Administrative Centre: the central administrative offices of the BL-Network.
Award letter: the letter sent by the NCE Secretariat to the BL-Network applicant confirming the Fiscal Year allocation of the Grant.
Capital Expenditures: fixed, one-time expenses incurred for the purchase of equipment used in the production of goods or in the rendering of services related to the research activities of the BL-Network.
Contributor: organization providing funding or in-kind contributions for the BL-Network activities that is positioned to best utilize the results from the BL-Network.
Funding agreement: the agreement signed by the BL-Network and the granting agencies.
Granting agencies: the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).
Independent member: a member of the board of directors who has no material relationship with the BL-Network or a network member that would impair or appear to impair, the ability to think and act in an independent manner that is in the best interests of the BL-Network; or who will not benefit directly from the activities of the BL-Network.
Matching contributions: the cash and in-kind contributions that will be provided by sources other than the granting agencies to match the eligible expenses of the BL-Network grant while respecting the stacking limit.
NCE Secretariat: the Networks of Centres of Excellence secretariat through which the BL-NCE program is delivered.
NCE Steering Committee: is the governing body which has overall responsibility for the BL-NCE program comprised of the three granting agencies' presidents, the Deputy Minister of Industry Canada, and the Deputy Minister of Health Canada, with the President of the Canada Foundation for Innovation serving as observer.
Network agreement: the agreement between the BL-Network and the network members which sets out the rights and obligations of each party with respect to the funds provided to the network members and whose terms and conditions are consistent with the terms and conditions of the funding agreement.
Network members: signatories to the network agreement, receiving funding and participating in the research activities.
Network director: refers to the person responsible for executing the strategic direction of the BL-Network. Other titles can be used by the BL-Network to refer to this position.
Private Sector Advisory Board (PSAB): the advisory board tasked to evaluate applications to the BL-NCE Program and make funding recommendations on the BL-NCE program based on a review process.
The goal of the BL-NCE program is to address private sector research and development (R&D) challenges in Canadian research priority areas through the creation of business-led research networks that increase private sector investment in R&D, innovation and competitiveness.
BL-Networks are continuously evaluated based on the following criteria:
A detailed breakdown of the above criteria is provided in Appendix A. For details about the selection process, refer to the BL-NCE Competition Guide. To learn more about the governance of the program, consult our website.
To achieve the above goal, the BL-NCE program invests in BL-Networks who will focus on relevant challenges to their sector. A successful BL-Network will:
Business-Led Networks (BL-Networks) are large-scale collaborative research networks that bring together a group of organizations from the public, private and/or academic sectors with a wide range of research expertise to address specific challenges identified by the private sector. Networks enhance private sector innovation by coupling the right expertise to real-world challenges faced by the private sector. BL-Networks increase private sector investments in Canadian research and accelerate the transfer of ideas from the laboratory into solutions needed by the sector.
The group of organizations that form the BL-Network may herald from the private, academic or not-for-profit sectors. The type of group that is assembled is dependent on the scope of work to be undertaken by the BL-Network. The day-to-day activities of the BL-Network are carried out on behalf of the group by an administrative centre.
Payments of grants are made to BL-Networks successful in a BL-NCE Competition. Following a competition, successful applicants must incorporate as a federal not-for-profit organization under the Canada Not for Profit Corporations Act to be eligible to receive grant funds.
The granting agencies decide on the grant amount to be paid on the basis of reasonable eligible costs listed in the budget submitted in the grant application, recommendations from expert review and PSAB on the need for funds, and on the available budget allocation.
BL-Networks are expected to have an administrative structure that is capable of managing a complex research program that may include a diverse set of participants from the private, academic and not-for-profit sectors. Each BL-Network must have an organizational structure appropriate for the management of the network activities while adhering to the Canada Not for Profit Corporations Act and the funding agreement.
Payments are managed by the NCE Secretariat and disbursed to the recipient(s) against a Funding Agreement under the legal authority(ies) of the relevant granting agency(ies) (NSERC, and/or SSHRC and/or CIHR). The funding agreement is consistent with the BL-NCE Program Terms and Conditions and the BL-NCE Program Guide.
Release of grant funds to network members by the BL-Network is conditional on the signing of a network agreement. The network agreement is a common agreement signed by all network members receiving BL-NCE grant funds to advance the activities of the BL-Network. A network agreement sets out the expectations of all organizations receiving part of the grant to undertake research activities selected by the BL-network. Detailed guidelines outlining the required elements are available in Appendix B.
It is understood that the organizations identified as network members in the BL-Network may change from time to time; however, all new network members receiving BL-NCE grant funds must be eligible and approved by the board of directors of the BL-Network.
To be eligible, Network Members must be Canadian post-secondary institutions eligible to receive grant funds from the federal granting agencies; private sector enterprises with substantial research and development (R&D) operations in Canada or with potential to benefit from R&D; and Canadian not-for-profit organizations. Federal, provincial/territorial and municipal government departments, agencies or Crown corporations are not eligible to receive BL-NCE grant funds.
Although contributors sign the network agreement and provide funding for the BL-NCE activities they are not eligible to receive funds unless they meet the eligibility criteria to also become a network member. For additional information see Appendix B.
Funding for a given BL-Network generally comes from more than one granting agency. As a program representing all three of the granting agencies and falling under the day-to-day management of the NCE Secretariat, the Secretariat is the primary point of interaction for all BL-Networks throughout the grant period.
