Networks of Centres of Excellence of Canada
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Competition FAQ



Budget and Duration of Support

Target Areas



Network Management/Participants



1. What kind of networks does the NCE program fund?

The NCE program plays an important role in mobilizing Canada’s best research and entrepreneurial talent to build a more advanced, healthy, competitive and prosperous Canada. To do this, NCE networks are expected to expand knowledge in strategic areas and enable the creation and implementation of multifaceted solutions to specific social and economic challenges. The activities of the networks range from research through to the application of knowledge. Significant and meaningful collaborations with appropriate partners are vital to a network’s success. Training of HQP is also an essential activity of all networks.

All successful networks must meet the threshold of excellence and, therefore, have activities that respond to each of the five NCE program criteria.

2. How multidisciplinary should an NCE network be?

All NCE networks must be multidisciplinary, but the scope of the multidisciplinarity will depend on the nature and maturity of the initiative. It is expected that two or three of the mandates of NSERC, SSHRC and CIHR are addressed to a meaningful extent. Successful applications will involve the significant and meaningful participation of researchers and partners from all relevant sectors and disciplines to fully address the multi-faceted challenges and to fully implement multidimensional solutions.

3. How unique should an NCE network be?

The added value of the proposed network must be clear, especially where there are overlaps between the proposed network and existing networks or initiatives in Canada or abroad, including those that are currently receiving, or have previously received, funding through the NCE suite of programs.

4. What types of activities are encompassed within the term "KTEE"?

Knowledge and Technology Exchange and Exploitation (KTEE) is one of the five NCE program criteria. The kinds of KTEE activities an NCE network may pursue include the range of activities from those encompassed in knowledge mobilization (activities and tools designed to put knowledge into active service, often through the establishment of new or modification of existing policies, processes and standards) to those encompassed in commercialization (transformation of knowledge or technology into marketable goods, processes or services). To be effective, these activities require the involvement of partners and stakeholders from the conceptual stage onwards. It is not necessary for NCE networks to cover this entire range of activities.


5. Who can apply to this NCE Competition?

Both new networks and established networks are eligible to apply for funding in this competition. LOIs should be submitted on behalf of the proposed network by an academic researcher (i.e., "the applicant," who is normally the proposed Scientific Director for the network), who is eligible to receive funding from one of the three federal granting agencies, and by the proposed host institution.

6. What is an established network?

Established networks are defined as NCE networks who have been awarded NCE funds for all available funding cycles (i.e. two seven-year cycles or three five-year cycles), and whose final NCE funding term has ended or will end by the anticipated release date of new funds (March 31, 2019).

7. Are there any specific expectations of established networks?

Established networks, building on successes from earlier cycles of NCE support, must demonstrate the enhancement and/or expansion of previous activities, scope, and impacts. This may include, but is not limited to: a change in research focus to address an emerging area in need of solutions; a scaling up of activities supporting the application of knowledge; and/or a more significant sharing of leadership with partners. Established networks must also address how they continue to: (1) fill a gap of strategic importance to Canada; and (2) be relevant in a changing research and innovation landscape.

8. Who is eligible to receive funding?

Applicants eligible to receive NCE funding are academic researchers eligible to apply for grants from one of the three federal granting agencies (CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC). Organizations eligible to receive NCE funding are: Canadian universities and post-secondary institutions with a mandate for research and their affiliated institutions (including hospitals, research institutes and other not-for-profit organizations); a private-sector consortium that hosts a network and its associated researchers, or; a not-for-profit corporation incorporated under the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act and their network members and associated researchers.

9. Must the network be incorporated at the time of application?

Proposed networks do not need to be incorporated at the time of application. At the LOI stage, the NCE Secretariat will accept applications from eligible applicants on behalf of the network to be incorporated. The application needs to clearly describe the planned governance structure of the proposed network and how that structure meets the incorporation requirement. All networks that are successful in the competition must provide proof of incorporation under the Canada Not-for-Profit Corporations Act before receiving NCE funds.

Budget and Duration of Support

10. What is the budget for this competition?

The total budget for this competition is currently set at $75M over 5 years ($15M/year). Funding for successful networks will begin, or continue, in 2018-19.

11. How will funds be allocated in this competition?

Approximately 40% of the budget will be allocated to fund new networks that meet the threshold of excellence in all criteria. While it is anticipated that at least 40% of the budget will fund new networks, no portion of the budget will be specifically reserved for either new or established networks. As in all NCE competitions, funds will be allocated to the most meritorious applications that meet the threshold of excellence in all criteria.

12. Is there a minimum or maximum funding level for a proposed budget?

There are no minimum or maximum budgets for any application in this competition. However, NCE networks are always expected to: have ambitious goals that require a networked approach; be multidisciplinary; and have high potential for impact. The budget request must be appropriate for the scope and scale of activities proposed and the projected deliverables. For established networks, the proposed budget should not necessarily be based on historical funding rates.

