Transform the SFU Experience

SFU’s strategic awards team supports research excellence

November 30, 2023

Thinking of pursuing a large-scale funding opportunity but not sure where to start? Hoping to nominate a colleague for a prestigious award? Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) Institutional Strategic Awards team can help.

SFU’s Institutional Strategic Awards (ISA) leads initiatives and strategies to increase the research capacity, income and visibility of SFU and its faculty members. They help SFU scholars secure large-scale research grants as well as the most prestigious awards and prizes. Working closely with a variety of stakeholders, within faculties and other vice-president portfolios, ISA delivers a coordinated service throughout the research lifecycle.  

This work aligns with the priorities of What’s Next: The SFU Strategy, the 2023-2028 Strategic Research Plan and the 2022-2025 Strategic Sustainability and Climate Action Plan. The ISA is a champion of equity, diversity and inclusion and a trusted central resource for research recognition, development and management.

Major institutional portfolios and programs managed by ISA include the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Pacific Economic Development Canada (PacifiCan), the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, the Canada Biomedical Research Fund, the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF), NSERC CREATE and SSHRC Partnership Grants, in addition to the Canada Research Chairs, Canada Excellence Research Chairs and Canada 150 Research Chairs programs.

We spoke with Diane Hanano, director, ISA about the supports and services offered.

How does the ISA help support research excellence at the university?

ISA provides support throughout the research lifecycle, from pre- to post-award and beyond.

The development team provides strategic consultations and supports stakeholder engagement throughout the proposal development process, from project conceptualization to submission. Their expert guidance helps researchers build strong teams, craft persuasive narratives and gives their proposals a competitive edge.

The management team helps ensure the operational success of SFU’s most complex and high-risk projects. They help remove barriers to ensure successful project delivery and alleviate the administrative burden on researchers so that they can focus on research.

The recognition team fosters a culture of recognition for research excellence by identifying exceptional candidates and leading institutional nominations for prestigious awards. They increase SFU’s nomination activity, enhancing its reputation nationally and internationally.

ISA also manages internal selection processes and helps secure institutional contributions to ensure the most competitive projects move forward and are backed by evidence of SFU’s strong commitment to ensuring their success.

How does the team work together to drive research success?

A great example of how this looks in practice is our role in supporting quantum research at SFU.  ISA helped develop the funding proposal to PacifiCan for the Quantum Algorithms Institute, and subsequently provided project management expertise to the new institute. ISA also supported successful nominations for physics professor Stephanie Simmons’ Canada Research Chair in Silicon Quantum Technologies and NSERC Arthur B. McDonald Fellowship, a prestigious recognition of early-stage academic researchers in natural sciences and engineering. Recently we led the nomination of physics professor Thomas Jennewein as the incoming Canada Excellence Research Chair in Global Quantum Internet Systems. We are currently supporting the early development of quantum-based proposals for the NFRF-Transformation and CFI Innovation Fund competitions.

Quantum research is just one example of ISA’s success. We have played a role in the B.C. Centre for Agritech Innovation, the Digital Democracies Institute, the Institute for Neuroscience and Neurotechnology, and numerous initiatives within Community-Centred Climate Innovation, demonstrating the breadth of work undertaken by SFU’s outstanding researchers.

What changes are you seeing in the funding landscape and how can ISA help researchers adapt and remain competitive?

We are seeing a strong focus on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) considerations, in both the composition of the research team and the research design. Knowledge mobilization, community engagement, as well as the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives and ways of knowing are also increasingly important criteria in funding proposals. ISA can help guide researchers on how to incorporate these aspects into their proposals in a meaningful way and provide resources and connections to make the most compelling case for funding.

We are also seeing a shift to large, team-based grants that require the research team to be interdisciplinary, intersectoral and/or international. These collaborative opportunities are designed to integrate different perspectives to address research challenges, and to leverage partnerships and resources to maximize research impact. ISA helps researchers by facilitating collaboration and team-building across faculties, supporting the increased coordination needs, navigating institutional and funder processes, developing complex budgets and bringing in specialized support from other units like SFU’s Partnerships Hub, SFU International and SFU Sustainability.

There are also significant changes related to research data management (RDM) and research security. ISA works closely with our colleagues in Research Operations and the SFU Library to provide guidance, templates and workshops to help researchers develop strong RDM plans and adhere to security requirements.

Beyond the core services, how else does ISA help advance the research mission of the university?

ISA co-founded and co-leads the SFU Project Management Community of Practice (PM-CoP) with the goal of strengthening project management at SFU by building a network of professionals who can learn from each other. ISA also designed and developed SFU’s Research Excellence Awards, a new formal opportunity that will launch soon to celebrate the exceptional contributions of our research faculty. ISA staff have made additional contributions through participation on a number of key advisory bodies such as the EDI Advisory Council and EDI Data Taskforce, working groups that include Knowledge Mobilization and Innovation, and SFU executive search committees, as well as though important institutional initiatives such as the Research Personnel Initiative and the Research Enterprise System Program.

Can you tell us about any major upcoming funding opportunities?

We are currently accepting internal Expressions of Interest (EOI) for the Canada Foundation for Innovation Innovation Fund competition. The Innovation Fund provides continued investments in infrastructure, across the full spectrum of research. The deadline is December 11, 2023, and information on how to submit an EOI can be found on the Funding and Opportunities web page.

If you are interested in applying for a major funding opportunity or nominating a colleague for an award, please visit Institutional Strategic Awards or email the team at or

The deadline for the CFI Innovation Fund Expressions of Interest is coming up on December 11, 2023. Learn more about this and other opportunities on SFU's Funding and Award Opportunities Database.