least two years. Pre-revenue companies are considered; applicants cannot have worked with the college professor before. Limit of two new grants per year.

About NSERC Engage Applied Research and Development Funding

NSERC Engage fosters new collaborations between businesses and Canadian college professors. These partnerships leverage research talent and laboratories to solve a company-specific challenge within the natural sciences and/or engineering sectors. Through 4- to 6-month research projects, businesses will be able to break through their innovation barriers and help Canadian youth generate new skills.

Applicants may receive up to $25,000 in Canadian government funding to support industry-lead applied research and development projects.

To participate, businesses must demonstrate how a professor and their students will significantly impact the outcome of the project. Highly competitive projects should be interesting to a college professor, since they are responsible for choosing business’ projects for the coming semester.

Want to partner with a Canadian university instead? Discover NSERC Alliance research grants.

NSERC Engage Eligibility for Research 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.

Eligible College Partners

Canadian colleges provide the knowledge and expertise to support innovative research projects. To meet the program’s eligibility requirements, Canadian colleges must:

  • Demonstrate the expertise and necessary resources to support the project;
  • Meet expectations defined by the industry partner; and
  • Not partner with a business that they have collaborated with in the past.

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 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 are not considered for NSERC Engage grants.

Additional NSERC Engage Resources

How to Apply for NSERC Engage Applied 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 your project’s suitability for NSERC Engage and discuss how it can fit in your Government Funding Plan, please contact Mentor Works.

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Posted: August 20, 2012. Updated: August 16, 2019.