2022 Transformation Competition
|Notice of intent to apply deadline||November 2, 2021, 8:00 p.m. (eastern)|
|Letter of intent to apply deadline||January 11, 2022, 8:00 p.m. (eastern)|
|Full application deadline||September 20, 2022, 8:00 p.m. (eastern)|
Minimum $2,000,000 per year (including indirect costs)
Maximum $4,000,000 per year (including indirect costs)
|Competition budget||$144,000,000 over six years|
|Number of grants||Number of awards depends on the amounts requested in successful applications.|
|Results announced||February 2023|
|Grant start date||March 2023|
|How to apply||
Refer to the Best Practices in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Research Guide and evaluation matrices for additional information on how to complete the application process.
|For more information||Consult the frequently asked questions (FAQs) or email: NFRF-FNFR@chairs-chaires.gc.ca|
On this page
- Competition updates
- Value and duration
- Application process
- Competition timeline
- Review process
- Regulations, policies and related information
- Contact information
Consult this section regularly for updates on the 2020 Transformation Competition, including information about webinars. Read all current competition material to ensure your submission is complete.
Applicants and research administrators are encouraged to attend the Transformation webinars to learn more about the Transformation stream and the overall application process.
There are a limited number of attendee spots per session. Institutions are strongly encouraged to arrange group webinar sessions for their researchers. Webinars will be recorded, and the presentations made available following the session. Please contact your institution’s research grants office for more information.
Check this page again, as webinar dates and times will be posted when available.
Nominated principal investigators (NPIs) successful in the letter of intent process and invited to submit a full application will be sent the dates and times of the English and French webinars, along with webinar links to share with their team members. The NPIs’ research administrators will also receive this information.
The objective of the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) Transformation stream is to support large-scale, Canadian-led interdisciplinary research projects that address a major challenge with the potential to realize real and lasting change. The challenge may be fundamental, leading to a scientific breakthrough, or applied, with a social, economic, environmental or health impact. Projects are expected to be world-leading, drawing on global research expertise, when relevant.
Transformation stream grants will support projects that:
- tackle a well-defined problem or challenge;
- propose a novel world-leading approach that is different from the current state-of-the-art approaches to the issue;
- are interdisciplinary, bringing different perspectives to the defined problem; and
- have the potential to be transformative, defined as the potential to create a significant and real change or impact—a noticeable leap or tangible breakthrough rather than an incremental advance.
In the NFRF program, the definition of “transformative” is linked to the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s proposed definition of convergence research (PDF, 726 KB), where “convergence research is increasingly seen as the way to solve pressing challenges.” It is aligned with the National Science Foundation’s definition of convergence research, focusing on research driven by a specific and compelling problem and deep integration across disciplines. It also has strong parallels to Horizon Europe in its reference to mission-oriented research and innovation with bold and concrete objectives to respond to societal challenges.
To better promote ground-breaking and interdisciplinary research, the NFRF program has a mandate to explore innovative merit review processes and the flexibility for competition parameters and processes to evolve from one competition to the next. The 2022 Transformation competition merit review processes include elements that are distinct from those used in flagship tri-agency programs. It is important to read all material related to the competition to ensure that submissions at each stage are complete.
It is anticipated that Transformation competitions will be held every two years with a similar competition budget.
Value and duration
Transformation grants are valued at between $2,000,000 and $4,000,000 per year (including indirect costs) for six years.
The minimum budget for the direct costs of the research project is $1,600,000 per year, and the maximum budget is $3,200,000. Applicants must request a budget (value and duration) in line with the objectives of the project. Applicants may, in addition, request up to 25% of the value of the direct costs of research to cover indirect costs and include this in their total funding request. Funds requested for indirect costs must be used only to pay for eligible expenses, as outlined on the Research Support Fund website. The indirect costs component of each NFRF award is included in the award value; it is not in addition to it.
Eligible expenses related to the direct costs of research are outlined in the Tri-Agency Guide on Financial Administration. The objective of Transformation grants is to support projects with strong potential to make significant change. As a result, funds should be used primarily to support research activities and not for the acquisition or maintenance of infrastructure.
