Imagining Canada’s Future Ideas Lab: Canada and the Circular Economy

Archived information

Archived information is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.

Stage 1: Call for Participants for Virtual Workshop

July 2021 Competition

Stage 1: Virtual workshop
Value See details below
Number of positions Up to 30 participants
Workshop dates October 18-29, 2021
Application deadline July 16, 2021 (8 p.m. eastern)
Results announced September 2021
Apply Application; instructions
Stage 2: Funding opportunity
Value Up to $250,000
Number of awards Up to three
Duration Two years
Application deadline February 3, 2022 (8 p.m. eastern)
Results announced March 2022
Apply The call for Stage 2 will be released in November 2021. Only participants in the workshop will be invited to apply.

On this page


SSHRC invites letters of interest from researchers wanting to participate in a virtual, interactive and interdisciplinary research design workshop taking place over two weeks at the end of October 2021.

This virtual workshop is the first stage of the Imagining Canada’s Future (ICF) Ideas Lab, a multistep funding opportunity. At this workshop, up to 30 researchers will participate in facilitated activities before organizing themselves into multidisciplinary teams to develop and pitch innovative project ideas. During the second stage of the ICF Ideas Lab, teams whose partnerships and project ideas successfully met the evaluation criteria for workshop pitches will be invited to apply for funding to further develop their projects.

Global challenges, such as those identified through SSHRC’s Imagining Canada’s Future initiative, are best addressed through proactive, interdisciplinary collaborations. Ideas Labs create new research collaborations that transcend institutional and disciplinary silos and encourage different ways of thinking, and are therefore well suited to addressing these challenges.

Stage 1 of the ICF Ideas Lab will bring together researchers from across Canada to explore the theme of Canada and the Circular Economy, linked to the global challenge of Living Within Earth’s Carrying Capacity. By the end of the virtual workshop, participants will have developed preliminary proposals for groundbreaking research with the potential to inform policies and practices addressing the needs of diverse sectors throughout Canada, and which can also have wider global benefits.

Theme: Canada and the Circular Economy

The circular economy is a means of addressing key environmental and economic concerns and offers a sustainable alternative to the current linear model of production-consumption-waste. Circularity focuses on extracting as much value as we can from our resources—through recycling, reusing or refurbishing products and materials—while eliminating waste and greenhouse gas emissions at the design stage. For many of its proponents, the circular economy goes beyond the management of resources to addressing deeper issues relating to consumption, human behaviour and our relationship with the natural world.

Increasingly, Canadians are concerned about the waste we generate and the environmental impacts of our current systems of production and consumption. Canadian policy-makers and industries have turned their attention to green growth and clean technologies as a means of reducing waste and emissions, while local and regional governments are exploring policy tools and practices to promote more sustainable ways of living. Individual Canadians are beginning to examine their behaviours in light of global climate crises, seeking out sustainably produced goods, and turning to resource-sharing services and resale platforms to minimize their environmental footprints.

Interest in the concept of the circular economy as a pathway to sustainability is growing in Canada, driven not only by environmental concerns but also by fears of potential disruptions to global supply chains and awareness that other jurisdictions are successfully transitioning to more circular economic models. A number of industry and business leaders in Canada are adopting circular business models to save money, improve efficiency and open up new market opportunities. Universities, colleges and not-for-profits are encouraging collaborative activities and public policy initiatives on the topic of circularity. At the international level, the Government of Canada is supporting discussions on accelerating a global transition by co-hosting the World Circular Economy Forum in 2021.

However, while elements of circularity can be found throughout Canadian society, the broader circular economy model itself is not widely understood. The concept is not popularly used in Canadian political or economic discourse, and there is currently no national strategy to encourage and support a large-scale transition to a circular economic model. The implications of such a transition, and the systems-level changes that would be required to achieve it, require further consideration that acknowledges Canada’s unique socio-economic and political frameworks. The circular economy offers numerous potential benefits for society, the economy and the environment, but it also has the potential to be immensely disruptive to our current linear systems.

As interest in the circular economy increases in Canada, there are opportunities for the research community to frame and shape the issue. ICF Ideas Labworkshop participants will consider what the circular economy might mean in the Canadian context from an interdisciplinary perspective, addressing questions such as the following:

  • Can the circular economy meet Canadian economic and ecological needs?
  • What are the potential barriers to circularity in Canada?
  • What are the potential implications of a low-carbon, low-waste economy on various sectors, as well as the possible impacts of circularity on different groups and communities in Canadian society?
  • Can policies and tools from other jurisdictions that are transitioning toward circularity be adapted to meet Canadian needs and existing systems, or does Canada require unique solutions?

