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Competition FAQ

2016 Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR) program competition


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 2016 competition for new centres?

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 2016 competition targeted to certain priority areas?

The 2016 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 2016 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 2016 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 review in their fifth year of operation prior to being awarded the remaining funding.

 

Eligibility

Who is eligible to apply to this competition?

The 2016 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 2016 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 no 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 A of the 2014 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 2016 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 may request Full Application Preparation (FAP) funding to assist them in preparing a full application as part of their LOI. The 2016 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. FAP funds will only be awarded to applicants invited to submit a full application.

What kind of expenses are considered operational costs versus commercialization costs?

Operational costs include the maintenance and operation of the centre; materials and supplies; liability insurance for members of the Board of Directors and centre administrators; legal fees and other related incorporation costs. They can also include communication activities and staff salaries.

Commercialization costs include expenses related to commercialization activities, such as intellectual property protection, market studies, business plan development, counselling and mentoring, technology evaluation, development, and investments.

Details on specific operational and commercialization costs can be found in Appendix D at: http://www.nce-rce.gc.ca/ReportsPublications-RapportsPublications/CECR/Program-Guide-Programme_eng.asp

Can infrastructure investments be used as in-kind contributions?

Infrastructure investments are subject to the same policy as other matching contributions. Therefore, if it is a federal investment, it cannot be used as matching funding. In addition, any matching funds being reported fall under the policy on the use of CECR funds. For instance, CECR investments in capital costs cannot exceed $1 million, so the matching funding claimed cannot exceed $1 million.

Can provincial funding be counted as matching funds?

Yes, provincial funds can be counted as matching funding under the CECR program.

Are patenting costs eligible expenses under the CECR program, and do they count as commercialization costs?

Yes, patenting costs are eligible under the CECR program and count as a commercialization cost.

Under what circumstances do the two ratios cited for CECR funds vs partner contributions (3:1 and 1:1) apply?

CECR grant funds used for eligible commercialization costs must be matched at a ratio of 1:1, i.e. every one CECR grant dollar spent must be matched by one dollar of non-federal cash or in-kind. CECR grant funds for other eligible costs must be matched at a ratio of 3:1, i.e every three CECR grant dollars spent must be matched by one dollar of non-federal cash or in-kind.

Do CECR matching rules with respect to the matching funding ratios have to be met each year, or over the full term of the grant?

The NCE Secretariat will monitor matching contributions each year, but there is flexibility around the timing year to year. Centres may be contacted if a red-flag is identified, and the NCE Secretariat may reduce the flow in funding if it does not look like they will achieve their matching requirements.

Is there an expected ratio between operational expenses and commercialization?

There is no specified ratio between operational and commercialization costs. However, the Private Sector Advisory Board(PSAB) will review the appropriateness of the budget for each centre to deliver on its commercialization and sustainability goals.

Is there an expected proportion of funds that must come from industry?

No, there can be a balance of matching from public and private sources. The only limit is that other sources of federal funding cannot be counted as matching.

Can revenue from the centre be used as a cash contribution?

Centre revenues can be counted as matching cash contributions.

 

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. 

Must CFOs be dedicated full time to the centre or can their services be contracted to maintain a lower cost of operations?

Some centres have shared CFOs with other institutions. Each centre must ensure that it has the financial management support needed. Financial planning and oversight are key criteria that the PSAB will evaluate.

 

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. 

What kinds of letters of support are needed at the LOI stage - does it have to be a firm letter with cash defined?

The strength of the partnerships and the level of commitment from partners are key review criteria for selecting which LOIs will move forward to the Full Application stage. Firm commitments from partners should be provided in letters of support at the LOI stage.

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.

Do names of all Board of Directors and staff members need to be provided?

Anticipated Board membership should be listed, recognizing that this will be a work in progress. Staff members would be harder to identify, but applicants should provide their ideal organizational chart.

Is it a requirement to have a least one Canadian partner?

Centres can have international partners, but it is expected that they will have a significant number of Canadian partnerships.

Will successful LOI applicants receive peer review comments associated with the LOI prior to submitting the Full Application material?

Comments will be provided to all LOI applicants, which will indicate the key factors that affecting the decision.

Can letters of support (e.g. those received on company letterhead) be scanned?

Yes, scanned copies of letters of support can be submitted.

Do letters of support have to indicate annual commitment? What is the level of detail required?

Annual commitments can be outlined in the financial projections. The Letters of Intent can indicate the total amount of partner commitment.

 

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 Canada, the Deputy Minister of Health Canada, 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 NCE Steering Committee is final and cannot be appealed.

An NCE representative sits as an ex officio member on each centre’s Board. As a CECR transitions to sustainability, will this oversight be maintained?

The NCE representative remains an observer on the Board of Directors for as long as the Funding Agreement is active. Thus, once the CECR transitions away from CECR funding there is no requirement to keep an NCE representative on the Board of Directors.

Will centres be informed of the composition of their expert panel prior to their expert panel review?

Yes, approximately two weeks prior to their expert panel presentation, applicants will be informed of the names and affiliations of each of the members of their expert panel.

What is the location of the meeting with the expert panel?

Expert panel presentations will take place at 350 Albert Street, Ottawa. Centres will be provided with the logistical details a few weeks before their presentation.

For the expert panel review, can the centres have more than five members available and rotate them in and out of the presentation according to necessity?

No, centres are not allowed to have additional participants for the expert panel presentation beyond the five that they have selected and the roster of presenters cannot change during the course of the presentation to the expert panel.

Are the chair of the board of directors and the centre director mandatory presenters for the expert panel presentation?

No, there are no mandatory presenters. However, the chair of the board of directors and the centre director would be logical choices to include as part of the group of presenters.