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Competition Guide

Canada-India Research Centre of Excellence (CIRCE)

 Competition Guide

How to use this Guide

This Canada-India Research Centre of Excellence (CIRCE) Competition Guide provides an overview of the CIRCE initiative, discusses the logistics associated with the competition process, identifies the evaluation criteria used by the review committees, and outlines the competition timeline. The competition guide is a stand-alone document that contains all relevant information about the CIRCE competition. Throughout the competition the NCE Secretariat will release additional ‘Application Guides’ that correspond with the different stages of the competition. These Application Guides describe how to complete the respective application and should always be used in conjunction with the Competition Guide to best reflect the competition context within the information provided.   


As stated in Canada’s 2007 Science and Technology Strategy, Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage, Canada needs to be connected to the international supply of ideas, talent and technologies in order to succeed in this increasingly competitive global arena. It also needs to put in place the necessary conditions to develop the talent and ingenuity required to address complex scientific issues, ensure its position at the forefront of innovation and be a partner of choice in the international scientific community.

The Government of Canada recognizes India as one of the world’s fastest growing economies and identifies a need to build and enhance the Canada-India bilateral relationship with the goal of creating a more effective and beneficial partnership. The CIRCE initiative was created in 2011 as part of Canada’s India Engagement Strategy to forge closer ties with India across different sectors and to enhance the bilateral Canada-India relationship. The CIRCE Initiative is a key element of this Strategy.

Program Administration and Governance

The CIRCE initiative falls under the Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) program, which is administered jointly through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) in partnership with Industry Canada and Health Canada. More information on the NCE Program’s goals and objectives can be found at

As an initiative of the NCE Program delivered by the NCE Secretariat, the CIRCE builds upon the foundation of successful tri-agency collaboration. The CIRCE Initiative is governed by a tri-agency steering committee (NCE Steering Committee) made up of the Presidents of the three granting agencies, the Deputy Ministers of Industry Canada and Health Canada, and the President of the Canada Foundation for Innovation (as an observer). Day-to-day administration of the CIRCE Initiative is provided by the NCE Secretariat.

Program Goal

To facilitate knowledge exchange between Canada and India in areas of mutual strategic importance through knowledge and personnel mobilization, research exchanges, networking and partnerships with business and other end users, and by building upon established Canada-India collaborations to generate substantial impact.

What is a CIRCE?

The CIRCE (Centre) will be the focal point for the collaborative activities conducted across the broader network of stakeholders in Canada and India. The Centre will foster organization-to-organization level relationships and increase researcher-to-researcher collaborations, forming a network of key individuals and organizations from Canada and India. The organization of the Network is determined by the applicants, should fit within the mandate of at least two of the federal granting agencies, and will vary based on the partnership model and the proposed activities with stakeholders. The stakeholders involved in the Network may include universities, private sector partners, not-for-profit organizations, non-governmental organizations, and government departments in Canada. Expected Indian partner organizations include those that are engaged in similar research and development activities, such as: centres of excellence, networks, clusters, consortia, and other international or regional organizations; Indian educational institutions, academic institutes or national research and development laboratories/institutes; government departments, public sector research agencies; private sector partners, and not-for-profit research organizations.

The activities of the Centre should be concerted and centralized, focused on integration of activities and engagement of India.  The Centre may thus coordinate the activities of a single institution or a small consortium of Canadian institutions or nodes headed by a lead institution. The Centre must incorporate as a federal not-for-profit entity in Canada and maintain official by-laws. The organizational structure of the Centre must be appropriate for the management of the research and business functions of a complex multidisciplinary and multi-institutional program. This includes:

  • The presence of effective leadership and expertise in the governance, research and the business management functions;
  • Effective research planning and budgeting mechanisms; and
  • Effective internal and external communications strategies.

Expected Results

In line with the objectives of Canada’s Science and Technology Strategy and the India Engagement Strategy, partnering with India on cutting-edge initiatives through the CIRCE Initiative will advance Canada’s international reputation as a research leader.