The innovative, interdisciplinary research projects developed at the ICF Ideas Lab will contribute to a better understanding of the circular economy in the Canadian context, thereby supporting a stronger, more sustainable economy and a healthier society for Canada.


What is an Ideas Lab?

An Ideas Lab is an innovative way to stimulate and support interdisciplinary projects that present creative solutions to pressing global challenges. There are three components to the ICF Ideas Lab framework: the workshop, the application for the funding opportunity and the project development phase.

Stage 1: Virtual workshop

The workshop is central to the Ideas Lab framework. The workshop brings together researchers from different disciplines and institutions and encourages them to step outside of their comfort zone to think about the selected challenge in new and creative ways. Participants must be present for all ICF Ideas Lab workshop activities and must be prepared to fully engage with others during the intensive workshop phase.

Under the guidance of a facilitator and a small number of peer mentors, workshop participants will explore the theme of Canada and the Circular Economy. During the initial Interact and Clarify stages of the workshop, participants will consider how different disciplines and sectors might frame the challenge. The entire group will then develop a common language and terminology to move beyond disciplinary boundaries and to encourage innovation and discovery.

During the Create, Develop and Implement stages in the second half of the workshop, participants will break into smaller teams to develop project ideas. Initially, participants will be able to contribute to many different teams but they will be required to commit to one project idea before the end of the workshop. Throughout the creation process, they will be supported by the peer mentors, who are experts in relevant fields who will provide feedback on ideas and push the teams to propose innovative and groundbreaking research. On the last day of the workshop, teams will pitch their project ideas to the peer mentors, who will act as the merit review committee throughout the ICF Ideas Lab process and life cycle.

Stage 2: Funding opportunity

Following the workshop, the merit review committee will review and evaluate the presentations and related documents describing the project ideas. Teams with project ideas that meet the evaluation criteria will be invited to submit fully developed funding applications for Stage 2 of the ICF Ideas Lab. The Stage 2 funding is intended to support the teams as they further advance their projects and establish multisectoral partnerships.

Teams will have up to two months to complete and submit their proposals for Stage 2. A merit review committee consisting of the workshop’s peer mentors and a small number of external experts will evaluate and identify meritorious applications. Up to three grants of up to $250,000 will be awarded. Participation in the Ideas Lab workshop is no guarantee of funding.

Stage 3: Development of partnerships and project advancement

Teams that receive grants will have two years to further develop their partnerships and advance their research projects. During this time, it is expected that teams will formalize their partnerships and undertake preliminary research. At the end of the two years, the teams will be expected to seek out full project funding from research agencies to implement the fully developed research project.

Award holders will be required to attend a working forum toward the end of the grant period, where they will have opportunities to discuss their projects in more detail with the peer mentors and invited knowledge users from different sectors. At the forum, teams will also be provided with information about possible sources of full project funding.

Summary of requirements

Stage 1: Virtual workshop

Successful applicants to this workshop will be expected to:

  • actively participate in all workshop activities scheduled to take place October 18 to 29, 2021;
  • contribute to the formation of interdisciplinary teams at the workshop, which will develop project ideas addressing the theme of Canada and the Circular Economy; and
  • as part of a team, present a project idea to the merit review committee on the last day of the workshop, outlining how the team and project idea meet the interdisciplinary, innovative and societal relevance criteria of this funding opportunity.

Stage 2: Funding opportunity

Following the workshop, the merit review committee will evaluate the project ideas presented on the final day and select the teams with the most promising proposals that meet the ICF Ideas Lab criteria. These teams will be invited to apply for funding to support the development of their partnerships and the advancement of their project ideas.

Successful teams that are selected for funding will be expected to:

  • formalize their partnerships through agreements, governance frameworks and/or strategic plans;
  • establish connections with stakeholders in relevant sectors;
  • advance their project by undertaking preliminary research;
  • participate in a forum (virtual or in-person) organized by SSHRC; and
  • seek out full project funding from SSHRC and other research agencies at the end of the two-year grant.

Who should participate

For more details about eligibility requirements, see the Eligibility section below. The ideal workshop participants will be dynamic thinkers who are interested in developing innovative solutions to global challenges in collaboration with other disciplines. They must be willing to experiment with new and imaginative ways of approaching research questions, participate in creative group activities and move beyond their comfort zones. They should be interested in the theme of Canada and the Circular Economy, although participants are not expected or encouraged to develop project ideas in advance of the workshop.

