Knowledge Synthesis Grants

Leveraging public investments in higher education research and development to stimulate innovation

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Value and Duration
Application Process
Evaluation and Adjudication
Administrative Regulations and Related Information
Contact Information


Innovation is key to improving Canada’s productivity, economic prosperity and quality of life. Research and development (R&D) is an important factor in stimulating innovation. Key participants in R&D—both as funders and as performers—are found in the private, higher education and not-for-profit sectors, as well as in government departments and agencies.

Several recent reports have noted that Canada has a relatively high level of investment in higher education R&D (HERD), low levels of business expenditures on R&D (BERD), and weak indicators of innovation and productivity. The research performed in Canada’s higher education sector is world-class and delivers many tangible and intangible benefits for Canadians. Focusing in on one subset of such benefits, a question of concern for government policy-makers is “How can we ensure that our public investments in HERD do more to stimulate innovation and economic growth?”

Canada’s granting agencies have experience in targeting HERD investments in cross-sectoral partnerships, large-scale multiyear networks, and technology transfer and knowledge translation, and in targeting investments to particular priority areas. Canada’s federal science and technology (S&T) strategy of 2007 (Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage) also targeted innovation—for instance by setting federal S&T priorities. Canada’s provincial governments, universities and colleges have also undertaken different strategies that focus on engaging with the private sector and on generating economic benefits in the short and longer term.

Canada has multidisciplinary research expertise on: regional innovation and clusters, firm-level dynamics, and the dynamics of formal research networks, to mention only a few. Internationally, the field of science policy has developed considerably, and there are active networks of researchers addressing innovation strategies in general, as well as in particular industrial sectors and particular national contexts.

These bodies of research can inform and provide an evidence base for future directions in Canadian S&T policy. Recognizing the potential of this existing research, Industry Canada has partnered with SSHRC to offer this funding opportunity for Knowledge Synthesis Grants on leveraging public investments in HERD to stimulate innovation.


The specific objectives of this funding opportunity are to:

  • describe the state of knowledge about international best practices in leveraging public investments in R&D in the higher education sector in order to stimulate innovation;
  • mobilize knowledge about innovation and innovation systems between the academic and public policy sectors; and
  • form the basis of dialogue between academic researchers, and science and innovation policy-makers in government.

Knowledge Synthesis Grants are not intended to support original research. They are intended to support the synthesis of existing research knowledge and the identification of knowledge gaps in a format that is accessible for a particular audience—in this case, primarily government policy-makers.

Supported knowledge syntheses should examine the experiences of various national and subnational funders and performers of HERD—both in Canada and abroad—with different strategies to ensure that public investment in HERD brings greater economic benefit. Supported syntheses should also examine the applicability of these strategies to the Canadian context.

Syntheses should focus on what the emerging best practices are in one or more of the following areas:

  1. creating and sustaining effective networks, collaboration and linkages of higher education researchers with industry, communities, governments and others;
  2. supporting cross-disciplinary research for greater innovation potential;
  3. the transfer of knowledge from higher education institutions to industry, including through technology transfer; commercialization; management of intellectual property agreements; and the mobility of people trained in research; and
  4. stimulating and supporting knowledge receptor capacity in industry, including the role of government-funded or private sector intermediaries in identifying opportunities for university research to support firm and market objectives and needs.

This call for proposals invites applications from researchers in various disciplines (including, but not limited to, economics, public policy, business, geography and sociology, and multidisciplinary approaches) that can inform and contribute to science and innovation policy.


Value and Duration

Grants are worth up to $25,000 over 14 weeks. Up to 12 grants will be awarded.

A draft of the resulting synthesis must be submitted by April 30, 2012. All reports must be completed by May 15, 2012.

Successful applicants or their delegates will be expected to attend a launch meeting in Vancouver in February 2012 (during the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting) and a knowledge exchange meeting between researchers and government policy-makers in Waterloo in June 2012 (during the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences). Travel costs for these meetings should be included in the budget submitted with the application.



Note: The term “institution” from hereon in this description refers to both postsecondary institutions and not-for-profit organizations.


Applicants must be affiliated with an eligible Canadian institution at the time of application.

Applicants who have received a SSHRC grant of any type but have failed to submit a final research report by the deadline specified in their Notice of Award are not eligible to apply for another SSHRC grant until they have submitted the report.