Transformation grants are awarded to an NPI in an eligible institution; they are not institutional grants. A mid-term review of all funded projects is mandatory to ensure they are on track to meet objectives within the six-year timeframe. If the mid-term review is unsuccessful, grants may be terminated early. Given that research is driven by hypotheses and that outcomes are uncertain, it is understood that approaches, goals and objectives may have to be modified as the project progresses. Taking this into consideration, the mid-term review will evaluate the project’s progress and plans for the time remaining.
To reflect the expertise required to deliver on the ambitious and interdisciplinary nature of the project, proposals must be submitted by teams. Teams must include an NPI and may include co-principal investigators (co-PIs), co-applicants and/or collaborators. Individuals who are not academic researchers are eligible for all roles except NPI. At the notice of intent to apply (NOI) stage, a minimum of five confirmed members (excluding collaborators) is required. Additional members can be added at each stage of the competition process and throughout the term of the grant. All core members of the team are expected to be confirmed when the letter of intent to apply (LOI) is submitted.
To ensure that teams awarded a Transformation grant have sufficient time to dedicate to the project, award holders may serve as an NPI or co-PI on only one Transformation grant. It is, therefore, recommended that individuals limit their participation as an NPI or co-PI to a single application. If an individual is listed as an NPI or co-PI on more than one application, they will be required to remove themselves from all but one at the full application stage. After the removal of the individual as NPI or co-PI, the application could potentially be removed from competition if the team’s minimal eligibility requirements are no longer met. These restrictions do not apply to co-applicant and collaborator roles. An individual’s status as an applicant or grantee of other NFRF competitions (Exploration, International or special calls) does not affect their eligibility for the Transformation stream.
The appropriate team size and composition will depend on the requirements of the proposed project. The NPI and team members can be from any discipline(s). The NPI should be the most appropriate Canadian researcher to lead an interdisciplinary project of this scale, which requires integration and coordination beyond usual disciplinary perspectives. Team members may be from any sector to ensure that all required sectors and disciplines are represented in the team and to provide an integrated interdisciplinary—and, if applicable, intersectoral—approach to the project. The focus should be on assembling a coherent team of experts to execute the project rather than on establishing a network.
National, international and cross-sector (private, public or other) collaborations are encouraged, as needed, to ensure that the most appropriate individuals and/or organizations are involved and that team composition reflects best practices in equity, diversity and inclusion. To support collaborations, funds from Transformation grants can be transferred to any organization within Canada or internationally except for-profit companies or federal, provincial or municipal governments.
Early career researchers
Early career researchers (ECRs) must be included as confirmed members in all teams. For competitions under the Transformation stream, an ECR is defined as a researcher within five years of the start date of their first research-related appointment, minus the length of any eligible delays in research (e.g., illness, maternity, parental), as of the first of the month of the competition launch (August 2021 for this competition), where:
- “research-related appointments” are defined as those where an individual has the autonomy to conduct research independently;
- all eligible leaves (e.g., maternity, parental, medical, bereavement) are credited at twice the amount of time taken; and
- professional leaves (e.g., training, sabbatical, administrative) are not credited.
Research interruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., closures) are recognized as, and may be counted as, an eligible delay (credited at twice the amount of time) beginning March 1, 2020.
If a first academic appointment was part-time, years of experience are counted at 50% until the researcher’s appointment to a full-time academic position.
Additional details are available in the FAQs.
Nominated principal investigator
- is responsible for the direction of the project and the coordination of proposed activities, in conjunction with the co-PIs (if applicable);
- completes the NOI, LOI and full application in the Convergence Portal and submits them through the portal to the research administrator at their institution;
- assumes administrative and financial responsibility for the grant; and
- receives all related correspondence from the agencies.
The NPI must be considered an independent researcher at their primary affiliation. A primary affiliation is defined as the primary organization at which an individual is employed or appointed or where they conduct research.
An independent researcher is an individual who:
- engages in research-related activities that are not under the direction of another individual; and
- has an academic or research appointment that:
- begins by August 1, 2022;
- allows the individual to pursue the proposed research project, engage in independent research activities for the entire duration of the funding, supervise trainees (if applicable, as per their institution’s policy) and publish the research results; and
- obliges the individual to comply with institutional policies on the conduct of research, supervision of trainees (if applicable) and employment conditions of staff paid with tri-agency funding.