The dynamic workshop environment that is responsible for the success of Ideas Labs is created by bringing together researchers representing different research areas and breaking down disciplinary silos. Project ideas will be developed in an intensely collaborative workshop environment. The ideal workshop participants must be able to work with others when under pressure and should be capable of adapting their specialist knowledge to meet the needs of an interdisciplinary team.

Workshop materials will be available in both English and French, and presentations from the workshop organizers will be made in both official languages. Workshop participants will be free to participate in the official language of their choice.

Value and duration

Stage 1: Virtual workshop

No research funding will be provided during Stage 1 of the ICF Ideas Lab.

Stage 2: Funding opportunity

Only those teams whose project ideas and partnerships successfully meet the workshop’s evaluation criteria will be invited to apply for funding. There is no limit on the number of teams to be invited.

ICF Ideas Lab grants are valued at up to $125,000 per year over two years, up to a total of $250,000. Up to three grants will be awarded.


The ICF Ideas Lab is open to researchers from the social sciences and humanities as well as other disciplines.

Stage 1: Virtual workshop

The following are eligible to apply to participate in the ICF Ideas Lab workshop:

Stage 2: Funding opportunity

During the workshop, each team will appoint a principal investigator who will provide overall leadership of the team and who will act as the applicant during the funding application process. Other team members will contribute to the funding application as co-applicants and/or collaborators. Additional co-applicants and collaborators from the public, private and not-for-profit sectors can be added to the team at this time.

The principal investigator / applicant for each team must be a researcher from a social sciences or humanities discipline. To be eligible for funding, the proposed project idea must have a strong social sciences or humanities focus (a project examining the socio-economic impact of specific technologies would be deemed eligible, for example).


Applicants must be researchers from a social sciences or humanities discipline, and affiliated with a Canadian institution that holds institutional eligibility. Researchers who maintain an affiliation with a Canadian postsecondary institution, but whose primary affiliation is with a non-Canadian postsecondary institution, are not eligible for applicant status.

Applicants who have received a SSHRC grant of any type but have failed to submit an end of grant 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 researchers are eligible to be applicants if they have formally established an affiliation with an eligible institution at the time of application and maintain such an affiliation for the duration of the grant period.


Grant funds can be administered only by an eligible Canadian institution. Institutions proposing to administer a grant awarded under this funding opportunity must hold or obtain institutional eligibility. See SSHRC’s list of eligible institutions.

Indigenous not-for-profit organizations being assessed for or holding institutional eligibility to administer multiple grants over a five-year period are eligible to apply. Institutional eligibility must be obtained before funding is released.

Institutions can contact to begin the institutional eligibility application process or if they have questions about institutional eligibility.


Individuals (including postdoctoral researchers) are eligible to be co-applicants if they are formally affiliated with any of the following:

  • Canadian eligible postsecondary institutions; not-for-profit organizations; philanthropic foundations; think tanks; or municipal, territorial or provincial governments; or
  • international postsecondary institutions.


Any individual who makes a significant contribution to the project is eligible to be a collaborator. Collaborators do not need to be affiliated with an eligible Canadian postsecondary institution.

Individuals from the private sector or federal government can participate only as collaborators.


Grant holders will be expected to report on the use of grant funds, on funded activities undertaken during the grant period and on outcomes. Successful applicants will be informed of reporting requirements upon receiving their Notice of Award.

Application process

Stage 1: Virtual workshop

Applicants must complete the application in accordance with the accompanying instructions. Applications must be submitted electronically by an authorized research grants officer, or equivalent, from the applicant’s institution, or by a representative of the not-for-profit organization who has financial signing authority and is not participating in the project.

Applicants needing help while preparing their application should communicate with SSHRC well in advance of the application deadline.

Applications must include the following:

  • a completed applicant eligibility profile;
  • a letter of interest no longer than 2,000 words that explains how the applicant’s research interests, academic and professional experience, and past collaborations and knowledge mobilization activities will allow the applicant to contribute to this Ideas Lab; and
  • a curriculum vitae (CV) no longer than 10 pages. The CV should highlight experiences and outputs that demonstrate innovation, interdisciplinarity, ability to collaborate and/or an interest in the workshop theme. Applicants are encouraged to review the evaluation criteria and scoring for applying to participate in the workshop when preparing their CVs.

All application materials must be received by 8:00 p.m. eastern on July 16, 2021.