The Centre will expand upon established collaborations with Indian organizations to develop coordinated partnerships that generate positive social, economic, technological and/or wellness impacts in both countries. It is also expected to enhance bilateral dissemination of knowledge, sharing of resources and technology, and leveraging of existing Canada-India collaborative frameworks that should result in efficient, cost-effective and streamlined delivery mechanisms. The Centre will also provide a training environment to develop Canadian and Indian highly qualified personnel (HQP) with skills and knowledge in areas critical to the productivity, economic growth, public policy and quality of life in both countries. The Centre will also promote HQP exchanges between both countries.

In accordance with the NCE program criteria the Centre will:

  • attract new partners through integrated networking in Canada and in India to generate a critical mass of stakeholders across both countries;
  • exchange knowledge and technology in a network environment among stakeholders and with the end user communities in both countries;
  • establish a effective management and governance structure to oversee the activities of the Centre;
  • foster Highly Qualified Personnel (HQP) collaborations, including opportunities for international mobility through network projects carried out by Canadian and Indian stakeholders and facilitated by the involvement of international student associations; and
  • maintain the highest standard of excellence in collaborative research between Canadian stakeholders and their Indian counterparts through collaborative models managed by the administrative Centre.

To ensure strong partnerships and a focus on areas of mutual strategic importance, significant support and involvement from Indian partners will be required for this initiative. Indian partners are expected to contribute cash and/or in-kind support at a level commensurate with the proposed collaborative effort.

Lead Applicant and Host Eligibility

The lead applicant and academic researchers involved (i.e. researchers receiving any part of the grant) must be eligible to apply for funding under the policies and guidelines of at least one of the three federal granting agencies partnering in the program. Applications must be submitted by a Canadian researcher on behalf of the proposed Centre’s members, if applicable, with the support of the proposed Centre Host Institution. The Host Institution must:

  • be a signatory on or adopt the “Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the Roles and Responsibilities in the Management of Federal Grants and Awards” with the granting agencies;
  • meet the general eligibility requirements of one or more of the three federal granting agencies partnering in the program;
  • show evidence of an effective financial and accounting framework; and 
  • be able to host the Centre. 

Examples of a Host Institution may include 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), or a private sector consortium.

Eligible Expenses

The CIRCE initiative will cover the eligible expenses as defined in the NCE Program Guide and only for the Canadian portion of the initiative. This will include the direct costs of research (including HQP training); support for knowledge mobilization and exchange; networking; and administrative support. As an initiative under the NCE Program, the Indirect Costs Program can be applied to CIRCE grants.

The Centre will be responsible for coordinating the networking and partnership activities between Canadian and Indian stakeholders in order to streamline expenses related to these activities. Any duplication of administrative functions or expenses at other institutions/nodes, if applicable, will not be supported via the CIRCE grant.

Competition Process

The competition process involves three incremental stages as detailed below. Each stage solicits new or a greater depth of information surrounding the strategic plan for the Centre.  Together the three stages of the competition provide a complete overview of the Centre while minimizing the collection of redundant information. A diagram of the process and evaluation criteria used throughout the competition is provided in Appendix A.

Notification of Intent (NOI) (Stage I)

  • The NOI is reviewed by the NCE Secretariat to:
    • To verify suitability of the application to the scope of the program.
    • Develop content for the webinar (described below).
    • Identify the expertise requirements for adjudication.
    • Coordinate logistics and planning of the webinars.
  • Based on the NOI the NCE Secretariat may encourage applicants to integrate and/or collaborate with other applicants.
  • Materials provided at the NOI stage will be made available to reviewers in subsequent review stages.

Letter of Intent (LOI) (Stage II)

  • Submissions for an LOI will only be accepted from applicants who submit an NOI.
  • LOIs will be evaluated using relevant elements of the evaluation criteria (detailed below).
  • The NCE Special Selection Committee will review all LOI applications, including the NOIs and submit corresponding reports and recommendations on which applicants should be invited to submit an Full Application (FA) to the NCE Steering Committee. The NCE Steering Committee makes the final decision. There is no appeal process.
  • Applicants will be notified by the NCE Secretariat of the results of the LOI stage.
  • With the permission of the successful LOI applicants, and to encourage collaboration, the NCE Secretariat will share their public summaries with unsuccessful applicants.