Full- or part-time students, postdoctoral fellows or research associates are not eligible to apply as NPIs, regardless of whether they also meet the definitions of an independent researcher.
The NPI’s primary affiliation must be with a Canadian institution currently holding full institutional eligibility with one of the agencies. See the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) or Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).
Note: If the NPI’s primary affiliation is not on SSHRC’s list of eligible institutions, the institution may, for this program only, be required to sign the Agreement on the Administration of Agency Grants and Awards by Research Institutions with SSHRC before receiving agency funds. Agency staff will contact the institutions of successful applicants to initiate this process, as needed.
Co-principal investigators and co-applicants
Co-PIs share responsibility with the NPI for the direction of the proposed activities and may access grant funds.
Co-applicants contribute to the execution of the research project and may access grant funds.
The eligibility requirements for Co-PIs and co-applicants are the same, however, their roles are different: Co-PIs work with the NPI to direct the project in addition to contributing to its execution, while co-applicants contribute to the execution of the project.
Co-PIs and co-applicants can be practitioners, policy-makers, educators, decision-makers, health care administrators, Indigenous elders, Indigenous knowledge keepers, patients, community leaders, individuals working for a charity, and a range of other individuals. To be eligible as a Co-PI or a co-applicant, researchers and professors must be considered independent researchers.
The Co-PIs’ and co-applicants’ affiliation may be a Canadian postsecondary institution, a Canadian institution or organization that does not have full institutional eligibility with one of the three granting agencies, or an international institution outside of Canada. However, it may not be a federal, provincial, territorial or municipal government department or a for-profit organization.
A federal government employee who is formally affiliated with a Canadian academic institution as an adjunct professor is eligible to be a collaborator. In cases where students registered at the academic institution and formally supervised by the adjunct professor will be participating in the research project, the adjunct professor is eligible to be a co-applicant. In such cases, the use of funds is limited to salaries or stipends and travel costs for the students under the adjunct professor’s supervision. Adjunct professors are also eligible to be Co-PIs or co-applicants in exceptional cases where their planned contributions to the project do not fall within the mandate of their federal organization and will not be performed within their employer’s facilities or with their employer’s resources.
Individuals whose primary affiliation is with an Indigenous government are eligible to be Co-PIs, co-applicants or collaborators, with eligible expenses limited to those related to the execution of the project that are not within the mandate of the Indigenous government.
Students, postdoctoral fellows, and research associates are not eligible to participate as a Co-PI or co-applicant.
Collaborators contribute to the execution of research activities but do not have access to grant funds.
Collaborators do not need to be affiliated with a Canadian institution that has full institutional eligibility with one of the agencies; they may be affiliated with another Canadian or international organization. Any individual who will contribute to the project is eligible to be a collaborator. Collaborators may include individuals affiliated with a federal, provincial, territorial or municipal government department or a for-profit company. Students, postdoctoral fellows, research associates and such positions are eligible to participate as a collaborator if they are not supervised by the NPI, Co-PI, co-applicant and/or another collaborator.
Subject matter (fit to program)
Transformation grants support projects that propose a world-leading interdisciplinary approach with the potential to have a significant impact in addressing a well-defined challenge. Projects may involve any discipline, thematic areas, approaches or subject areas eligible for funding across the three federal research funding agencies (CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC). Projects should engage the full range of disciplines required to achieve the project goals.
To meet the minimum requirement to be considered interdisciplinary, the proposed research project must include elements from at least two different disciplines (as defined by a group-level classification based on the Canadian Research and Development Classification codes. Projects that fall under the mandate of only one federal research funding agency are not eligible.
Proposed projects may address fundamental or applied challenges.
To apply for a Transformation grant, an NOI must be submitted by November 2, 2021. This is a mandatory step in the application process. The team must then complete and submit an LOI by January 11, 2022. Selected teams will be invited to complete and submit a full application by September 20, 2022.