Stage 2: Funding opportunity

Teams invited to apply for funding will be provided with access to an application form and detailed instructions in November 2021. As part of the application process, teams will be required to submit more detailed project proposals, including project budgets. The deadline for submission of funding applications will be 8:00 p.m. eastern on February 3, 2022.

Evaluation and adjudication

Stage 1A: Virtual workshop

Researchers will apply to the workshop as individuals and will be selected based on an evaluation of their personal and professional attributes as presented in their application. No project proposal is required.

Applications will be evaluated by a merit review committee in accordance with the SSHRC Manual for Adjudication Committee Members.

The maximum capacity for this workshop is 30 applicants. The merit review committee will identify a pool of meritorious applications using the criteria below. Should the pool include more than 30 applications, the final selection of participants will be made through an administrative review to ensure that diverse disciplines, regions and institutions, as well as individuals from designated groups, are represented at the workshop.

Applicants are encouraged to complete the secondary self-identification statement if they identify as belonging to one or more designated groups.

Evaluation criteria and scoring

The following criteria and scoring scheme will be used to evaluate applications:

  1. Research and interdisciplinarity (20%):
    • relevance of research expertise for workshop theme; and
    • evidence of interdisciplinary research and/or other multi- or interdisciplinary activities.
  2. Collaborations and partnerships (20%):
    • experience working as part of a research team, and/or experience with co-design, co-creation and co-production of research and research-related activities; and
    • experience with partnerships and collaborations in other professional activities involving academic and/or cross-sectoral stakeholders.
  3. Knowledge mobilization and communication (20%):
    • demonstrated experience communicating with non-specialists; and
    • evidence of knowledge mobilization activities (e.g., films, performances, commissioned reports, knowledge syntheses, experience in collaboration / other interactions with stakeholders, contributions to public debate and the media).
  4. Innovation and creativity (20%):
    • evidence of highly original and forward-thinking research; and
    • demonstration of creativity in research and other academic activities.
  5. Overall potential to contribute to workshop (20%):
    • demonstrated interest in the theme of Canada and the Circular Economy;
    • demonstrated interest in the co-creation process of innovative and interdisciplinary research;
    • explanation as to how the ICF Ideas Lab workshop will contribute to research goals and benefit professional development; and
    • overall ability to contribute to the workshop’s stated objectives.

Merit review committee members will assign a score for each of the five criteria above, based on the following scoring table. The appropriate weighting is then applied to arrive at a final score.

Score Descriptor
5-6 Very good to excellent
4-4.9 Good to very good
3-3.9 Satisfactory to good
Below 3 Unsatisfactory

Communication of results

SSHRC will inform all applicants in writing of the outcome of their applications in early September.

Stage 1B: Workshop pitches

On the last day of the workshop, teams will present their project ideas to the merit review committee by completing a short written project proposal form and giving a 20-minute presentation followed by a Q-and-A session. Teams will be required to demonstrate how their project ideas meet the ICF Ideas Lab objectives of fostering innovative, interdisciplinary research with a strong social sciences or humanities focus that addresses the theme of Canada and the Circular Economy and that has the potential to contribute to society by informing policies, programs or practices. Teams will identify their principal investigator at this time (who must be a social sciences or humanities researcher) and will provide the committee with short biographies of all team members.

Evaluation criteria

Project ideas and teams will be assessed on a pass-fail basis by the merit review committee using the selection criteria below. Participants will be provided with further details about the evaluation process and criteria at the start of the workshop to assist with the development of their project pitches.

  1. Innovation

    Does the proposed project meet the funding opportunity’s stated objective of fostering innovative research?

    • Does the team take a creative, innovative approach that addresses the challenge?
    • Does the proposed project distinguish itself from existing research?
  2. Interdisciplinarity

    Does the proposed project meet the funding opportunity’s stated objective of fostering interdisciplinary research with a strong social sciences and humanities focus?

    • Does the team bring together researchers from different disciplines who generally do not work together?
    • Does the project incorporate methodologies and concepts from different disciplines, from within the social sciences and humanities and, if appropriate, from other research domains?
  3. Societal relevance

    Does the proposed project meet the funding opportunity’s stated objectives of fostering societally relevant research that addresses the global challenge of Living Within Earth’s Carrying Capacity and the circular economy in particular?

    • Does the proposed project present opportunities for co-creation and cross-sectoral collaborations?
    • Does the proposed project have the potential to influence and impact policy and practices in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors?
    • Does the team take into account intersecting identities (race, ethnicity, gender, age, etc.) when detailing the project’s potential societal impact?
  4. Feasibility

    How feasible is the proposed project?