Full Application (FA) (Stage III)

  • Submissions will only be accepted from applicants invited to submit a FA by the NCE Steering Committee.
  • FAs will be evaluated using relevant elements of the evaluation criteria (detailed below).
  • An Expert Panel will review the application, meet with the applicants and present their findings to the NCE Special Selection Committee.
  • The NCE Special Selection Committee will review all applications, including the Expert Panel findings, and submit corresponding reports and recommendations to the NCE Steering Committee.
  • The NCE Steering Committee will select one Centre as the CIRCE recipient. There is no appeal process.

All stages of the competition process are mandatory. A LOI or Full Application will NOT be accepted if the NCE Secretariat has not received the NOI or if the NOI is received after the deadline of January 9, 2012.

Evaluation Criteria

To ensure the CIRCE program goal is met applications are assessed for the potential impacts to both Canada and India across the areas of the five CIRCE evaluation criteria below:

  • Management of the Network,
  • Networking and Partnerships,
  • Knowledge Mobilization and Exchange,
  • Development of Highly Qualified Personnel, and
  • Excellence of the Research Program.

All criteria are weighed equally in the evaluation and an application must demonstrate excellence across all five criteria in order to be successful. Sub-criteria within each criterion identify the specific aspects being evaluated. 

Contents of the ‘free form’ section of the application guides are based on these evaluation criteria. Applicants will note that the development of HQP criterion is not separated out in the applications, but integrated into the other four criteria.  This ensures that HQP strategy is not a stand-alone aspect of the Centre, but rather integrated into all of the Centres activities. The compiled HQP strategy, presented in the four other evaluation criteria, will be evaluated for excellence based on the sub-criteria below.   

As discussed in the Competition Process section, each application stage may solicit new or a greater depth of information surrounding the strategic plan for the Centre.  Information that satisfies a given sub-criteria and provided by applicants in earlier stages of the competition solicited, will not be requested again in subsequent stages. The details of the sub-criteria requested in a given stage are outlined in the Evaluation Process & Criteria diagram of Appendix A.

The CIRCE applications will be assessed according to the following evaluation criteria

1. Management of the Network

  • Ability of the proposed governance and management teams (including but not limited to the Centre, intellectual property (IP), HQP, Knowledge Mobilization and Exchange (KME), Communications) to effectively manage the Centre, taking into consideration the responsibilities of the positions and the individual’s experience.
  • Appropriate management plan for the Centre, encompassing Networking and Partnerships, KME, IP, HQP, and Research programs both individually and collectively, and including detailed milestones and metrics. 
  • Internal and external communication strategies to disseminate knowledge, successes and activities to network participants and the general public.
  • Effective financial and accounting framework, building on the existing mechanism in place at the host institution.
  • Plans for sustainability and legacy of the Centre beyond the five years of funding.
  • Track record of the proposed Canadian and Indian organization(s) in managing bilateral research efforts that have previously led to tangible outcomes.
  • Coordination and streamlining of all networking and partnership activities between the Canadian and Indian stakeholders.
  • Host institution commitment.

2. Networking and Partnerships

  • History of partnerships with a complementary Indian organization(s).
  • Strategic area(s) that the CIRCE proposes to address and the importance to Canada, India, and the broader network of stakeholders involved in the CIRCE.
  • Nature, extent and incremental value of the CIRCE to existing partnerships.
  • Involvement of appropriate Canadian, Indian and international partners (where applicable) to address the proposed activity(ies).
  • Effective approach to integrating current and new complementary expertise.
  • Nature and extent of new commitments from the Canadian and Indian private, public, not-for-profit, and other sectors, as well as the proposed approach for increasing commitments over the funding cycle.
  • The value added of the CIRCE to:
    • enhance individual existing projects between Canada and India; and
    • the broader network of stakeholders.
  • Multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral participation in the Centre.

