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Competition FAQ

2018 Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR) program competition

Questions and Answers




Budget/Eligible Expenses

Management of CECR Funds

Completing the Submissions

Review and Decision Process:


New questions and answers (January 2017)

What does it mean to “enhance current activities through innovative approaches (e.g. calculated risk taking)”?

There is an expectation that centres will propose enhancements to current activities to maximize the chances of significant benefits to Canada over time, even where results and/or impacts may not become apparent during the proposed CECR funding cycle, and/or where the risk level would be considered too high for traditional investors (such as venture capitalists and angel investors).

Can centres that will still receive CECR funding in 2017-18 and beyond propose additional activities only, or can they also seek additional years of funding in the current mandate?

Centres can request additional funds during the existing funding period, as well as funds to extend their term, as long as they propose to embark on new, value-added activities.

Can existing CECRs expand on their activities through new nodes in a different location?

Yes, existing and previously funded CECRs could propose this as an expansion of their existing activities.

Would partnerships with other CECRs be seen as a positive?

These partnerships tend to be viewed positively, particularly in areas where there may be an impression of overlap. CECRs can provide each other with letters of support in such cases; these letters should clearly describe the specific roles and responsibilities of the CECR partner within the business plan presented in the application.

Can certain sections of the application be eliminated, or put in a different order than in the competition guide?

If part of a section is not relevant, that part does not need to be included.  However do not eliminate a section because that information is elsewhere in the application. If there is repetitive information, the information could be complete in one section and then quickly summarized in the other section with a referral to the location with additional information. 

For deciding how to order sections, applicants should consider the overall readability of the application to a primarily business audience (the Private Sector Advisory Board) and whether the proposed departure from the expected order may introduce challenges in comparing applications.  



Why are you inviting only currently and previously funded centres to apply for funding in this competition?

The CECR program is now almost 10 years old, and the expectations and interpretation of some selection criteria has evolved over successive competitions since the first centres were funded in 2007. In particular, the NCE recognized that it needed to allow for a longer time frame for centres to become self-sustainable, and that it needed to apply a more flexible definition of commercialization. Because of this, the NCE determined that the most appropriate use of funds available for the 2018 CECR competition would be to focus on making additional funding available to all  currently and previously funded centres, thereby more fully capitalizing on each of their existing capacity and achievements.

What is the budget for this competition?

This competition will make up to $72 million available over the next five years to fund CECRs that can demonstrate exemplary achievements through their track record, and that can derive significant additional benefits to Canada with new funding, as demonstrated through a robust business plan.

Will this competition simply extend the terms of existing centres?

No. This competition will require applicants to demonstrate that they are drawing on their existing strengths to embark on new, value-added activities. They will be asked to describe how they will enhance their current activities through innovative approaches that involve calculated risk-taking with the potential for high reward.

How important are international collaborations?

Strengthening domestic and international collaborations is an explicit expected outcome of the CECR Program. It is important for CECRs to ensure that they are contributing to strengthening Canada's innovation ecosystem to advance Canadian economic and social development. International collaborations that have direct and indirect benefits to Canada are encouraged if it aligns well with the business plan of the Centre.

The three selection criteria are Benefits to Canada, Track Record, and Strength of the Business Plan - how does this align with format of the Full Aplication?

The CECR Program still has the same three selection criteria: Benefits to Canada, Track Record and Quality of the Business Plan. In addition, there is an expectation that the Centre progresses towards self-sustainability. The Expert Panel Reports will be written to highlight strengths and weaknesses in these three areas as was done in the past.

The Full Application has incorporated each of these criteria into components of the Business Plan which now makes up the complete application. The PSAB wanted to mitigate repetition and streamline the application to ease workload on the applicants. The Full Application now consists of a Business Plan.

The plan should incorporate the three selection criteria within the 25 page Business Plan, specifically:

  • Benefits to Canada- Can be addressed in the Business Plan: sections 1 (Strategic Plan and Commercialization Strategy) and 4 (Sector Assessment).
  • Track Record- Can be addressed in the sections 1, sections 2 (Operational Plan), and 3 (Centre Capabilities and Pipeline).
  • Progress towards sustainability- Can be addressed in section 1 (Strategic Plan and Commercialization Strategy) of the Business Plan, and the Financial Plan.