The NCE Secretariat will identify a NCE liaison to work closely with each BL-Network over the grant period. This partnership will enable the BL-Network to better achieve alignment with the BL-NCE program. The NCE liaison may be asked to participate in the resolution of technical, financial or administrative difficulties; assist the BL-Network in the preparation of submissions to the BL-NCE program; advise on the interpretation of the BL-NCE program objectives, rules and guidelines; and support co-ordination of the BL-Network's activities with those of other networks or of other government-sponsored initiatives.
The NCE liaison is the primary NCE Secretariat contact for the BL-Network and will have observer status in the BL-Network board of directors and its committee meetings. If the NCE liaison is not able to attend a meeting the NCE Secretariat may temporarily appoint an alternate representative.
Following the BL-NCE grant competition, the NCE Secretariat hosts a best practices session to bring together newly funded BL-Networks. Group discussion focuses on topics essential to the BL-NCE program as well as first year and ongoing operations of a BL-Network. Participants in the session may also pose questions to guest speakers representing active, successful BL-Networks regarding things such as lessons learned, good governance practices developed, and how to manage conflict of interest.
The membership of the board of directors must reflect the interests and concerns of the various stakeholders involved in the BL-Network. The board is accountable to the NCE Secretariat for the BL-Network grant. The board must consist of at least 12 members, and is required to meet at least twice annually. At a minimum, one-third of the board members should be independent members.
The BL-Network and its members must adopt a code of conduct (for directors, officers, employees and committee members) designed to prevent real or perceived conflicts of interest. Appendix D provides guidelines on how to develop code of conduct guidelines and policies for a BL-Network.
Upon success in the BL-NCE competition, the BL-Network must consider how the reports of the Expert Panel and the Private Sector Advisory Board affect the strategic plan submitted as part of the full application. The board of directors must consider the way forward and how implementation of these recommendations will be accomplished to align the impacts of the BL-Network with the Definitions of Success.
The following items should be part of the first meeting of the interim board of directors.
The board of directors may consider the creation of some of the following subcommittees:
For additional best practices around setting up governance, consult the Resource Manual: Best Practices for Governance and Operations.
Each BL-Network must have an appointed network director who reports directly to the board of directors. The BL-Network director is expected to commit at least 70 percent of their time to network-related activities in order to manage the BL-NCE grant effectively.
The administrative centre can be hosted in any location including within an organization owned by a Network Member.
A BL-Network may begin to incur eligible expenses from the date of the award letter. Thus in the first fiscal year reporting (ending March 31), a BL-Network must report on the activities completed during that period. The NCE Secretariat will provide templates for the annual reporting including this first annual report. The reporting will capture activities including: incorporation of the BL-Network or steps taken to use an existing federal incorporation, progress on the recruitment and activities by the governance and management, any expenses incurred related to grant and/or matching funds, etc.
The BL-Network receives grant funds from the granting agencies and may flow funding to BL-Network Members to complete activities aligned with the application for funding.
In order to determine which expenses related to administration or research are eligible under the BL-NCE program, grantees should refer to the eligible expenses table in Appendix H of the program guide.
Generally, the BL-NCE program will provide up to 50 percent of the eligible direct costs of research, and 75 percent of the eligible operation (networking, commercialization, administration and outreach) expenses in support of the operation of the BL Network. However, administration expenses cannot exceed 20 percent of the total BL-NCE grant. While this ratio must be met over the entire granting period, BL-Networks should have a general idea of how the funds will be matched, at the time of the expense of any grant funds. The minimum expected matching contributions are calculated at the time of the award and defined in the award letter based on the amount of grant funds awarded.
The BL-Network must demonstrate that it has received the required level of matching funds from other sources globally with progress measured on a yearly basis and not necessarily per funded activities.
Where capital equipment expenditures are vital to the success of the BL-Network, the cost of that equipment may be considered an eligible expense, provided the equipment cost for which coverage is requested does not exceed $1 million over the life span of the grant and does not exceed 20 percent of the total eligible expenses for research costs.
Plans for the lease and ownership of equipment acquired with BL-NCE should be formalized through agreements and/or contracts. These agreements should detail how the equipment will be used during the funding cycle and if any revenues are expected through user-fees, and also indicate what will happen to the equipment when the funding cycle is complete.
The rules and policies of the granting agency into whose domain the majority of the BL-Network's activities fall will apply to that BL-Network, as mutually agreed by the BL-Network and the NCE Secretariat.
In case of doubt on the eligibility of an expense and before committing any funds, the BL-Network should contact the NCE Secretariat liaison for further guidance.
Expenses related to the administrative centre and representative of the activities necessary to administer the BL-Network are eligible under the BL-NCE grant.
The maximum level (stacking limit) of total government assistance (federal, provincial, and municipal government departments or crown corporations) for this program will not exceed 75 per cent of the eligible expenses. If the stacking limit is exceeded, it will be necessary for the relevant federal agencies to adjust the payments to the BL-Network in such a way as to not exceed the stacking limit.
When a grantee is successful in attracting other funding, the additional funds do not displace the grant provided by the BL-NCE program. The BL-Network must use the additional funds to complement BL-NCE funded activities, by conducting additional work, hiring more research personnel, or widening the scope of its activities. BL-Networks who receive additional government funding for the same activities must respect the stacking limit. The balance above the stacking limit must come exclusively from non-government sources.
