Research Support Fund | 2016-2017

What are the indirect costs of research?

The indirect costs of research are the “hidden” costs that are incurred in the support of research-related activities that cannot be easily attributed to a specific research project.

At SFU, indirect costs of research include:

  • Maintaining high quality research infrastructure through the renovation and maintenance of research facilities, upgrades to equipment and the operating costs of research space;
  • Providing in-house technical expertise for ongoing and daily support to research facilities;
  • Acquiring research resources including library holdings and datasets;
  • Facilitating research through institutional support for the completion of grant applications and proposals, financial administration and reporting, and research planning and promotion;
  • Ensuring the requirements of regulatory bodies are met, including the Tri-Council & Canadian Council on Animal Care;
  • Managing the licensing of university technologies.

What is the Research Support Fund?

The Government of Canada introduced the Indirect Costs of Research Program (ICP) in 2003 to help offset the hidden costs of research funded by the Tri-Council (CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC).

The ICP transitioned to the Research Support Fund (RSF) effective in the 2015-2016 grant year. This transition affected grant application and reporting requirements, however the overall objectives and design of the program, including the funding formula, remained unchanged.

RSF grants are awarded annually based on Tri-Council funding received by SFU in the previous three years for which data are available.  Grants are used to help make Canada a world leader in research and development.

How is the RSF allocated at SFU?

SFU received just over $8.5 million from the RSF program in 2016-17. Most of this funding is dedicated to maintaining and upgrading its research facilities, as well as supporting the management and administration of SFU's research enterprise (see chart, right). The RSF helps SFU maintain a world-class research environment.

Beginning in the 2011/12 fiscal year, SFU implemented a new model for the internal allocation of the grant that it receives annually from the Canadian government. It is now divided equally between the university and the initiating faculty, as is the case with overheads realized from research funded through contracts. The initiating faculties report each year on the use of these funds, so that the University can fulfil its reporting requirements.

SFU's RSF Objectives, Indicators, and Outcomes






Support knowledge creation and exchange

Modern, safe, sustainable and well-equipped research facilities
  • Quantity and quality of research space
  • Quantity and quality of technical support


Facilitate research at undergraduate, graduate, and faculty levels Ubiquitous access to research resources and tools
  • Amount and utilization of shared Library facilities and resources
  • Improvements to electronic information resources


Maintain the effective operation of SFU's research enterprise
Efficient leadership and support, including accurate and timely reporting
  • Quantity of funded research
  • Quality of research support and promotion
  • Effectiveness of information systems


Maintain the highest level of ethical and safe conduct for research
Compliance with regulatory, financial, and funding agency requirements
  • Compliance with CCAC, Tri-Council Policy Statement
  • Quantity and quality of regulatory and technical support


Mobilize research for social and economic benefit Intellectual property and technology transfer activity
  • Quantity and quality of IT/tech transfer activity


Achieve national and international leadership in research and innovation Outcomes of SFU's strategic research and innovation initiatives
  • Attraction of outstanding faculty and students
  • Growth of research funding
  • Number of research collaborations
  • Recognition of research and innovation excellence
  • Contributions to economic and social development

SFU's Affiliated Institutions

  • Providence Health Care
  • Occupational Health and Safety Agency for Healthcare in B.C. - OHSAH
  • BC Cancer Agency

What impact has the RSF had on SFU research?

The RSF contributes to SFU's ability to provide a supportive research environment through the provision of staff and services that allow researchers to pursue their research programs and seek new funding opportunities. It also enables SFU to provide research facilities and other resources that help to attract and retain high-calibre researchers and graduate students. In turn, the presence of leading researchers and highly qualified personnel ensures SFU's continued participation in major, multi-institutional and international research initiatives.

Progress towards RSF objectives: Overall impacts

SFU’s strategic vision for research commits the University to becoming a world leader in knowledge mobilization, renowned for its capacity to disseminate knowledge and its ability to harness new ideas and innovations for the benefit of society. This commitment rests on a solid foundation of—and continued commitment to—fundamental research.

Over the past 10 years, SFU has transformed into one of Canada's top research-intensive universities. It is consistently ranked among Canada's top 15 research universities by every major global and national university ranking system. For example, over the past eight years, SFU has been number one for the Maclean's Magazine university rankings in the comprehensive universities category. These achievements have positioned the University to attain national or international leadership in a number of research areas.