NOIs, LOIs and full applications must be submitted before the Convergence Portal closes at 8:00 p.m. (eastern) on the deadline date. Applications that are incomplete will be withdrawn from the competition. No extensions to the deadlines will be provided. Please note that all NOIs, LOIs and full applications are submitted to the research administrator (research grants office [RGO] or equivalent) of the NPI’s primary affiliation. Research administrators are free to set their own internal deadlines. The RGO must submit the applications through the Convergence Portal before the relevant deadline.
|August 24, 2021||Competition launch
Convergence Portal opens for NOI
|November 2, 2021||NOI deadline|
|November 9, 2021||Convergence Portal opens for LOI|
|January 11, 2022||LOI deadline|
|May 3, 2022||LOI results released|
|May 4, 2022||Convergence Portal opens for full applications|
|September 20, 2022||Full application deadline|
|February 2023||Award results released|
|March 2023||Start date of awards|
SSHRC’s Indigenous Research Statement of Principles and Guidelines for the Merit Review of Indigenous Research should be used as references by the research team when preparing an application related to or involving Indigenous research. The guidelines are provided to merit reviewers to help build understanding of Indigenous research and research-related activities, and to assist committee members in interpreting the specific evaluation criteria in the context of Indigenous research. The guidelines may also be of use to external assessors, postsecondary institutions and partner organizations that support Indigenous research.
Gender-Based Analysis Plus
Gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) is a process used to assess the potential impact that identity factors, such as sex, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, age and mental or physical disability, may have on the experience of the individual. The purpose of GBA+ is to promote rigorous research that is sensitive to sex, gender and other identity factors, such as race, ethnicity, religion, age and mental or physical disability. These considerations must be integrated into the research design, when appropriate. Applicants and reviewers should refer to Women and Gender Equality Canada’s information on GBA+ and the Sex- and Gender-Based Analysis (SGBA) section of the CIHR website for definitions of sex, gender, SGBA and GBA+, as well as information on applying GBA+ and SGBA to the development and assessment of research proposals.
A rationale must be provided in cases where the team believes no aspect of the research may benefit from an analysis that takes into consideration sex, gender or other identity factors.
For the NFRF program, GBA+ is distinct from the equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) selection criterion described below.
There are five selection criteria for all funding opportunities offered under the NFRF program. The weightings and application of the criteria vary between different NFRF streams (Exploration, Transformation and International) to reflect the goals of each. An overview of the criteria as they apply to the evaluation of Transformation proposals follows. Note that criteria are assessed at the LOI and full application stages and that the weighting of criteria changes between stages. Reviewers will consider information provided in all sections (except the participants’ personal profiles, suggested reviewers, reviewer exclusions, and certifications) of the full application when completing assessments against each criterion.
The elements considered under each criterion are outlined in more detail in the evaluation matrices.
Transformation projects must propose an interdisciplinary approach that integrates different disciplinary approaches to bring a novel perspective to address the research challenge. Proposals must explain how the disciplinary perspectives, methodologies and techniques will be integrated and must demonstrate that the team has the required expertise to execute the interdisciplinary approach. The proposal must also explain why an interdisciplinary approach is required and/or the added value of this approach to the research problem.
Equity, diversity and inclusion and early career researchers
EDI is a core element of the NFRF program. In the context of the Transformation stream, the EDI criterion also includes consideration of early career researchers.
Applicants must clearly demonstrate their commitment to EDI in their research teams, including among students, postdoctoral fellows, Co-PIs, co-applicants and/or collaborators, as applicable. Teams should also consider diversity as it applies to career stages, sectors and institutions.
They must explain what actions they will take, the outcomes expected, and the assessment planned for each of the following three key areas:
- team composition and recruitment processes;
- training and development opportunities; and
Actions taken are expected to remove barriers and provide opportunities for the meaningful integration of individuals from all groups, including the four designated groups (women, Indigenous peoples, members of visible minorities and persons with disabilities).
The NFRF guide Best Practices in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Research provides guidance on how to integrate approaches that support EDI and information on how this criterion is assessed for submissions to all NFRF programs.
In the context of the Transformation stream, high risk refers to the novelty of the proposed approach to the challenge. Proposals will have to explain:
- why the project is novel, as it relates to the latest methods, concepts, information, and techniques;
- how the approach builds on and benefits from expertise and resources across Canada and/or internationally;
- what makes the approach “world-leading”; and
- why the approach is expected to lead to real change.