Total Budget: $11,000,000
Eligible Expenses: $10,000,000
Administration, Networking and Commercialization costs: $1,000,000 (up to 75% or $750,000 can come from BL-NCE program)
Direct Costs: $9,000,000 -up to 50% (or $4,500,000) can come from the BL-NCE program; $4,500,000 must come from contributions from other sources. In total, government departments and agencies cannot contribute more than 75% of the direct costs of research (non-BL-NCE government funds can add a maximum of 25% beyond the maximum funding from the BL Funds).
In the example above, this would leave $2,250,000 to be matched by non-government sources.
Contributors are the firms that provide the financial and resource means to meet the matching fund requirements, and are positioned to best utilize the results from the BL-Network.
Contributors may also be network members (i.e. provide funding to the BL-Network as well as conduct research). However, it is essential for the BL-Network to put in place mechanisms to ensure the sharing of the research results occurs and to maintain control of the research outcomes to greater disseminate the results among a larger number of BL-Network participants (see Network Agreement Guidelines).
The role of the contributors extends beyond providing matching funds for the BL-Network activities. This group should be constantly engaged to ensure the R&D activities may be applied within their firm and to identify any gaps that may exist in the BL-Network strategic plan. Involvement in the leadership and direction of the research is essential as well as their ongoing participation in reviewing the progress of research projects. Collectively, contributors represent the interests of the private sector and are best positioned to facilitate overcoming the sector’s 5-10 year challenges and help the BL-Network realize the Definitions of Success. Their interests are key to the overall strategic direction of the BL-Network.
While the BL-NCE program sets a minimum matching contribution threshold, greater leveraging of contributor funds will maximize the impacts of a BL-Network. Successful BL-Networks will have a clear value proposition to their contributors, and will be able to adapt to the evolving needs of the sector. This natural evolution of the BL-Network may also lead to both new contributors and new network members.
The BL-NCE Program is a matching program. Matching contributions may be in cash or in-kind. To be considered matching funds, the additional funds must be used to support expenses that meet the eligibility criteria of the BL-NCE program.
When receiving a matching contribution, BL-Networks will need to keep in mind the eventual reporting requirements:
Cash from contributors:
Reporting requirement when receiving the cash:
Reporting requirement when spending the cash:
Reporting requirement when receiving the contribution:
For additional guidelines on how to calculate in-kind contributions, see Appendix I.
Within the network agreement, there should also be a description of the different categories of contributors as applicable (i.e. tiers of membership and the resulting benefits for each tier, different membership status of membership for contributors who join at different times, etc.) and an overview of the separate agreements to be used for each. Details pertaining to contributor requirements may also be found in the Network Agreement Guidelines.
While the network agreement sets out the requirements and responsibilities of the BL-Network, contributors, and network members, it should not be used to outline specific clauses that may change as a result of the unique relationships that may exist. For instance the network agreement may present general principles around the commercialization of research for the purposes of uptake by contributors, however the specific details around how contributors will commercialize the research for use by their organizations is not relevant to the umbrella network agreement and should be captured separately in complementary agreements and referenced in the network agreement. Equally negotiations around the ownership of IP should not be specifically outlined in the network agreement. As these and similar negotiations must be tailored to each contributor and network member so should the agreements that set out the terms.
The BL-Network administrative centre is responsible for:
BL-Network activities, results and accomplishments should be conveyed to external audiences, including potential participants from all sectors, public policy makers, the media and the public. BL-Networks are strongly encouraged to produce all nationally targeted communiqués and publications, including their website, in both official languages. In addition, BL-Networks should strive to communicate with individuals in the official language of their preference, for example, when recruiting members for peer review panels.
The BL-Network's communications activities and messages must acknowledge the contribution of the federal government by mentioning that the BL-Network is made possible through the funding of the Networks of Centres of Excellence, in conjunction with the Canada Wordmark. For more details, please consult the Best Practices for NCE Communicators.
The terms “Business-Led Networks of Centres of Excellence,” and “Réseaux de centres d’excellence dirigés par l’entreprise,” are official marks of the Government of Canada. The BL-Network shall identify itself as a Business-Led Network of Centres of Excellence and is permitted to use the names “Business-Led Networks of Centres of Excellence” and “Réseaux de centres d’excellence dirigés par l’entreprise,” and the acronyms “BL-NCE” and “RCE-E.” The BL-Network must immediately cease using all official marks upon termination of the funding agreement or dissolution of the BL-Network.
The board of directors must implement a financial control framework that ensures expenditures charged to the BL-NCE grants are for their intended purpose.
The strategic plan of the BL-Network should not be considered a static document. Over the grant period, a BL-Network may update the strategic plan to address gaps in the strategy or to add new research focuses that have been identified by the contributors or the network members.
Project selection process
The board of directors should recommend to its subcommittees what area(s) a call for proposals should target. Network members should all have an opportunity to participate in calls for proposals. A call for proposals must align with the BL-Network’s objectives to meet broader sectoral challenges. The review process may be delegated to subcommittees of the board and supported by the administrative centre. It may or may not involve a letter of intent phase, depending on the nature of the call.
Under the direction of the board of directors, measures must be established to ensure that proposals receive fair, objective and comprehensive assessments. The subcommittees should review proposals according to set criteria established for the BL-Network by the board as well as the over-arching criteria of the BL-NCE program.
Calls for proposals may involve one or multiple research themes and may invite proposals from existing network members (internal call) and/or from research groups within the targeted sector at large (external call). Research themes may also be used as a way to manage the BL-Network’s research program once projects have been selected.