Approximately one-tenth of SFU's main campus space is used for research activities. With the support of the RSF, SFU can maintain modern, safe facilities that enable its researchers to keep up with changes in techniques and methodologies in their fields. The state of the University's research facilities impacts SFU's ability to participate in regional, national, and international research collaborations and to attract industrial partnerships. It is also a factor in the institution's ability to attract top faculty and students, and raise its research profile.

Without this support, SFU would be unable to maximize its return on external investment by maintaining the cleanliness, safety and efficiency of its research infrastructure, which are the foundations upon which research discoveries are made.

The major cost drivers in this category are the internal costs for labour (salaries and benefits) and the costs of parts and materials. The maintenance and operating costs associated with research space is about 50% higher than the average cost for the University. The RSF supports only a small portion of the SFU's total facilities costs.

Examples of RSF impact at SFU, Facilities

Renovation and development of research facilities

SFU ImageTech Lab

With RSF support, the SFU ImageTech Lab will be a world-class research imaging facility located adjacent to the Medical Imaging at Surrey Memorial Hospital and a key technology node in Surrey's Innovation Boulevard. The ImageTech Lab will represent a huge regional breakthrough success and bring the best functional imaging capability west of Ontario. It will also rekindle British Columbia's 20-year track record in world leading neuroimaging commercialization. The lab will uniquely combine high field 3T MRI with high density 275-channel MEG technology, offering the best possible ability to probe into the working brain in real-time. This will be the first combined MRI-MEG capability in Western Canada. ImageTech Lab is expected to open in Winter 2018.

Silicon Quantum Technology Lab

With contributions from the RSF, space in the 50-year old SSC Physics building was completely retrofitted to accommodate the research program of a new faculty member, SFU professor Stephanie Simmons. The modern lab facilities include a dedicated split cooling system that is critical to the experimental program. The system controls the lab air temperature and also provides direct cooling to some of the equipment required for Simmons' research studies (e.g., dilution refrigeration system). Her studies are focused on silicon-based quantum technology (quantum computing). The modernization of the space also includes a research office area for the Simmons group and a “grey” space to separate the noisy part of the equipment and cooling loop from the sensitive equipment.


Support from the RSF provides SFU researchers with the tools and informational resources necessary to carry out their research programs. These include library resources, software and other digital tools, computing and network infrastructure, and research data sets. The accessibility of these resources allows SFU to participate in the global 24/7-research environment.

The major cost driver in this category are the fees charged by external providers for these resources.

Examples of RSF impact at SFU, Resources

Library Resources

The SFU Library has recently created a 2017-2021 Strategic Plan. SFU's Library's vision statement affirms that the SFU Library is, "Open for Research. Open for Learning. Open for Collaboration." The Strategic Plan explains that research libraries are rapidly evolving. Electronic information and digital tools create an increasingly open learning and research environment. One main goal of the SFU Library is to provide access to a rapidly expanding array of resources, which are increasingly digital. These include online journals, e-books and other digital resources. The SFU Library is also a leader in digitization initiatives, which require specialized software and tools for describing, discovering, accessing, analyzing and repurposing data sets. The RSF helps to implement and operate these collections and services, which are necessary to maintain SFU's momentum as a leading research institution with a strong national and international reputation.

Improvements to Electronic Information Resources

The RSF helps to provide data sets from the Center for Research in Security Prices and Bloomberg Research for researchers and students in the Beedie School of Business. Such tools enable SFU's faculty and students to be thought leaders in competitive research fields. Without access to such key resources, SFU's programs could be seen as of lesser quality than those of comparable institutions who are able to provide these resources.

Management and Administration

Investment in research support through the RSF is vital to maintaining the smooth operation of SFU's research enterprise. It maximizes return on external investment by freeing faculty members to focus their time and effort on research.

The major cost drivers in this category are annual step progressions, negotiated salary increases and benefit costs. Salary costs overall increase annually even when the number of positions remains the same.  

Without RSF support, researchers would need to spend more time on management and administrative tasks, which would negatively impact their individual research output as well as SFU's overall research productivity and competitiveness.

Examples of RSF impact at SFU, Management and Administration

Institutional Support for Completion of Grant Applications — Research Grant Facilitators

SFU's research grant facilitators include staff in each Faculty with research credentials and experience, who can match researchers with funding opportunities and potential collaborators, assist with the development of competitive applications for external grant and contract funding, and offer grant-writing workshops. The RSF helps make it possible for the University to have the valuable support of Research Grant Facilitators.

See the full list of SFU's Research Grant Facilitators.

Read more about how the RSF is essential to researchers' success in funding through grant facilitation.