To be transformative, funded proposals must have the potential for high reward. High reward is defined as the potential to create a significant and real change or impact. Applications must explain the anticipated change or impact that is likely to result and its significance. Proposals must also outline the major short-, medium- and long-term changes that are expected, the likelihood of their achievement, and who (or what) will be affected by the changes.
Feasibility covers the plan and the ability to execute the activities. It considers elements such as:
- problem or challenge being addressed;
- proposed approach, including GBA+/SGBA when appropriate;
- knowledge, expertise and capacity of the team;
- workplan and timeline;
- engagement and collaboration with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples (for Indigenous research) when appropriate;
- suitability of the research environment (i.e., access to required infrastructure); and
- management plans.
At the LOI stage, the evaluation will focus only on the feasibility of the proposed approach to the problem or challenge at a relatively high level. At the full application stage, the external reviewers and the multidisciplinary/multisectoral review panel will evaluate the project’s feasibility in more detail considering: the team; the detailed project plan (methodological approach, timeline, etc.); the management plans as they relate to performance measurement, administration of the grant, data, and training (as applicable); and support of the project.
- NOIs will be used only for administrative purposes to help the NFRF program team identify reviewers.
- LOIs will be evaluated by the multidisciplinary/multisectoral review panel.
- Full applications will be reviewed by external expert reviewers and evaluated by the multidisciplinary/multisectoral review panel, taking into account the feedback provided by the expert reviewers. The highest-ranked applications will proceed to review by a jury to select the applications to recommend for funding.
Any NOIs, LOIs or full applications that do not meet the program's eligibility requirements and application guidelines will be withdrawn from the competition.
Expert reviewers with relevant subject matter expertise will evaluate applications according to the interdisciplinarity, high risk, high reward and feasibility selection criteria.
Multidisciplinary/multisectoral review panel
A multidisciplinary/multisectoral review panel composed of national and international members with broad expertise will evaluate the LOIs and full applications against all criteria.
An international and multisectoral jury will evaluate all applications that meet the standard of excellence, as per the full application review panel’s evaluation, to select those to be recommended for funding. The jury will be composed of individuals from all sectors: academic, public, private, not-for-profit, and government.
To uphold the program's commitment to nondiscrimination and equity, and to ensure the highest quality of review, members of the panel will be diverse, taking into consideration the following:
- area of expertise;
- knowledge of best practices regarding EDI;
- experience in Indigenous research;
- ability to review applications in either official language;
- representation from the four designated groups (women, Indigenous Peoples, visible minorities and persons with disabilities);
- regional representation across Canada;
- institution size; and
- career stage.
Each LOI will be assessed by members of the multidisciplinary/multisectoral review panel. Members will have access to all information submitted as part of the NOI and LOI and will assess the proposal according to the following selection criteria:
- interdisciplinarity (pass/fail)
- EDI (pass/fail)
- high risk (20%)
- high reward (60%)
- feasibility (20%)
Members’ ratings for the high risk, high reward and feasibility criteria will determine an overall score for each LOI. The review panel will meet virtually to discuss the LOIs. In the event of a high volume of LOIs, members’ ratings may be used to identify the LOIs that will be discussed at the meeting. At the meeting, the review panel will identify the top-rated LOIs to proceed to the full application stage.
Review process—full application
Expert reviewers will be recruited to evaluate each application, focusing on the project plan. They will be asked to comment on the interdisciplinarity of the proposed approach, as well as the high risk, high reward and feasibility criteria. Expert reviewers will have access to all sections of the full application (except the participants’ personal profiles, suggested reviewers, reviewer exclusions, and certifications).
Each application will also be evaluated by the multidisciplinary/multisectoral review panel. Members will have access to all sections of the full application (except participants’ personal profiles, suggested reviewers, reviewer exclusions, and certifications), as well as the expert reviewers’ consensus summary. The review panel members will assess proposals against the following selection criteria:
- interdisciplinarity (confirm pass from LOI stage)
- EDI (confirm pass from LOI stage)
- high risk (25%)
- high reward (25%)
- feasibility (50%)
The review panel will then discuss all applications and rank them. Research teams for the top-ranked applications that meet the stream’s goals and the threshold of excellence for all criteria will be invited to present their proposal in person to a jury.