Postdoctoral fellows/researchers are eligible to apply for a Knowledge Synthesis Grant. However, in order for SSHRC to release grant funds, successful applicants must formally establish an affiliation with an eligible Canadian institution before the grant is awarded, and maintain such an affiliation for the duration of the grant period.


Co-applicants may be individuals from any of the following:

  • Canadian: Postsecondary institutions; not-for-profit organizations; philanthropic foundations; and municipal, territorial or provincial governments.
  • International: Postsecondary institutions.


Any individual who will make a significant contribution to the research initiative is eligible to be a collaborator. Collaborators do not need to be affiliated with an eligible Canadian postsecondary institution. Collaborators may be individuals from any of the following:

Canadian or international: Postsecondary institutions; not-for-profit organizations; public sector or private sector organizations; philanthropic foundations; think tanks; and municipal, territorial, provincial or federal governments.

Note that individuals from the private sector or federal government may only participate as collaborators.


Grant funds may only be administered by an eligible Canadian institution. Federal, provincial, territorial and municipal government departments and for-profit organizations are not eligible to administer SSHRC funds.

Note: Any institution that wishes to administer SSHRC funding for a Knowledge Synthesis Grant and is not currently on SSHRC’s list of eligible institutions, should contact SSHRC immediately at


Application Process

The application must include the following:

  1. a letter (maximum four pages) containing:

    • a description of the knowledge synthesis project, including the significance, expected contribution and impact of the proposed synthesis, contextualized within the current literature and accounting for previous work done in the area(s);
    • an outline of the relevant expertise and experience of the applicant/team;
    • a work plan, including timelines, and a description of the proposed methodology and approach; and
    • the applicant’s signature;
  2. an itemized budget (maximum two pages), including justification of all proposed expenditures;
  3. the SSHRC web-based CV for each applicant and co-applicant;
  4. a separate page containing an authorized signature from the applicant’s institution certifying that the institution will administer any award in accordance with SSHRC policies; and
  5. the signed Consent to Disclosure of Personal Information.

All application materials must be submitted in hard copy and must be received by January 27, 2012.

Deliver complete applications by regular mail, by courier or by hand to the address below. Applications submitted in whole or in part by any other means (such as fax or email) will not be considered.

Tim Russwurm
Chief of Staff, Office of the President
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
16th Floor, 350 Albert Street
P.O. Box 1610
Ottawa, ON  K1P 6G4
Tel.: 613-995-5488


Evaluation and Adjudication

An expert adjudication committee will assess all applications using the following criteria:


  • expected contribution to the objectives of the funding opportunity;
  • significance of the chosen area(s) for synthesis, based on the issues identified in this call for proposals; and
  • potential influence and impact on informing policy and practice in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, and on identifying research gaps that might be addressed in a forward-looking research agenda in the chosen area(s).


  • ability to meet the objectives of the funding opportunity;
  • appropriateness of the methodology or approach and of the work plan, including the timelines for the design and conduct of the activity; and
  • appropriateness of the requested budget.


  • qualifications of the applicant/team for carrying out the proposed project (including expertise in the content area to be covered by the synthesis, expertise in synthesis methods, expertise in information retrieval, etc.).


Administrative Regulations

All applicants and grant holders must comply with the Regulations Governing Grant Applications and with the regulations set out in the Tri-Agency Financial Administration Guide.

For descriptions of SSHRC terms, see Definitions of Terms.

Successful applicants will be required to share the results of their project with SSHRC. SSHRC will use this information to develop its policies and practices. It may also share this information with other interested sectors of the Government of Canada. This does not in any way limit how researchers may otherwise publish or use the results of their research.


Contact Information

For more information about this funding opportunity, or for advice on how to prepare your application, please contact:

Adam Holbrook
Scientific Director
Tel.: 778-782-5192
Fax: 778-782-5239

Catherine Beaudry
Associate Scientific Director
Tel.: 514-340-4711 ext. 3357
Fax: 514-340-4173

Suzanne Board
Senior Policy Analyst, Policy, Planning, Governance and International
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
Tel.: 613-992-4301
Fax: 613-943-1153

Tim Russwurm
Chief of Staff, Office of the President
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
Tel.: 613-992-0502
Fax: 613-995-5498