Project concept and planning

Identifying funding opportunities

There exist several databases or search engines on available research funding opportunities at SFU and other post-secondary institutions. Researchers may also already know of an opportunity through their own networks, online websites and email distribution lists.

At SFU, comprehensive information about upcoming funding opportunities is provided on the ORS website at: This includes:

In addition, FCAT resources include:

For more information, please contact your Faculty Research Grants Facilitator.

Funding initial research stages - new faculty or projects

Many successful grant applicants follow a “laddering up” approach with their funding applications where they initially apply for seed or research development funding through smaller grant applications to initiate their research projects. Such grants may vary between ± $1,000 to ± $75,000/year.

Research in its initial stages might include activities such as:

Literature reviews

  • A first journal article publication on a new topic
  • Partnership development
  • Small data sample collection and analysis
  • Building prototypes
  • Pilot projects, feasibility or evaluation studies
  • Catalyst workshops or knowledge-sharing events to build collaborations and new research programs

Examples of grants at SFU and external funding organizations that support these activities include:

Funding Program

Activities Funded

Value & Duration

SFU Internal Grant Opportunities

New Faculty Start-Up Grant

Research in first 5 years for new faculty members at SFU

$20,000 - $50,000

5 years

SSHRC Small Research Grants

Research in contemporary arts, humanities and social sciences

$7,000  - $10,000

1 year

Vice-President, Academic Conference Funding

Conferences with substantial participation or partnership with SFU co-sponsors

TBD every year

FCAT Internal Grant Programs

Supplemental Funding for Events, Visiting Scholars and Specific Research Partnerships


External Tri-Council Grant Opportunities (selection)

SSHRC Insight Development Grant

Initial research, e.g., new research questions, new methods, theoretical approaches and/or ideas.

$7,000 to $75,000 1-2 years

SSHRC Partnership Engage Grant*

Short-term and timely support for partnered research with 1 partner organization

$7,000 to $25,000

1 year

SSHRC Partnership Development Grant*

Support to design and test new partnerships

$7,000 to $200,000 1-3 years

SSHRC Connection Grants*

Events and outreach activities for knowledge mobilization or catalyst one-time encounters designed to lead to longer-term partnerships and/or sustained programs of scholarly research

$7,000 to $25,000

1 year

NSERC Discovery Grants Support ongoing programs of research with long-term goals rather than a single short-term project or collection of projects in fields of natural sciences and engineering.

Variable (e.g., $100K-$500K)

1-5 years

NSERC Alliance Grants*

Small and medium collaborative projects with partner organizations in natural sciences & engineering research

$20,000 to $300,000

1-5 years

CIHR Project Grants Support researchers at any career stage to build and conduct health-related research and knowledge translation projects across CIHR's mandate.


Average: $600K-$700K for 4-6 years

CIHR Catalyst Grants – thematic opportunities in ResearchNet

Pilot projects or feasibility studies to generate proof of concept and/or preliminary data, development or validation of new tools, methodologies, theoretical models, and other in Health Research


New Frontiers in Research Fund – Exploration Grants

Support high riskhigh reward and interdisciplinary research to explore something new.

Up to $250,000

2 years

* These grant opportunities require cost-sharing, matching funds or cash and/or in-kind contributions from other sources and organizational partners. 

Proposal concept

Preparing a research grant proposal is a large endeavor, involving several writing stages and stakeholders such as funding organizations, institutional research personnel (at your or team members’ institutions), co-investigators/other research collaborators, students, project managers, partner organizations, research participants, research ethics boards, libraries and many more.

A Proposal concept is a brief 1-page description of your project written prior to discussing and completing a full grant application with any of the above stakeholders.

A Proposal concept indeed has several purposes, such as:

  • Presenting and discussing your project idea with prospective funders, peers/colleagues and your institution’s research personnel*
  • Outreach and engagement of potential researchers and partner organizations for collaboration
  • Preparing the first stage of a full application required by a funding organizations, such as a Letter of Intent, Expression of Interest or Notification of Intent to Apply.

*  Proposal concepts can be discussed with the FCAT Research Office (Associate Dean of Research, Research Grants Facilitator), as well as peer reviewers or other experts. For major or institutionally-led grant proposals, the SFU Institutional Strategic Awards Office also provides a suite of advisory and support services (e.g.,  expert panel feedback, ISA review, etc.).

Proposal concepts vary in format and content. The following are suggested key items to consider including:

Factors to consider

Policy R10.01 External Research Funding Agreements, section 7.1 states that “Individuals performing research under the auspices of the University must adhere to compliance-related policies, procedures and guidelines.” Many of SFU’s institutional requirements for research are aligned with those of other post-secondary institutions in Canada and national and/or international research regulatory frameworks, policies and standards. In this context, the following are certain factors that applicants may wish to consider prior to submitting their grant applications to ensure that they have enough time and resources to comply with SFU’s institutional requirements.

Institutional "internal" deadlines: SFU and FCAT

Prior to submitting a grant application to an external granting organization, the applicant’s department or School, Faculty and the Office of Research Services (ORS) will ensure that the proposal is eligible and has met both institutional and the granting organization’s requirements.

In many cases, such as for Tri-Council grant programs, the external granting organization will also require the ORS to forward the applicant’s grant application by the external submission deadline in lieu of the applicant submitting the application directly.

To ensure that the staff in each unit has enough time to review your application before submitting it or signing off on it on behalf of the institution, SFU’s internal deadlines and requirements are as follows

1.  FCAT: five (5) business days in advance of the granting organization’s external deadline. Please submit:

  • Draft of the full proposal, and any other related forms or attachments
  • Final Budget
  • SFU Signature Sheet – signed by the applicant, and the applicant’s School Director or Department Chair.
  • All proposal documents by email to the FCAT Associate Dean of Research ( and copy (cc) to the Faculty Research Grants Facilitator (contact)

2.  SFU ORS: three (3) business days in advance of the granting organization’s external deadline. Please submit:

  • Final full proposal, and any other related forms or attachments completed by the applicant
  • SFU Signature Sheet – signed by the applicant, the applicant’s School Director/Department Chair and FCAT Associate Dean of Research
  • All proposal documents by email to the Office of Research Services (, with a copy (cc) to the FCAT Associate Dean of Research ( and to the Faculty Research Grants Facilitator (contact).  

For more information on ORS internal submission deadlines, please consult the ORS webpage on SFU Internal Deadlines.

Compliance, ethics and safety

The university is legally responsible for the conduct of research and the management of internal and external funds. It also supports and encourages the maintenance of the highest professional, ethical and safety standards in research and scholarship. When preparing a research grant proposal, please consult the following Office of Research Services (ORS) webpage on Compliance and Safety and SFU policies for information on relevant research safety, ethics and compliance requirements:

For more information, please contact the SFU Office of Research Ethics and consult the SFU website on Work and Research Safety.

Conflict of interest

SFU’s Office of Research Services webpage on Conflict of Interest states that:

“As a place of learning, Simon Fraser University encourages its faculty, staff and students to be broadly involved in professional interests and activities compatible with the university’s mission, values and commitments. Occasionally, the best interests of the university and the personal interests of its members may conflict, or may be perceived to conflict (…) While not all conflicts of interest are avoidable, with full disclosure, they can be managed before the research begins” .

In situations where a “potential, perceived or real conflict of interest” may arise, SFU requires that researchers (principal applicants, co-applicants or students) complete a Conflict of Interest Disclosure Form and submit a signature from a Supervisor, Chair or Director who reviews the disclosure and determine whether a conflict of interest (COI) exists and whether it can be management or disallowed.

To help manage “potential, perceived or real conflict of interest” and for a full description of COI policies and requirements, please contact ORS personnel ( and consult ORS requirements on Conflict of Interest and the SFU Policy GP37 – Conflict of Interest. This is particularly important if you:

  • serve on the board of a company from which you are seeking research funding;
  • wish to employ your well-qualified spouse or child to work on your research grant;
  • hold intellectual property interests in a tool or testing device that will be used in a funded study, in part to assess the effectiveness of that tool or device;
  • have been reimbursed for travel or for a talk at a company that wishes to contract with SFU in support of your research;
  • take fees as a director of a company whose business lies in your area of academic expertise. Does the company employ students that you supervise?

Safeguarding Your Research

The Government of Canada has released a suite of tools and information for researchers on protecting their research data and intellectual property from theft or misuse.

The “Safeguarding Your Research” portal will help researchers self-evaluate and take actions to mitigate the risks of theft or misuse of knowledge and results associated with research, partnerships and international travel. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of such tools; there have been repeated efforts to gain illegal access to Canadian research on a COVID-19 vaccine.

Universities Canada and the U15 have also developed practical tools to help researchers consider security risks that can be associated with international research partnerships and travel.

Source: This information was provided by the SFU Office of the VP, Research & International to faculty and graduate students on October 5, 2020.