The jury will then select the applications to recommend for funding from among the top-ranked applications identified by the review panel. When deciding which applications to recommend for funding, the jury will also consider diversity in terms of topics, geography, research teams and potential impacts as well as the groups/communities/individuals that will be impacted by the outcomes.
The Canada Research Coordinating Committee (CRCC) provides strategic direction and oversight for the NFRF program and serves as the high-level steering committee for the fund. As a tri-agency program, program oversight is delegated to the NFRF steering committee, which includes the presidents of CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC, and the deputy ministers of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, and Health Canada. The NFRF steering committee decides which applications to fund, based on the review panel’s and jury’s recommendations. It also ensures that the evaluation process is rigorous, objective and transparent, in keeping with the standards of excellence expected by the agencies and consistent with the program’s objectives.
Communication of results
Applicants will be informed of competition results via the Convergence Portal. In addition to the notice of decision, all applicants will be provided a summary of the evaluation of their application, and the external reviewers’ consensus summary, when applicable. For more details about the review process, see the reviewer manual, which will be available before the NOI deadline.
Regulations, policies and related information
Grant holders must also comply with the Tri-agency Open Access Policy on Publications (see Open Access overview for more information). Researchers are encouraged to manage data arising from their research in accordance with both community standards and best practices (see also the tri-agency policies and guidelines on research data management).
Recipients of SSHRC funding must comply with SSHRC's Policy on Intellectual Property and Copyright.
Use of grant funds
The information below explains to grant holders and research administrators the regulations governing the use of NFRF grant funds. These regulations supersede all previous statements on grant regulations.
The NFRF program uses the Tri-agency Guide on Financial Administration for general guidelines on eligibility of expenses and use of funds related to the direct costs of research. Exceptions to those policies for Transformation grants are noted below. Rules regarding the use of the indirect costs portion of the grant can be found on the Research Support Fund website.
If you are unsure about the eligibility of a particular expense, please contact the NFRF team.
The following are eligible salary expenses only for NPIs, co-PIs and co-applicants affiliated with an eligible Canadian college:
- salary for research activities of a part-time faculty member holding a contract of less than three years with the institution (the total salary support [part-time salary plus NFRF grant salary support] cannot exceed that of a full-time faculty member at the institution, when calculated on an annual and hourly basis);
- salaries and nondiscretionary benefits for technical and professional staff carrying out research and technology and/or for knowledge transfer personnel (salaries and nondiscretionary benefits for research administrators and business development personnel are not eligible);
- limited costs toward course load reduction, for replacement of faculty to support their involvement in funded research projects (up to $9,000 per course-load reduction per semester per faculty member, or the equivalent of a 0.1 full-time equivalent positions); and
- college student salaries, including nondiscretionary benefits or stipends, to support students’ involvement in the research project.
Termination of a grant
The agencies will terminate a grant when the grantee no longer holds an eligible position at an eligible institution, unless the grant is transferred to an eligible co-PI or co-applicant. It is at the agencies’ sole discretion to allow such a transfer.
The steering committee may direct that a grant be terminated following an unsuccessful midterm review.
All grants paid have a primary holder, namely the person whose name appears on the notice of award.
Any NFRF funds remaining at the end of the Authority to Use Funds period must be returned to SSHRC. When unspent funds are returned to SSHRC, the cheque, payable to the Receiver General, must be accompanied by a signed Form 300, indicating an unspent balance in the same amount as the refund.
Grant holders will be expected to report on the use of grant funds, on funded activities undertaken during the grant period, and on outcomes. NPIs of successful applications will be informed of reporting requirements when they are notified of the award.
Terms and conditions
The agencies reserve the right to:
- determine the eligibility of applications, based on the information provided;
- interpret the regulations and policies governing their funding opportunities;
- apply conditions to individual grants; and
- alter, without advance notice, the terms and conditions of grant awards, with any and all major changes in regulations being announced promptly.
For more information, contact: NFRF-FNFR@chairs-chaires.gc.ca
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