For further guidance on best practices around project selection, please refer to the Resource Manual: Best Practices for Governance and Operations.
As per the funding agreement, the board of directors should ensure adherence to Tri-Agency and NCE policies and guidelines (where applicable) through implementation of appropriate measures and report on these measures in the strategic plan and annual progress reports. Some of those policies and guidelines may be found below.
Intellectual property and benefits to Canada
The board of directors must adopt a policy that encourages and facilitates research and commercialization for the greatest benefit to Canada. The agent or owners of intellectual property resulting from BL-Network funded activities will use reasonable and thorough efforts to maximize benefits to Canada, including the possible development of new Canadian receptor companies. The Benefits to Canada Working Guidelines are in Appendix C.
The NCE Secretariat and the granting agencies make no claim to ownership of intellectual property from the research funded by the network. Ownership of BL-Network-supported intellectual property shall be determined by applicable Canadian law and the separate agreements signed by Network Members and Contributors.
Conflict of Interest Policy Framework
Achieving the objectives of the BL-NCE program involves various types of interactions among BL-Network participants, some of which may place individuals in positions of potential, apparent or actual conflict of interest. The BL-Network must adopt a code of conduct in its by-laws for directors, officers, employees and committee members designed to prevent real or perceived conflicts of interest. The code shall be no less stringent than the NCE Conflict of Interest Policy Framework attached as Appendix D.
The board of directors must implement measures, where applicable, that align with the Tri-Council guidelines for certain types of research. Included in this is research involving: human subjects; human pluripotent stem cells; animals; biohazards; radioactive materials; licenses for research in the Canadian territories; and controlled goods or information. Details on the requirements are available in Appendix E.
Environmental Review Process
The board of directors must establish a process for environmental review in fulfillment of its obligations pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012). All activities approved for funding by the board and that will be supported with BL-NCE funds must be reviewed for potential adverse environmental effects. Details and an example of the environmental review process are provided in Appendix F.
The board of directors should establish appropriate measures to ensure that the Tri-Agency Framework on Responsible Conduct of Research is respected.
In all cases the BL-Networks must:
Accounting systems necessary
After signing the network agreement with network members, the BL-Network must ensure that the network members have setup an effective accounting system to account for the receipt and expenditure of grant and matching dollars. Establishing these accounts is essential to the financial management within the network members and in-turn the BL-Network. Each network member should set up a separate account for the BL-Network funding and in some cases (i.e. academic network members) additional accounts should be used to further differentiate the receipt and expenditure of grant dollars from matching funds. The expectations of the accounting at the network members should be captured in the network agreement.
Reporting for the Research Support Fund
The BL-NCE program is part of the Research Support Fund (RSF) which enables BL-Networks to engage in research using BL-NCE grant dollars and conducted at eligible Canadian institutions without incurring overhead expenses. Any BL-NCE grant funds allocated for research in eligible post-secondary institutions are eligible under the RSF program and will not be charged overhead. As part of the annual reporting, each institution must complete and provide the BL-Network with a Form 300. This form must be submitted with the BL-NCE annual reporting.
Academic network members eligible to claim the overhead on grant funds from the RSF should claim these amounts on the BL-NCE grant funds only. The RSF costs are not applicable to the BL-NCE matching funds and thus may be subject to overhead by the academic network members. It is required when dealing with academic network members that the BL-Network discloses the sources of the funding provided in order to properly account for RSF and overhead costs. Note that overhead is not an eligible expense of the BL-NCE program and thus must not be covered by grant or matching funds.
Annual Reports to the NCE Secretariat
The annual progress reports shall be approved by the board of directors and submitted to the NCE Secretariat no later than July 31 of each year. The NCE Secretariat should review the BL-Network’s annual progress reports prior to submission.
Use of the annual reports
The annual progress report of the BL-Network will be assessed against the program criteria of the BL-NCE program by the PSAB monitoring review board. The PSAB will use the annual reports to assess the progress of each BL-Network against the original application, the BL-Network’s strategic plan and the criteria defined in the BL-NCE program guide. The PSAB may recommend continued funding, phasing out the BL-NCE grant funds to the BL-Network, or an in-depth review by a panel of experts who will report back to the PSAB. The NCE Steering Committee is responsible for the final funding decision.
Annual reports collected will be used to monitor performance and to inform the BL-NCE program, to produce the program’s annual report, and to report to stakeholders and the Canadian public. All information provided to the NCE Secretariat is subject to the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. Any confidential information should be clearly identified as such. Information on the Acts and the use and disclosure of personal information are detailed in Appendix G.
The BL-Network is subject to the established Tri-Agency monitoring procedures, which may include visits from the representatives of the granting agencies. In instances where members of the BL-Networks are organizations eligible to receive funds from one of the three agencies, the monitoring procedures also apply.
Necessary record keeping
Refer to the Supporting Evidence subsection of the Reporting section of the Tri- Agency Financial Administration Guide for information on what documentation must be kept on record by the BL-Network as supporting documentation for financial administration purposes. Records must be kept a minimum of six years following the conclusion of the funding agreement.
Given that the BL-Network’s research needs to be divided into separate themes and / or projects, it is important to create and promote a culture of collaboration among researchers. The success of a BL-Network will strongly depend on its ability to focus different expertise and disciplines onto specific problems.
It is therefore encouraged for BL-Networks to create a platform for researchers to share results and discuss their approaches. This can be accomplished through board subcommittee meetings, scientific meetings such as an annual conference, webinars, or e-mail updates.
To ensure that research projects continue to target results that will be useful to the contributors, researchers and contributors are encouraged to engage with each other throughout the life of a project. This could be through a regular review mechanism, or other hands-on management approaches (such as the setup of a mentoring program).
A milestone schedule should be established by the board of directors. The schedule should include: a list of the activities/steps required for the BL-Network to achieve its yearly objectives; start and end dates of the activities leading to the milestones; and major outcomes/results expected. Measures should also be established to track progress in achieving each milestone. A similar approach should be taken by network members in their individual projects.
The board of directors should decide on a reporting framework. A reporting template should be created for the projects that will be funded by the BL-Network, identifying the performance metrics against which the progress of the projects will be assessed. These internal reports will feed into the annual progress reporting framework that the NCE Secretariat uses in its evaluation of the BL-Network as a whole. The board should decide on the frequency of reporting as well as the internal review mechanism of the BL-Network reporting activities. How the project reports will be used is at the discretion of the board. The reports, however, should be useful for go/no-go decision points regarding projects. Internal reports should also provide network members with the opportunity to highlight new areas of research based on discoveries. An example of a review mechanism for reporting activities is available in the Resource Manual: Best Practices for Governance and Operations.
Following the completion of a research project the BL-Network must disseminate the results as per the network agreement and other related agreements, to ensure the rapid uptake of results by the contributors.
A process should be established for closing research accounts of individual projects. This includes measures ensuring that outstanding commitments are satisfied prior to closure, unspent funds are returned to the administrative centre, and final financial reporting activities are completed.
If new discoveries arise from the research such that the BL-Network strategy could be expanded or challenges could be further broadened, contributors may reinvest into the BL-Network to further the research. New contributions may also arise from new partners attracted to the BL-Network.
Knowing that a BL-Network has overcome the original challenges outlined in the BL-NCE application (and, in the process, has embodied the definitions of success) is an important consideration that will affect the potential for renewal of the BL-Network for an additional term (if applicable). This can be validated by the impact of the outcomes on the BL-NCE contributors.
The impacts on the BL-NCE contributors should, in turn, link back to the benefits to Canada that were presented in the original application. It is important to set a system to track these impacts (including success stories) and disseminate them to interested parties as part of a clear communication strategy.
BL-Networks should endeavour to understand how the results have been taken up by the contributors, and track the impact of the results on the contributors’ commercialization/business application activities. BL-Networks should also establish an ongoing reporting process that captures further impacts of the results on the contributors.
Existing BL-Networks in their first cycle of funding have an opportunity to compete for a second five-year cycle. The renewal competition follows a two-stage process that includes a letter of intent (LOI) and a full application. The LOI is used as a tool for the NCE Secretariat to confirm the intent to apply for a renewal, and to identify experts for the review of the full application. For a renewal, every BL-Network that submits an LOI automatically becomes able to submit a full application. The full application is in turn peer-reviewed by an expert panel and by the Private Sector Advisory Board.
Renewal competitions typically take place during the last year of the current grant, to ensure uninterrupted funding should the BL-Network be successful. BL-Networks cannot apply for a third cycle of funding.
Networks must plan to conclude the entire research program by the end of the term identified in the Funding Agreement. The board of directors and its subcommittees should plan to hold any final meetings and retain only administrative staff beyond the term who are necessary to complete final reporting requirements (e.g. key finance staff). Subcommittees of the board must not approve or spend funding on any new projects past the end of the funding period. Any unmatched and/or unspent research funds must be declared to the NCE Secretariat through an up-to-date financial statement, and returned to the Receiver General of Canada, care of the NCE Secretariat. Four months after the end of the term, a final report must be submitted to the NCE. During this period, the administrative centre will remain active to collect unspent and unmatched grant funds, collect statements of accounts and final reports from network members and impact reports from contributors. At the conclusion of the four months, the BL-Network must provide:
For further details on the BL-NCE’s final reporting requirements, consult the Guidelines for End of Cycle Reporting and Best Practices for Winding Down.
Applications from new BL-Networks and the ongoing operations of existing BL-Networks are assessed against the following selection criteria:
Potential for success:
Rationale for funding:
Description of benefits to private sector participants:
As part of the requirements of the funding agreement the BL-Network must execute a Network Agreement with organizations involved. These guidelines outline the required elements to be addressed in the Network Agreement to ensure accordance with the BL-NCE Funding Agreement and the BL-NCE program.
Each signatory has unique roles and responsibilities to enable the success of the BL-Network. The roles and responsibilities of each signatory are outlined below and must be captured in the Network Agreement. All participants should sign a single agreement and where necessary develop separate agreements to deal with specifics related to a given organization. As outlined in the funding agreement the BL-Network should solicit independent legal counsel to negotiate these agreements. For additional information please contact your NCE Secretariat liaison.
As the central piece of the initiative, the BL-Network is the stewards of the BL-NCE grant funds, the matching contributions, the activities undertaken, and delivery on the commitment to the federal government. As such the BL-Network has signed a funding agreement with the granting agencies outlining the obligations of funding. Many of those obligations fall to the BL-Network, while others extend to BL-Network interactions with Contributors and Network Members. The latter obligations are captured below and reflect necessary components of a BL-NCE Network Agreement.
The Network Agreement should include:
The BL-NCE program requires that the BL-NCE grant contributions towards the activities of the BL-Network be matched by other sources of funding. Contributors to these activities have a special relationship with the BL-Network as they not only provide the financial and resource means to meet the matching fund requirements, but they are also positioned to best utilize the results from the BL-Network. The value-add of the network approach provides contributors with the opportunity to leverage their financial and in-kind contributions not only against grant funds but also against that of other contributors. This provides significantly greater returns on investments for each contributor and strengthens the collaboration within the BL-Network.
In a situation where Contributors also have a role as Network Members (i.e., provide funding to the BL-Network as well as conduct research), it is essential for the BL-Network to put in place mechanisms to ensure the sharing of the research results occurs and to maintain control of the research outcomes to greater disseminate the results among a larger number of network participants. Without these controls a BL-Networks may act as a granting agency where projects are isolated from each other and dissemination does not occur. This diminishes the value-add of the BL-Network and undermines the goals of the BL-NCE program in maximizing value to the sector.
All contributions (cash and in-kind) must be made to the BL-Network and not specifically to projects or activities of the BL-Network. Cash contributions must be paid first to the BL-Network who will subsequently issue payments to Network Members upon direction by the BL-Network Board of Directors. In-kind contributions must be committed to the BL-Network in agreements separate from the Network Agreement and detail the specifics of the in-kind contribution (e.g. identification of resources, level of access, duration, etc.). The BL-Network Board of Directors will allocate these resources as needed to complete the activities.
In addition to the above and as it relates to Contributors, the Network Agreement should also include:
This group represents organizations that are eligible to receive grant funds and will undertake the BL-Network research activities. In addition to delivering on the research objectives for the BL-Network, this group must also adhere to the research and funding requirements stipulated by the Granting Agencies. The Network agreement must address these elements including:
A key BL-NCE program objective is to advance Canadian economic and social development. Accordingly, every effort must be made to have the results of network-funded research exploited in Canada, for the benefit of Canadians. Benefit to Canada is defined as incremental Canadian economic activity and improved quality of life in Canada. For example, maximum benefits would be derived from the creation of high-quality jobs in Canada, which should be an important goal of any commercialization activity.
The owners of intellectual property resulting from BL-Network research and/or commercialization activities, or the agent acting on their behalf, will consult with relevant stakeholders (BL-Network administrators, members, universities, and researchers) on issues of commercialization. When selecting a receptor company for the exclusive license of the commercial rights of intellectual property resulting from network research and/or commercialization activities, the agent/owners of intellectual property resulting from the network research and/or commercialization activities will use reasonable and thorough efforts to maximize benefits to Canada in a national and international context. Due diligence in efforts to maximize benefits to Canada depends in part on the nature of the commercialization activities that are being exploited, and on the window of opportunity.
The agent/owners of intellectual property resulting from network research and/or commercialization activities should take the following non-comprehensive list of possible benefits to Canada factors into consideration in exercising that due diligence:
Within 30 days of a decision to pursue exploitation by a foreign company, and in advance of finalizing this decision, the agent/owner is required to report the decision to the BL-Network board of directors, and to provide a report approved by the board of directors to the NCE Secretariat that describes the rationale and circumstances that led to the decision. The NCE Steering Committee reserves the right to impose sanctions as it deems appropriate, if there is failure to comply with these reporting requirements or negligence in performing the due diligence, on the part of the BL-Network.
Interactions between university researchers and the private sector are an essential feature of the BL-NCE program. For the objectives of the BL-NCE program to be achieved, many kinds of interactions among individuals participating in the BL-Network must occur. These interactions may lead to gains and benefits to the individuals participating in the BL-Network and are desirable and natural outcomes of being involved in the BL-Network. Such interactions, however, may place individuals participating in the BL-Network in a position of potential, apparent or actual conflict of interest.
To ensure that BL-Network operations and decisions are not biased by conflict of interest, the responsibility for implementing and managing the Conflict of Interest Policy Framework is delegated to each BL-Network board of directors, who represents the highest authority in the management structure of the BL-Network.
Individuals participating in the BL-Network who do not receive BL-NCE grants, such as members of the board of directors and of advisory committees, play a unique role in the BL-Networks in bringing an important perspective as a result of their particular knowledge, often as representatives of organizations in the field of interest of the BL-Network. Although they do not receive BL-NCE funds, they are still required to disclose any financial interest or position of influence, as described in the Disclosure Section of this document, in any business in the same area of interest as the BL-Network, other than that of their main employer.
The Conflict of Interest Policy is intended to enable BL-Network board of directors and individuals to recognize and disclose situations that may be open to question and to ensure that such situations are appropriately resolved. The policy builds upon, and is complementary to, those of the organizations that make up the BL-Network board of directors, the BL-Network investigators and the administrators.
(a) "Administrative Centre" means the central administrative offices of the BL-Network;
(b) "Avoidance" means refraining from, or withdrawing from, participation in activities or situations that place an individual participating in the BL-Network in a potential, apparent or actual conflict of interest relative to his or her BL-Network duties and responsibilities;
(c) "Board" means the BL-Network board of directors that is responsible for the overall management of the BL-Network;
(d) "Conflict of interest" means a situation where, to the detriment or potential detriment of the BL-Network, an individual or organization is, or may be, in a position to use intellectual property, research knowledge, authority or influence (real or perceived) for personal or family gain (financial or other) or for the benefit others;
(e) "BL-NCE" means the federal Business-Led Networks of Centres of Excellence program;
(f) "BL-Network" means a not-for-profit corporation funded under the federal Business-Led Networks of Centres of Excellence program;
(g) "Network Director" means the holder of the BL-NCE Grant who is a non-voting ex-officio member of the BL-Network’s board of directors.
