Creating a Network of Centres of Excellence (NCE)
NCEs are large-scale, academic-led virtual research networks that bring together multi-disciplinary partners from academia, industry, government and not-for-profit organizations. Networks perform R&D as well as translation and commercialization activities. They also enable Canadian researchers and students to work with receptor communities to accelerate the creation and application of knowledge.
What can an applicant do before the launch of a competition?
Engage with key individuals and organizations as soon as possible
- In an NCE, a multi-sectoral approach should be taken to address problems, challenges, and/or opportunities. Engaging with key individuals (including researchers, end-user communities, host institutions and other funding organizations) to define the need for a network will lay the foundation for a strong application.
- When requesting a letter of support from any organization, the applicant should provide reasonable deadlines for the organization to evaluate and negotiate the request.
- The area of proposed research and researchers should cover the mandates of at least two of the three federal granting agencies: NSERC, SSHRC, and CIHR.
The applicant should consider appropriate members and structures that will ensure strong governance and management
- Applications for NCEs are almost always highly rated on the quality of their research, but may fall short on management and governance. The proposed governance and management structures should be sound, with a team that has the necessary strengths to deliver on the objectives of the network. With five-year funding cycles, it is important for a network to be able to rapidly ramp-up its activities to ensure that it can meet its targets within a five year time frame.
- The application should take into account the importance of:
- strategic planning based on the needs of partners; and
- on-going assessment of the research program, highly-qualified personnel training, networking and partnership development and knowledge transfer and exchange and exploitation strategy, with well-defined metrics and milestones to track the progress of the network.
What are common weaknesses identified by review panels?
At the Letter of Intent stage
- The letter of intent is missing the involvement of a key group or stakeholder.
- The commitments of cash and in-kind support needs to be better described with specific commitments and detailed contributions.
- The letter of intent does not demonstrate complementarity with existing organizations in this field.
- There is a lack of international partners.
- More innovative ways of training HQP should be explored.
At the Full Application stage
- The application should better demonstrate the value-added of the network approach.
- The impact metrics and related milestones and outcomes are not well defined.
- The proposed network should have included researchers from the domains of at least two of the three granting agencies in a meaningful way.
- The goals of the network are too ambitious.
- The goals of the network are unclear.
- Details as to how the network will facilitate interactions among researchers, industry and end users were not convincingly explained.
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