Financial and Audit Costs — Research Accounting

Research Accounting is responsible for the financial administration and financial reporting of research funds. Research Accounting staff provide services to the University, to SFU researchers and research personnel, and to the funding sponsors. Activities include: negotiating financial terms and conditions to minimize administrative costs and financial risks; providing budget control; ensuring compliance with internal policies and procedures; handling external audits; providing timely submission of billings and financial reports; following up on research account receivables and outstanding payments; and facilitating the financial administration of research projects. Research Accounting assists researchers in the timely and proper use of funds. Without such services, the proper financial controls and stewardship would be absent, potentially compromising the University's ability to meet the requirements of external funding agencies and the timeliness and accuracy of billings and financial reports.

Regulatory Requirements

SFU is in compliance with the Tri-Council Policy Statement on the Ethical Conduct for Research involving human subjects and the use of hazardous materials, as well as the policies of the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC). The RSF supports the salaries of staff members who work to ensure SFU's continued compliance with regulatory requirements.

The expansion of SFU's research enterprise in recent years has created a substantial increase in workload for these positions. Without such support, SFU would be unable to keep up with this increased demand, and SFU's ability to meet regulatory requirements would be compromised.

The major cost drivers in this category are annual step progressions, negotiated salary increases and benefit costs. Salary costs overall increase annually even when the number of positions remains the same.

Examples of RSF impact at SFU, Regulatory Requirements

Technical Support for Animal Care

Animal Care Services at SFU ensures that research, testing and teaching that involves animals at the University are done in the most humane and ethical manner possible. Through the University Animal Care Committee, the University also ensures that all research projects using animals meets or exceeds the standards outlined in the Canadian Council on Animal Care’s (CCAC) document ‘Guide to the Care and Use of Experimental Animals’.

A portion of SFU's RSF is applied toward the salaries of the animal care staff, technicians and manager. The Animal Care Services Manager, technicians and staff are responsible for maintaining centralized animal care facilities and promoting optimal levels of animal care. They aid all researchers at SFU who use animals for research, testing and/or teaching. They are both directly and indirectly involved in research studies; Animal Care Services technical staff are involved in the daily care and surveillance of all research animals, as well as in training research staff in handling, surgical techniques, anesthesia and common laboratory methodologies, and often provide technical/surgical assistance. They are directly responsible for the operation of the three animal care facilities on the Burnaby campus: the Animal Resources Centre (mainly rodent research), the Animal Care Facility (mainly bird research) and the Alcan Aquatic Facility (aquatic organisms research).

Without the RSF support, animal research at SFU would be severely compromised and in many cases could not be performed. Without this support, the facilities and services for the proper and humane treatment of animals in our care would not function properly. In addition, this would affect the University's ability to maintain compliance with the Canadian regulatory standards for animal research.

Read more about how the RSF contributes to SFU's Animal Care Services.

Creation and Support of Regulatory Bodies —Office of Research Ethics

SFU's Office of Research Ethics (ORE) is committed to ensuring the highest level of ethical conduct for research involving human participants. The ORE supports researchers through the ethics review process, from the preparation of a new submission to continuing review of ongoing research. The ORE educates researchers in the policies and process of research ethics and ethics review, and facilitates the review process conducted by the SFU Research Ethics Board and its subcommittees. The ORE team assists the director in administering the ethics approval process and in developing educational and research monitoring programs. A portion of the RSF covers the salaries of these support staff.

Intellectual Property

SFU's Industry Engagement Office assists SFU innovators in assessing the patentability and market potential of new technologies and research innovations in order to mobilize this knowledge and benefit communities, society and the economy in British Columbia and Canada. The Industry Engagement services include confidential invention disclosure reviews, technology assessments, patentability reviews, market assessments, intellectual property protection and commercialization assistance as well as industry partnership development.

The major cost drivers in this category are annual step progressions, negotiated salary increases and benefit costs.

Examples of RSF impact at SFU, Intellectual Property

Sustenance of Technology Transfer Office

The RSF covers the salaries of staff within the Industry Engagement. These positions help SFU researchers build effective working relationships with communities, industry, governments, NGOs and non-profits to increase the solution capability of SFU innovators. The RSF support of Industry Engagement enables SFU to continue to be effective in facilitating an open innovation environment and help achieve the Office's mission to facilitate the creation of new university-industry research and development partnerships, and to assist in commercializing the results of University-based Innovations.

Read more about how the RSF supports SFU's open innovation model.