(h) "Disclosure" means the act of notifying in writing the board of directors, through the administrative centre, of any direct or indirect financial interests and positions of influence held by an individual participating in the BL-Network that could lead to a potential, apparent or actual conflict of interest.
(i) "Divestment" means the sale at arm's length, or the placement in trust, of assets, where continued ownership by an individual participating in the BL-Network would constitute a potential, apparent or actual conflict of interest with the participant's BL-Network duties and responsibilities.
(j) "Financial interest" means an interest in a business in the same area as the BL-Network as described in the Financial Interest section of this document.
(k) "NCE Secretariat" means the secretariat through which the federal Networks of Centres of Excellence program and the BL-NCE program are delivered.
(l) "NCE Steering Committee" means the committee which has overall responsibility for the BL-NCE program comprised of the three granting agencies' presidents, the Deputy Minister of Industry Canada, and the Deputy Minister of Health Canada, with the President of the Canada Foundation for Innovation serving as observer.
(m) "Position of influence" includes any position that entails responsibility for a material segment of the operation and/or management of a business.
Upon joining the BL-Network, each individual is obliged to disclose in writing to the board, through the administrative centre, any direct or indirect financial interests and positions of influence that could lead to a potential, apparent or actual conflict of interest (examples provided below). In addition, these submissions must be updated whenever the individual's circumstances change in a way that would necessitate a further disclosure. The individual also has the obligation to disclose any potential, apparent or actual conflict of interest when it arises during BL-Network committee or board meetings so that the committee or board is aware of the situation and can take appropriate action.
Board members and members of other committees of the BL-Network should identify their interests in all organizations working in the same sector as the BL-Network and explain the relationship of the organization(s) to the BL-Network.
This consists of:
The board or its conflict of interest subcommittee is charged with the responsibility of managing conflict of interest, and determining and implementing the appropriate course of action. This management system is based on disclosure, as described in the disclosure section. All disclosures constitute confidential information that will be available to the board, or a subcommittee thereof, for the evaluation and resolution of any conflict of interest or allegations of conflict of interest brought before the Board or its conflict of interest subcommittee.
While it is recognized that it may be difficult to completely avoid situations of potential, apparent or actual conflict of interest, complete avoidance or divestment may be required in certain cases. Such divestment should not consist of a sale or transfer of assets to family members or other persons for the purpose of circumventing the conflict of interest compliance measures as directed by the Board.
An individual participating in the BL-Network who is involved with, or has an interest in, or deals in any manner with a third party which might cause a conflict of interest, will not be present and participate in any BL-Network decisions, including committee decisions, if the declared potential conflict of interest could influence the decision or actions of the BL-Network. It is the obligation of the individual to declare such potential, apparent or actual conflict of interest before discussions take place so that the committee or Board is aware of the situation in order to ensure that the individual is out of the room when the discussion and decision process on the item in question are taking place. This course of action should be recorded in the minutes of the meeting.
Any question raised by an individual or company regarding the potential conflict of interest of an individual will be raised at the board level and must be documented in writing. The board will determine the extent to which the question should be pursued and in such cases will consult the individual in question. If necessary, the individual will be asked to respond in writing.
If an individual is discovered to be in conflict of interest where disclosure and prior approval have not been sought or granted, the board will require the individual to:
An individual may request in writing, within 30 days, a review of a board‘s decision on conflict of interest. In certain circumstances, the board may arrange for an independent third party appointed by mutual agreement of the BL-Network and the board, and failing such mutual agreement, appointed by the NCE Steering Committee, to act as an intermediary to scrutinize scientific reports and budgetary information of research project(s) in which the individual participating in the BL-Network is involved. The intermediary would provide an opinion on the overall merit of the review, without divulging specifics of a proprietary nature to other members of the BL-Network. The ultimate decision on the resolution of the review rests with the board.
In cases where there is a concern with respect to decisions or actions of the board itself, this concern should be submitted in writing to the NCE Secretariat. The NCE Secretariat may request the Chair of the board to respond in writing to the NCE Steering Committee. Following submission of the Chair's response, the NCE Steering Committee will decide on follow-up action.
The following examples, although not comprehensive, illustrate situations that may lead to an indirect or direct conflict of interest:
The conflict of interest guidelines as adapted from NSERC and CIHR state that Expert Panel Members should not:
The policy statement associated with the requirements for certain types of research of the three granting agencies can be found at: www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/NSERC-CRSNG/Policies-Politiques/certaintypes-typescertaines_eng.asp. More specifically, here are the areas that the policy covers:
Where applicable, NCE recipient organizations (e.g. organizations receiving IRDI, NCE, BL-NCE and CECR grants), must comply with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 ( CEAA 2012) by ensuring that activities supported with NCE funds are not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects in areas within federal jurisdiction, and must develop a review process as follow:
The self-identification process detailed in the NSERC's Guidelines on Environmental Review and Assessment, and the NSERC’s Environmental Information Form or the Form 101, Appendices A and B Environmental Impact checklists). can be used as an example of how relevant information can be collected from applicants.
The Access to Information Act (ATI) gives Canadian citizens and people present in Canada a limited right of access to information in federal government records. The Privacy Act gives these same individuals a limited right of access to personal information about themselves held in government records and sets out rules and fair practices for the management of personal information by federal institutions. All information collected and generated in the context of the Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) programs that comes under the control of the NCE Secretariat and the granting agencies is subject to these laws.