    • How appropriate are the methods and theoretical approaches?
    • Does the project have clearly defined objectives?
    • Has the team identified some preliminary risks and proposed appropriate mitigation strategies?
  5. Capability

    Does the team have the knowledge and capacity to successfully develop the project idea?

    • Does the team have the qualifications required to carry out the proposed project?
    • How successfully have all members of the team been incorporated into the project proposal? How complementary are their perspectives, skills and knowledge?

Communication of results

Within a month of the workshop, teams whose pitches were judged to satisfactorily meet the evaluation criteria will be invited to submit formal applications for funding to further develop their partnerships and advance their project ideas. At this stage, teams will be required to provide more detailed project proposals, including a project budget and implementation plan.

Stage 2: Application for funding

Evaluation criteria and scoring

Applications for funding will be reviewed by a merit review committee consisting of the peer mentors and a small number of additional subject matter experts who did not participate in the workshop. The funding applications will be assessed by the merit review committee using the criteria below:

  1. Challenge—The aim and importance of the endeavour (50%):
    • expected contribution to the funding opportunity’s stated objectives of innovative, interdisciplinary research on the circular economy that addresses the global challenge of Living Within Earth’s Carrying Capacity and that has societal relevance;
    • potential influence and impact in informing policy and practice in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors;
    • quality of training and mentoring to be provided to students, emerging scholars and other highly qualified personnel, and opportunities for them to contribute; and
    • identification of progress indicators.
  2. Feasibility—The plan to achieve excellence (25%):
    • appropriateness of the methods and theoretical approach;
    • probability that the objectives will be met within the timeline proposed;
    • appropriateness of the requested budget and justification of proposed costs; and
    • quality and appropriateness of plans to exchange and engage with stakeholders within and/or beyond the research community, where applicable.
  3. Capability—The expertise to succeed (25%):
    • qualifications of the team to carry out the proposed project (such as expertise in the content area, interdisciplinary research and policy development);
    • quality, quantity and significance of past experience and published and/or creative outputs of the project director and any co-applicants, relative to their role in the partnership, and to the stage of their career; and
    • evidence of experience in collaboration / other interactions with stakeholders, contributions to public debate and the media, and impacts on policy and practice.

Merit review committee members will assign a score for each of the three criteria above, based on the following scoring table. The appropriate weighting is then applied to arrive at a final score.

Score Descriptor
5-6 Very good to excellent
4-4.9 Good to very good
3-3.9 Satisfactory to good
Below 3 Unsatisfactory

Communication of results

SSHRC will inform all applicants in writing of the outcome of their applications by early March.

Regulations, policies and related information

SSHRC reserves the right to determine the eligibility of applications, based on the information included. SSHRC also reserves the right to interpret the regulations and policies governing its funding opportunities.

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.

Grant holders must also comply with the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications. See SSHRC’s Open Access overview for more information. The SSHRC Research Data Archiving Policy has been retired. In March 2021, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and SSHRC launched the Tri-Agency Research Data Management Policy. As of April 1, 2021, this new policy replaces SSHRC’s Research Data Archiving policy, for all active grants.

Guidelines and related support material

All applicants for SSHRC funding should consult the following guidelines while preparing their applications:

Privacy notice

SSHRC is responsible for complying with the Privacy Act, and all information collected by SSHRC is subject to, and governed in accordance with, this Act. SSHRC is committed to the protection of the personal information under its control. The personal information applicants provide is collected by the agency under the authority of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Act, and stored in the SSHRC personal information bank PPU 055, as described in Info Source. The information is used in accordance with the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.

Only the information needed to deliver, administer and promote the ICF Ideas Lab competition and awards is collected. This can include sharing application information with other agencies and departments of the Government of Canada, as well as with other organizations, that are specifically interested in supporting the research and related activities generated through Ideas Lab awards and with which SSHRC has established agreements. SSHRC will contact applicants to obtain their consent prior to any use or disclosure of personal information in a manner not outlined above or on Info Source. For more specific information about the organizations/institutions involved in this Ideas Lab competition, contact SSHRC program staff.

Further details on the use and disclosure of the information collected by SSHRC are available under Collection, Use and Disclosure of Personal Information.

In addition to protecting applicants’ personal information, the Privacy Act gives applicants the right to request access to and correction of their personal information. For more information about these rights, or about SSHRC’s privacy practices, contact the SSHRC Access to Information and Privacy manager at 613-992-1058 or Applicants also have the right to file a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner of Canada if they think their personal information has been handled improperly.

Contact information

For more information, contact:


Date modified: