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Competition FAQ

2015 Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR) program competition

 Competition FAQ

Scope

Eligibility

Partners

Budget/Eligible Expenses

Management of CECR Funds

Completing the Submissions

Review and Decision Process:


Scope

How many centres will be funded in the 2015 competition?

This competition for the establishment of new centres is seeking to fund centres that have a viable business model with the potential for sustainability. The emphasis of the program remains on commercialization, including new technologies, and goods and services. The number of centres to be funded will be dependent upon the quality of the applications received and the budget available for the competition.

Is the 2015 competition targeted to certain priority areas?

The 2015 competition is seeking to support the operation of research and commercialization centres that bring together people, services, and research infrastructure to position Canada at the forefront of breakthrough innovations.  Centres applying to the 2015 CECR competition must demonstrate how the proposed centre will address one or more of the following priority areas identified by the Government of Canada:

  • Environmental science and technologies;
  • Natural resources and energy;
  • Health and related life sciences and technologies;
  • Information and communications technologies; and
  • Management, business or finance.

Are international collaborations or foreign partners recognized within the program?

Yes. While, CECR funds cannot be used to support activities outside of Canada, international collaborations and partnerships are recognized and strongly encouraged. Among other things, applicants are expected to describe in their submission how they will attract investment (including foreign direct investment and venture capital), develop relationships with major international centres and research programs and brand Canada as the host of internationally recognized centres of excellence in the commercialization of research results.

What is meant by sustainability?

Sustainability of the centre means that the centre will be able to continue its core activities beyond the CECR funding period. The centres can achieve sustainability by using a range of models, such as partnerships, memberships, other government support, and other revenues generated by a diversified portfolio products and services. Centres are expected to become self-sufficient by establishing a strong business model and partnerships.

What are the selection criteria?

Applications to the 2015 competition for new centres will be assessed using the three evaluation criteria of the CECR program. In addition, the applications must provide a detailed view of the anticipated commercial outputs they will generate, along with a robust business plan and sustainability model. The evaluation criteria are as follows:

  • Benefits to Canada
  • Track record and potential of the applicants
  • Business plan

What duration and level of funding can be requested by applicants?

The CECR Program does not specify an expected time frame for which centres can apply. The expert panel will assess the viability and the appropriateness of the time and funding requested to achieve sustainability. Each centre requesting funding will be assessed on the viability of the centre’s plan to become self-sufficient by the end of CECR funding.

The Centers will be reviewed based on the full lifecycle and total funding needed to achieve sustainability. A maximum of $15 million will be provided over a 5-year timeframe. Centres that submit applications in excess of 5 years will be subject to an international panel mid-cycle review prior to being awarded the remaining funding.

For example, a Centre that projects achieving self-sustainability in eight years with $20million total CECR Funding will be assessed based on the eight year term. The funding will be awarded in two installments with a mid-cycle international review to release the second installment.

 

Eligibility

Who is eligible to apply to this competition?

The 2015 CECR competition is open to new or existing not-for-profit corporations created by universities, colleges, not-for-profit research organizations, firms, and other interested non-government parties.

Must the centre be incorporated at the time of application? What type of incorporation is acceptable?

Centres do not need to be incorporated at the time of application.  The NCE Secretariat will accept applications from organizations on behalf of the centre to be incorporated.  However, the application needs to clearly describe the governance structure of the proposed centre, and how that structure meets the incorporation requirement. All centres that are successful in the competition must provide proof of incorporation (federal or provincial), as well as proof of an established Board of Directors responsible for the approval of its annual financial reports and audits, before receiving CECR funds.

Can a host organization be the lead applicant on a CECR?

The host organization can be the lead applicant on a CECR only if the proposed host organization is an eligible not-for-profit corporation or if it is submitting an application on behalf of the centre to be incorporated.

What is typically the role of a host?

Where appropriate, a host organization serves as the administrative secretariat for the centre. A host ensures that the centre has suitable accommodation, as well as access to appropriate computer, communications and financial administration systems.

Can previously funded centres apply to the 2015 Competition for new Centres?

The competition for new centres will not fund a continuation of existing centres.  Where applicants have been involved with previously funded centres, new applications will need to clearly demonstrate that the centre proposed will advance a new business model, with a novel mission, with new participants and newly proposed Board and committee membership.  

 

Partners

Are there any guidelines or expectations as to the number of partners that should be involved in the centre and whether or not there should be representation from across the country? 

There are no guidelines on the number of partners participating. There is however an expectation that the partners engaged are the those that will enable the centre to reach its goals. There is requirement, for any particular geographic representation.

Are contributions from an applicant’s company eligible as matching funds? 

Contributions made to the centre by an applicant’s own consulting company or sole proprietorship do not qualify as eligible matching funds to the CECR grant.  Situations where the applicant is part owner are considered on a case-by-case basis.  The applicant must contact the NCE Secretariat to obtain a ruling on specific cases where clarification is required.

 

Budget/Eligible Expenses

Are the majority of the CECR funds to be spent on commercialization activities?

CECR funds can be spent on any eligible operations and maintenance costs at the centre.  CECR funds may be used to cover up to 50% of total eligible commercialization costs and up to 75% of other total eligible costs, with the remainder of funds coming from non-federal sources.

Details on eligible and ineligible expenditures are provided in Appendix D of the 2012 CECR program guide.

Can CECR funds be spent on research activities?

Although research centres may also receive CECR funds, any research activities associated with the centre must be afforded by sources of funding other than the CECR grant.

Can equipment be funded through this initiative?

Where a project involves capital equipment expenditures that are vital to the success of a commercialization project, the cost of that equipment will be considered an eligible expense, provided: the equipment cost for which coverage is requested does not exceed $1 million and that the cost does not represent more than 20% of the total eligible expenses for commercialization. Expenses related to the construction, purchase, or lease of a building are not eligible expenditures.

Are CECRs renewable for a second mandate?

Applications to the 2015 competition should provide the whole lifecycle needed for the proposed centre to achieve financial sustainability.  The viability of the business model will be assessed on the credibility of the requested budget as well as the appropriateness of the proposed timeframe to achieve sustainability.

The financial projections presented must be allocated such that the CECR funding declines over the period of the grant. CECR funding will only be provided in installments of a maximum of $15 million over five years.  If the application presents a longer cycle, then a mid-cycle international review will be held for the centre to apply for the additional funding.

Will there be funds available for those groups with successful LOIs who are invited to submit full proposals?

Applicants invited to submit a full application may request Full Application Preparation (FAP) funding to assist them in preparing a full application. The 2015 competition will offer up to $15,000 in FAP funding. To access the FAP funding the applicant must provide an outline of the expenses requiring FAP funds. Typically, FAP funds are used to organize stakeholder meetings, develop the application and for applicants to travel to the expert panel visit.

 

Management of CECR Funds

Can a host organization receive the CECR funds on behalf of the centre?

The centre’s Board of Directors must have financial responsibility over the CECR funds.  For this reason, the centre must be prepared to receive and administer the CECR funds when it is established.  Successful centres will be required to show evidence of having appropriate financial administrative processes in place to manage funds from the granting agencies. 

 

Completing the Submissions

What is required in the letters of support at the full application stage?

All letters must come from a senior executive and make specific commitments, in terms of cash and in-kind support. The letters must make explicit reference to the proposed Centre, indicating how the Centre would help their organization and indicating current and past associations with the applicant.

Are “moral support” letters accepted in this competition?

Only letters showing support in the form of cash and in-kind contributions should be included. 

Should intellectual property (IP) be addressed in the full application?

The full application must describe how IP issues are expected to be handled within the proposed centre.

Can the name of the centre, as submitted in the LOI stage, be changed at the full application stage?

The name of the centre can be changed at the full application stage. If funded, the official name of the centre, as an incorporated not-for-profit organization, will have to be confirmed in the funding agreement.

Invited applicants will be asked to provide a list of 25 suggested panel members. These individuals should not be involved in the Centre and should not have conflicts of interest with the CECR program or with anyone on the team. How does the NCE Secretariat define “conflict of interest”?

The conflict of interest guidelines as adapted from NSERC, and CIHR state that:

Expert Panel Members should not:

  • be from the same university as the applicant(s);
  • have been a research supervisor or graduate student of the applicant(s) within the past six (6) years;
  • be providing letters of support for the application;
  • have collaborated with the applicant(s) within the past six (6) years or have plans to collaborate in the immediate future;
  • be an employee of a non-academic organization with which the applicant has had collaboration within the past six (6) years;
  • be in any other potential conflict of interest (e.g., personal, financial);

Committee members are in conflict if they:

  • are from the same immediate institution or company as the applicant, and who interact with the applicant in the course of their duties at the institution or company;
  • are a close personal friend or relative of the applicant;
  • have had long-standing scientific or personal differences with the applicant;
  • are in a position to gain or lose financially from the outcome of the application (e.g., hold stock in the company of an industry partner or a competitor) or for some other reason feel that they cannot provide an objective review of the application.

 

Review and Decision Process:

What is the selection process for Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research applications?

Applications to the CECR program are subject a standard rigorous selection process. The PSAB will review all the letters of intent, and provide the NCE Steering Committee with a short list of applicants to be invited to the full application stage.

Applicants invited to submit a full application will be reviewed by a three step process. Each proposed centre will undergo an in-depth review by an expert panel established by the NCE Secretariat. The Private Sector Advisory Board (PSAB) will subsequently review each application and the expert panel reports to finally make  recommendations to the NCE Steering Committee.  The NCE Steering Committee makes final decisions. 

Who sits on the expert panel?

Expert panels are typically composed of six to eight members (including a Chair), who are internationally recognized experts with a specific expertise in business, knowledge and technology transfer, commercialization, public policy, finance and/or management.

Who sits on the NCE Private Sector Advisory Board?

The NCE Private Sector Advisory Board (PSAB) is composed of trusted and seasoned Canadian industry leaders who serve as strategic advisors. PSAB evaluates proposals based on their ability to create a strategic, long-term economic advantage for Canada.

Who sits on the NCE Steering Committee?

The Steering Committee oversees the operation of the NCE program. It is composed of the Deputy Minister of Industry, the Deputy Minister of Health, the Presidents of the three Granting Agencies [Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)] and the President of the Canada Foundation for Innovation (as an observer).

Can the decision be appealed?

The decision of the Steering Committee is final and cannot be appealed.