13. Are networks renewable for additional terms?

Network funding is available in 5-year renewable cycles. The progress of each network will be assessed annually, and may result in continued funding, conditional funding, or the phasing out of a network before the end of the 5-year award term.

14. Will funds be available for applicants with successful LOIs to assist them in preparing their Full Applications?

Applicants who are successful at the LOI stage and invited to submit a Full Application may request NCE funds to assist them in its preparation. Full Application Preparation (FAP) funding of up to $25,000 is tenable until the completion of the Expert Panel meeting and can be used for application-related expenses, such as travel (for application preparation and to attend the Expert Panel meeting), communications and workshops, as well as for secretarial, clerical and co-ordination services. To request FAP funding, successful LOI applicants must submit a one-page letter outlining their required budget, including a brief rationale of proposed expenses.

Target Areas

15. Are there any target areas for this NCE Competition?

There are no target areas in this NCE Competition.


16. Can an NCE have two host institutions at once?


17. What is the role of the host institution?

The host institution is a signatory on the NCE funding agreement. The host must ensure that the network administrative centre has suitable accommodation, as well as access to appropriate computer, communications and financial administration systems. The host is responsible for the release of funds to participating institutions and the administrative centre in accordance with decisions of the network’s Board of Directors. Typically, a host representative sits on the network’s Board of Directors. The host will also be responsible for taking care of the network’s documents (files, financial statements, etc.) when the network ceases operations.

18. If the Network Host is not a university, what is required?

Typically, an NCE is hosted by a Canadian university or post-secondary institution with a mandate for research, or their affiliated institutions (including hospitals, research institutes and other not-for-profit organizations). However, a network could also be hosted by a private sector consortium, defined as a grouping consisting mainly of for-profit companies to form a not-for-profit entity that has defined goals and objectives as well as governance, financial and accounting structures that are completely distinct from those of its component companies and meet the requirements of the Agreement on the Administration of Agency Grants and Awards by Research Institutions. If a private sector consortium is proposed as the host, it must be able to demonstrate that it has in place the proper policies, procedures and financial controls to administer funding to academic institutions.


19. What’s the difference between a partner and a stakeholder?

A partner is an organization providing cash and/or in-kind contributions in support of the activities of an NCE network. Stakeholders are organizations that help the NCE network carry out its mandate, and can include partners as well as all other organizations that do not provide cash and/or in-kind contributions but assist in other ways (eg. research collaborations, application of knowledge, etc.).

20. What kind of international collaboration is expected?

One of the objectives of the NCE program is to create national and international partnerships that bring together key individuals and organizations that will generate and implement multifaceted solutions to complex Canadian challenges. Another objective is to increase Canada’s international visibility and reputation by attracting world-class collaborations and developing partnerships with international counterparts, where appropriate. Applicants should take these objectives into consideration when developing their proposal. The excellence and extent of any proposed international collaborations, as appropriate, should be integrated in the network’s strategic plan.

21. What should the letters of support indicate?

Letters of support from partners/stakeholders must:

  • come from a senior executive with influence over a budget;
  • indicate the level, duration and nature (cash and/or in-kind ) of anticipated support for the proposed network;
  • describe potential involvement and added-value of the proposed network to the stakeholder’s current and future activities;
  • indicate current and past associations with individuals participating in the proposed network’s activities;
  • not be template formatted by the applicant; and
  • be dated and signed no earlier than six months prior to the LOI submission deadline.

22. Is there a maximum number of support letters at the LOI stage?

Only five letters of support may be submitted in the LOI stage of the competition. These letters should come from the five primary non-academic partners/stakeholders.

23. Are there any expectations for partner contributions?

There are no specific matching fund requirements for the NCE program. However, it is expected that requested NCE funds will be supplemented to some degree by cash and/or in-kind contributions from partners. The appropriateness of the anticipated value of contributions can depend on many factors, including the participating sectors, associated disciplines, maturity of the network, etc. Each commitment will be assessed on an individual basis. Both cash and in-kind contributions are recognized.

24. Can federally funded organizations and federal departments be contributing partners?

Federally funded organizations and federal departments can indeed be contributing partners, with the exception of funds from the three granting agencies and CFI. Since there are no specific matching funds requirements for the NCE program, there is no consideration for whether those contributions are counted as "eligible" or not. However, it is advisable to include contributing partners from various sectors that reflect the diversity of the network’s challenges and solutions.

25. Can an incorporated company started by a university researcher be involved in a network?

Many factors contribute to the eligibility of researcher-owned companies. Eligibility is often decided on a case-by-case basis by the network’s Board of Directors, using the network’s conflict of interest policy(ies) and the guidelines of the three granting agencies as resources. The network’s Board of Directors, or its conflict of interest sub-committee, is charged with the responsibility of managing conflict of interest and determining and implementing the appropriate course of action. The goal is to avoid situations where there is a conflict of interest, or a perception of conflict of interest, without discouraging the entrepreneurial spirit of researchers.