Finally, the quality and credibility of the Business Plan will be evaluated based on the full application material and the expert panel meetings. The Business plan should contain the information requested in the competition guide; however, the order can be altered as needed for the centre to provide its narrative.

How is "commercialization" defined in the context of this CECR competition?

The definition of commercialization has been updated to the following, to broaden the scope of what constitutes commercialization: In the context of the CECR program, commercialization is defined as the spectrum of activities needed to turn knowledge and/or technology into new or improved goods, processes or services that result in positive socio- economic impact.

What is meant by sustainability?

Sustainability is no longer assessed as an immediate pass/fail, but there is still an expectation that centres provide a realistic plan regarding their progress towards self-sustainability (i.e. no further CECR program support). The business model and financial plan should demonstrate projected revenue. Revenue generation can be achieved using a range of models including: partnerships, memberships, other governments' support, and other revenues generated by a diversified portfolio products or services.

Sustainability remains a component of the CECR Program; however, this expectation shall not limit their opportunities to pursue potentially higher-risk, higher value strategies. The CECR program supports the calculated risk-taking necessary to achieve results for Canadians.

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

There is no prescribed maximum budget per centre. Awards from this competition will have a duration of up to five years.

Can centres that are currently receiving CECR funds apply for additional funds?

Yes. However, the application must:

  1. Provide a clear picture of the CECR’s entire business plan, identifying new and existing activities separately. If the application is successful, the current CECR award and the new award will be amalgamated and form the basis for a single award through an amendment to the existing funding agreement.
  2. Demonstrate that the new funding will be for new activities that could not be funded under the existing CECR grant.
  3. Demonstrate that the cash and in-kind contributions outlined in the letters of support were not already supporting activities of the current CECR grant.

When do you expect the next call for new centres to be issued?

Competitions are scheduled as funding becomes available. The next competition for new centres could be launched in 2018, however no decisions have yet been made.



Who is eligible to apply to this competition?

This competition is restricted to previously and currently funded CECRs only.



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 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 the 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.

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 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 the CECR program guide.

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 concerns regarding matching contributions arise.

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 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. 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 strong letters will make specific commitments, in terms of cash and in-kind support. These letters must make explicit reference to the centre, indicating how the centre would help their organization and indicate all current and past associations with the centre.

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 an important part of the application. Firm commitments from partners should be provided in letters of support at the LOI stage.

Can we use the same letters of support submitted with our LOI application?

The letters of support submitted at the LOI stage can be re-used at the full application stage if the support remains the same.

Can we add letters of support that were not part of the LOI submission?

New letters of support can be included in the full application. The number of letters of support is not restricted; however, the letters should confirm support in the form of in-kind or cash contributions, or confirm collaborations with other NCE-Funded organizations.

What are the expectations with management of IP?

The Centre should present a plan describing how they manage IP within their Centre. The CECR Program supports Centres that each have distinct business models, the secretariat does not prescribe how IP is managed. The Centre, however, must have a credible IP Management plan that aligns with its business plan.

Can the budget/ financial plan presented in the LOI change?

The financial ask should be similar to the ask projected in the LOI stage. The financial plan details and budget can be altered.

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 from the PSAB will be provided to all LOI applicants indicating the key factors that affected 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 support can indicate the total amount of partner commitment.


Review and Decision Process

What is the planned announcement process; when will the applicants be notified of the results?

The NCE Secretariat aims to release results to the applicants as soon as possible. The competition should be completed in October 2017 and results will follow. Should there be a Ministerial Announcement of the results; public release of competition results may be delayed.

What role will the NCE liaison officer for a given centre play in the process of the centre's application for additional funding?

The NCE liaison will provide advice to the centre on the full application preparation if needed. Your NCE liaison will not be involved in the Expert Panel recruitment or the review meeting for the centre for which he/she acts as a NCE liaison.

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 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 Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), 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).

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

Applications to the CECR program are subject a standard rigorous peer review selection process. The PSAB will review all the letters of intent, and recommend to the NCE Management Committee 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 centre will undergo an in-depth review by an expert panel established by the NCE Secretariat. The 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. 

Can the decision be appealed?

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

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.

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.