It is important to remember that the ATIP is intended to complement, not replace, established channels of communication. The NCE Secretariat promotes open, informal communication with the research community and with the public. Contact the NCE Secretariat before using the acts.
A requester seeking access to NCE Secretariat records under the Access to Information Act (ATIA) must write to the ATIP Co-ordinator at Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) providing a precise description of the records sought and enclosing the appropriate application fee. Submitting a request does not guarantee that a requester will gain complete access to the requested records. The Act sets out specific exceptions and exemptions that apply in responding to such requests. For example, personal information about identifiable individuals or proprietary technical information submitted in confidence by researchers or companies would not be disclosed. Moreover, if a request requires a lengthy search or involves a large number of records, a requester could be asked to pay additional fees to help cover the processing costs.
More information about the Act can be obtained from the NSERC Access to Information and Privacy Co-ordinator (see below), the ATIP website ( www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/atip-aiprp/index-eng.asp) or from Info Source, a published register of federal information holdings available in most large libraries or at www.infosource.gc.ca.
The Privacy Act gives people in Canada certain rights with respect to personal information about them held by federal institutions. For example, institutions must inform people from (or about) whom they collect personal information, how it will be used, and to whom it will be disclosed. Personal information may be used only for the purposes for which it was originally collected or for uses consistent with that purpose. The Act also contains a procedure for requesting correction of inaccuracies in personal information.
Making a request under the Privacy Act is similar to making one under the ATIA, except that there are no fees associated with requests to access personal information. The Privacy Act sets out limits to the right of access similar to those contained in the ATIA. For example, unless otherwise set out in advance, a person requesting access to personal information about themselves would not be given access to personal information about another.
The decision-making processes related to applications received by the NCE Secretariat are subject to more publicity than traditional grant or scholarship applications made to individuals. Successful applicants, co-applicants and other participants, including members of boards of directors, managers and other key players, should be aware that their names and affiliations will be accessible to the public. The NCE Secretariat routinely publishes and disseminates certain details about successful applications. These include: names and affiliations of applicants and co-applicants, the amount of the total award and any conditions attached to that amount, and summaries prepared by the applicant or by the Secretariat for public reference. The final reports of the NCE Secretariat selection committees or the Private Sector Advisory Board, providing an overview of a competition along with a summary of each application recommended for funding, are also publicly disseminated.
More detailed personal information about applicants and prospective administrators collected by the NCE Secretariat programs is used to review applications, to administer and monitor awards, and to promote and support research. Consistent with these purposes, applicants should also expect that personal information collected by the program might be used and disclosed in the following ways:
Applicants and participants in the NCE Secretariat programs are subject to the Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research and their personal information may be used and disclosed consistent with this policy.
Information provided to the NCE Secretariat is subject to the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. Grant applicants and recipients are encouraged to separate information not related to the grant from meetings and documentation available to the NCE Secretariat and its representatives. Furthermore, applicants and recipients should adopt the practice of labelling information as confidential when the information contains:
Throughout the grant period, recipients of grants are required to provide information to the NCE Secretariat. The information collected is consolidated across the relevant NCE program(s) to generate statistical information, update operational requirements and identify best practices that may be used by staff and committees. Information used in public reports and publications is discussed with grant recipients in advance.
Representatives of the NCE Secretariat will not enter into separate non-disclosure and/or confidentiality agreements.
For further information on the above Acts, please contact:
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
350 Albert Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1H5
|Eligible Expenses||Ineligible Expenses|
Salaries of research personnel (students, post-doctoral fellows and/or technical/professional assistants) including non-discretionary benefits.Note: Non-discretionary benefits must not contravene Agency guidelines and must adhere to provincial regulations.
|Salaries of existing faculty|
|Equipment or facility (purchase or rental, operation and maintenance costs and user fees);|
|Materials and supplies|
|Travel (conferences, field work, collaboration/consultation);|
|Dissemination costs (publication costs, other activities)|
|Administration, Networking and Commercialization Expenses (up to 75 percent covered by the BL-NCE program)|
|Eligible Expenses||Ineligible Expenses|
|Full-time equivalent salaries for network leader and staff up to $120,000/year (excluding benefits). The balance of a salary exceeding this amount must be provided by other funding sources.||Honoraria for board members and members of subcommittees of the board.|
|Contracting of services|
|Office supplies and equipment|
|Operating expenditures of the administrative centre (including leases, telecommunications, IT support etc.)||Expenses related to the construction, and purchase of a building.|
|Travel accommodation for network personnel, researchers and members of network boards and committees|
|Pre-commercialization support services|
For all Networks of Centres of Excellence Programs, in-kind (cash equivalent) contributions are defined as cash-equivalent goods or services that represent an incremental expense that the partner would not otherwise incur and which would have to be paid for with network/centre funds if not provided by a partner. In-kind contributions should be relevant and central to the activities or mandate of the network/centre, must be eligible expenses as per the program guidelines and cannot have been used to fulfill the leveraging requirements of other federal programs.
The table below is a non-exhaustive list of in-kind contributions, with an indication of how to calculate their value. If in doubt about a particular item, contact the NCE Secretariat.
|Category||Calculation of recognized contribution||Ineligible contributions|
|Access to unique databases||
|Analytical and other services||
|Professional and technical service contracts||
|Use of facilities||