26. Why is it important to build on existing relationships with partners and stakeholders?

It is important that appropriate impacts be shown within each five-year funding cycle. While new relationships will be built during the life of the network, building on strong, existing relationships with partners and stakeholders is usually beneficial in attaining goals and delivering impacts within such a short timeframe.

Network Management/Participants

27. Should individuals who will be involved in the management of the network be identified in the Letter of Intent?

Although it may be helpful, it is not required to identify specific individuals at the LOI stage of the competition. The expectation is for a description of the planned management structure for the proposed network. A one-page organizational chart must be provided.

28. What kind of skills should the Scientific Director bring to the network?

Excellent management skills, scientific leadership and strategic thinking are some key skills of successful Scientific Directors. The leadership of an NCE network is typically split between the Scientific Director and Network Manager. As a champion for the research community, the Scientific Director develops the scientific vision, mission and strategy of the network, fosters research collaboration, and manages scientific activities and progress. The Scientific Director typically chairs the Research Management Committee and reports to the Board of Directors. The Scientific Director also plays an important role in promoting the network to the scientific community, to the private and public sectors, and to the general public.

29. Is there a limit on the number of co-Scientific Directors?

The LOI form provides room for up to three co-Scientific Directors. It would be up to the network to provide the rationale for whichever model of scientific leadership they choose. Check the NCE Best Practices for Governance and Operations for more information on the role of the Scientific Director(s).

30. Can a researcher be involved in more than one network, or in more than one project within the same network?

A researcher may be involved in more than one project within the same network and may also be involved in projects in multiple networks. There are several examples of this among existing NCEs. Obviously, the researcher must have the time to contribute adequately to the various projects.


31. How should new and established networks position themselves in comparison to similar initiatives in Canada or abroad?

The added value of the proposed network must be clear, especially where there is a potential for perceived overlap between the proposed network and existing networks or initiatives in Canada or abroad, including those that are currently receiving, or have previously received, funding through the NCE suite of programs. Applicants should explain how the network will complement or build on the activities and achievements of the other initiatives. In addition, established networks must clearly explain the relationship between prior activities and accomplishments, and the proposed objectives, activities and deliverables. Established networks should also illustrate how they will build on the successes of earlier cycles to ensure application of knowledge that delivers measurable impacts to Canadians.

32. What is the review process?

The review of applications in this competition will take into consideration whether the network is new or established.

LOIs will be evaluated by the NCE Standing Selection Committee, who in turn will provide recommendations to the NCE Steering Committee. Based on a review of all LOIs submitted to the NCE Competition, selected applicants will be invited to submit Full Applications.

Full Applications will be evaluated by Expert Panels. All applications undergo a comprehensive review by impartial experts to ensure an equitable process for all applications. The NCE Secretariat ensures that representatives from relevant sectors and disciplines are present to assess all five criteria of the NCE program and the Competition Framework.

Each Expert Panel provides a written report to the NCE Standing Selection Committee, which uses them to supplement their own review of the applications. The Standing Selection Committee makes funding recommendations to the Steering Committee.

33. Who makes the final funding decision?

The NCE Steering Committee makes the final decision, based on the recommendations of the Standing Selection Committee. Decisions of the Steering Committee are final. There is no appeal process.

34. What level of detail is required in the Full Application?

The level of detail will be clearly spelled out in the instructions for both the LOI and Full Application. Because networks are funded in five year cycles, the level of detail is significant. Successful networks are expected to "hit the ground running" very soon after receiving their notification of award. Therefore, very clear and detailed plans in the proposal are required in order to facilitate the initiation of these activities.

35. What is required to show how our initial research themes/projects were selected?

An overall strategic planning process to identify the challenges to be addressed by the network should be described. It must show how the research community and partners/stakeholders were engaged in this process. Once the challenges are identified, an open peer review process is typically used to determine and select the themes and projects included in the proposal.

36. How do I download and sign the LOI or the Full Application Form?

The LOI and the Full Application Form are set up to automatically insert an image file of a signature for the Scientific Director and the President of the Host Institution. This allows you to use jpegs or other electronic signature formats. Please be sure to “right click”, download and save the Application Form before you begin to fill it out. If you simply “click” on the document, it will open in your internet browser. Some browsers will not allow you to fill in the information and save it properly for the next steps.

37. Where do I include cash/in-kind contributions from partners in the Excel tables?

For the LOI stage, we have restricted the number of primary non-academic partners/stakeholders to five, matching the five letters of support. Table 2 should only list cash and/or in-kind contributions for these five. Should you have more than 5 contributing partners/stakeholders, those contributions should be indirectly reflected within the non-NCE expenditures in Table 1. In addition, you are welcome to include information about other partners and their contributions within the freeform Networking and Partnerships section of the application.

38. What do you mean by “Round all values to the nearest $0.1M” in the budget tables?

In the budget tables, please enter full dollar values: a value of $859,000.00 should be entered as $900,000 and not $0.9.