Networks of Centres of Excellence of Canada
Government of Canada

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Creating a Business-Led Network of Centres of Excellence (BL-NCE)

BL-NCEs are large-scale collaborative networks headed by not-for-profit industry consortia that increase private sector investments in Canadian research, support training of skilled researchers, and accelerate the timeline involved in translating research into commercial products and services. These cost-shared networks respond directly to real-world challenges facing Canadian industry.


What can an applicant do before the launch of a competition?

Engage sector partners early

  • The BL-NCE program aims to solve challenges of a particular industrial sector.  Benefits to both the industry and to the participating network members should be clear.  It is important that all of the key players in that sector be engaged from the onset and committed to the proposed research,commercialization  and/or knowledge transfer activities. The program requires a commitment from the proposed network’s partners to match the federal investment.
  • Strong applications have multiple partnerships, with established financial commitments to support the proposed activities. Proposed uses for network funds should not involve existing research activities, as the BL-NCE program aims to stimulate new research activities.
  • When requesting a letter of support from any organization (including the proposed host), the applicant should provide reasonable deadlines for the organization to evaluate and negotiate the request.

Consider appropriate members and structures that will ensure strong governance and management

  • The proposed governance and management structures should be sound, with a team that has the necessary strengths to deliver on the objectives of the proposed network as well as relevant and successful experience in network governance and management.
  • Given the networking nature of the program, strong consideration must be given to:
    • how project selection will ensure to capitalize on all the skills available throughout the network;
    • how individual projects will advance the industry’s overall goals;
    • how network members will share research results; and
    • how network-supported intellectual property will be used and commercialized.


What are common weaknesses identified by review panels?

At the Letter of Intent stage

  • The BL-NCE’s vision is too vague or too high level.
  • The network does not appear to address a clear need from end-users (to ensure technology pull rather than push).
  • The Letters of Support do not fully describe the importance of the proposed BL network to the partners, and do not mention how the partners stand to benefit.
  • Not enough SMEs have been engaged.
  • The letter of intent does not demonstrate the need or value of the network approach.

At the Full Application stage

  • There was not enough input from the private sector firms in the development of the business plan.
  • Results-oriented metrics were weak or lacking.
  • The BL network's expected impact on firms was not clearly outlined.
  • The operational plan to address the challenges needs more details.
  • The IP management strategy needs to be better defined.


Helpful resources

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