3. Knowledge Mobilization and Exchange (KME)

  • Approach, to be achieved through coordinated partnerships, to identify and address the knowledge needs of the end user community(ies) in both countries.
  • Processes to assist the end user community(ies) to access, adapt and apply existing knowledge to the social and/or economic benefit of Canada and India.
  • Plans to ensure uptake in end user community(ies) in both countries, including strategies for influencing public policy, behavioural or institutional/organizational changes.
  • Extent to which the Centre will help increase Canada’s international visibility and reputation as well as the quality of outreach efforts in promoting Canada’s reputation as an international leader in research.
  • Engagement of existing end user communities and planning for the future engagement of additional end user communities. 
  • Coherent IP and knowledge transfer management strategy, including proposed ownership and licensing models, taking into consideration the existing IP held by Centre Participants, the IP anticipated to be generated through the proposed activities, and the considerations required for international IP agreements.

4. Development of Highly Qualified Personnel (HQP)

  • Developed HQP program offering new opportunities for training.
  • Plans for engagement of HQP within the broader network of stakeholders, with clear and measurable outcomes for research exchanges and training opportunities.
  • Added value of the Centre for already existing mentoring, training and research exchanges opportunities.
  • Involvement of, and opportunities for HQP in terms of the needs of the partners/end user sector(s); consideration as to how capacity can be enhanced.
  • Approach to facilitating and tracking HQP mobility within and beyond the Centre’s mandate.
  • Strategy to attract, develop and retain HQP in areas and technologies of importance to both countries.
  • Impact of HQP on areas critical to Canadian and Indian productivity, economic growth and public policy.
  • Involvement of HQP program with similar international student associations.

5. Excellence of the Research Program

  • The value added by the Centre’s multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral approach to the research program.
  • The focus and coherence of the proposed research program.
  • The likelihood of success of the Centre’s activities, considering the track record of the researchers involved.
  • The relationship of the proposed research program to similar initiatives conducted abroad.

Available Funds

The 2011 Federal Budget announced funding to support one Centre for a five-year term. The Centre will be funded at approximately $2.8 million annually, for up to a total of $13.8 million.

Competition Timeline

Milestones Deadlines
Competition announcement December 6, 2011
NOI Information Teleconference December 16, 2011
Deadline for submission of Notification of Intent (NOI) January 9, 2012
Information webinars January 18, 2012
Deadline for submission of Letter of Intent (LOI) February 23, 2012
Invitations to submit a Full Application communicated to applicants May 1, 2012
Deadline for submission of Full Application August 2, 2012
New CIRCE announced October 2012
Release of funds January 2013

NOI Information Teleconference

Following the announcement of the CIRCE competition, the NCE Secretariat will host an information teleconference to provide a general overview of the competition process and expected outcomes. The teleconference will be publically available to all individuals/groups interested in submitting an NOI to the competition. Details regarding the call will be posted on the competition website within a week of the scheduled teleconference date.

Information Webinar

The NCE Secretariat will host a CIRCE webinar in between the NOI and LOI stages. Only applicants who have submitted an NOI will receive an invitation to attend. The webinar will include models that exemplify the goals of the program and an opportunity for applicants to ask program- and competition-related questions. More details about the webinar will be included in the invitation to attend. It is expected by the NCE that all applicants will attend the webinar.


For more information, please contact:

Networks of Centre of Excellence
CIRCE Competition
16th Floor, mailroom
350 Albert Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 1H5

Moriah Lepage-Chapman
Program Officer

On-line Resources

NCE website

Information Regarding the Meaning of

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Information Regarding In-kind Eligibility

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Tri-Agency Use of Grant Funds

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CIRCE Competition Guide



CIRCE FA Book 1 The Proposal

CIRCE FA Book 2 Letters of support Summary

CIRCE FA Book 4 Signatures of academic participants

Appendix A: CIRCE Evaluation Process & Criteria

Click here to view Appendix A