What is the Research Support Fund?
Canada's Research Support Fund (RSF) assists postsecondary institutions with the costs associated with managing their research enterprise. This helps the institutions maintain a world-class research environment, thereby helping make Canada a world leader in research and development. RSF grants can be used to maintain modern labs and equipment; provide access to up-to-date knowledge resources; provide research management and administrative support; meet regulatory and ethical standards; or transfer knowledge from academia to the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors.
What are Incremental Project Grants?
The Incremental Project Grants (IPG) funding opportunity is a stream of RSF. IPG provides funding, in addition to an institution’s RSF grant, which provides additional support to the indirect costs of research. To receive IPG funds, an eligible institution must submit an application for specific projects. These projects must fit within a group of priorities that cut across RSF’s five existing categories of eligible expenses. IPG's initial four priority areas are: innovation and commercialization activities; facilities renewal, including deferred maintenance; information resources, including digital resources, open access and databases; and equity, diversity and faculty renewal (in the context of equity, diversity, and inclusion).
What are the indirect costs of research?
RSF and IPG support the indirect costs of research, which 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 Simon Fraser University, the 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.
How is the RSF allocated at SFU?
Breakdowns showing how SFU has spent its RSF among the five RSF expenditure categories and four IPG priority areas can be found in the RSF and IPG Spending, Objectives, Indicators, and Outcomes section below.
At SFU, RSF is generally divided 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 RSF funds, so that SFU can fulfill reporting requirements.
Additional details about internal SFU RSF processes and allocations are available on the SFU Internal RSF Program webpage (SFU staff or faculty login required).
RSF and IPG Spending, Objectives, Indicators, and Outcomes
In 2020-2021, SFU expects to receive $7,242,096 in RSF grants and $915,961 in IPG funding. See the charts below outlining how SFU intends to spend these funds.
* For IPG, $207,980 is intended for 4D Labs Service Expansion, $132,981 is intended for ImageTech Lab Facility, $75,000 is intended for the CL3 Lab, and $300,000 is intended for the Strategic Partnerships Hub.
Details of RSF & IPG objectives, indicators, and targeted outcomes are outlined here (pdf).
SFU received a RSF grant (excluding IPG) of $7,842,200 and $783,640 in IPG funds in fiscal year 2019-2020.
* For IPG, $227,000 was spent on 4D Labs Service Expansion; $500,000 was spent on the ImageTech Lab Facility; and $56,640 was spent on Surrey City Centre Innovation Services.
Details of RSF & IPG objectives, indicators, targeted outcomes, and outcomes statuses are outlined here (pdf).
SFU received a total RSF grant (excluding IPG) of $8,112,810 in 2019. SFU received a total of $618,959 of IPG funding. Spending was broken down as follows:
* For IPG spending, $318,959 was spent on Technology Transfer and Commercialization and $300,000 was spent on Core Facilities.
Details of RSF and IPG objectives, indicators, and targeted outcomes are outlined here (pdf).
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 Research Plan 2016-2022 (SRP) 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. The SRP positions the university to continue to grow its capacity in research and knowledge mobilization.
SFU is one of Canada's top research-intensive universities, and consistently ranks among Canada's top 15 research universities by major global and national university ranking systems. Over the last 16 years, SFU has increased its research capacity more than two-fold, having surpassed $100M in 2013 and reached $161-million in 2019. Simon Fraser University continues to be the top ranked university among Canadian comprehensive universities in the Maclean’s Magazine annual university rankings. 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.
Renovation and development of research facilities
SFU ImageTech Lab
The SFU ImageTech Lab is a world-class research imaging facility located adjacent to the Medical Imaging at Surrey Memorial Hospital and a key technology node in the City of Surrey. ImageTech Lab represents a huge regional breakthrough success and brings the best functional imaging capability west of Ontario. The lab uniquely combines 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 is the first combined MRI-MEG capability in Western Canada. The facility enables researchers and practitioners to address a wide range of questions in neuroscience, mental health and brain conditions, including, Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, Epilepsy, Down's Syndrome, Amyoplasia, Chronic Pain, age-related brain changes, among others. This facility is in part possible because of RSF support.
4D LABS is an open-access applications- and science-driven core research facility at SFU's Burnaby campus, offering fully customized research and development programs for researchers, start-ups and industry. At 4D LABS, the interaction between industry, researchers and our experts has fostered an environment that has successfully transformed research into world-class companies. The concentrated investments on the core facilities by the university has enabled the academic community and industry partners to access shared resources that would otherwise be unavailable to them. This model has proven to accelerate advanced research, innovation, and training, and remains our flagship approach to delivering solutions that drive scientific, societal and economic benefits for Canadians. Our core facilities are extensively used for federally funded research through the Tri-Agencies, and steadily attract new users. The support of RSF has contributed to the facility's success.
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.
Research Funding and Award Opportunities Database
With help from the RSF, SFU continues to improve upon the Research Funding and Award Opportunities Database, containing the details of over 450 research grant and faculty award opportunities. The database is continuously updated and expanded by SFU's Office of Research Services staff.
The SFU Library is 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.
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.
Institutional Support for Researchers:
The Research Accounting staff is dedicated to providing accounting and audit support to the university's research function. They review the various research transactions to ensure that expenditures are fully funded and in compliance with the policies of SFU and sponsors. Without RSF support, the university would bear a significantly higher financial and reputational risk.
Office of Research Services
SFU's Research Services team assists SFU faculty members in obtaining and administering financial support for their research. In undertaking its mission, ORS works closely with all units and administrators falling under the auspices of the VPRI Office, as well as with Research Accounting and faculty-based research grants facilitators.
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
Creation and Support of Regulatory Bodies:
Office of Research Ethics
SFU's Office of Research Ethics (ORE) upholds the highest ethical and regulatory standards of 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.
Technical Support for Animal Care
There are strict guidelines and policies in place to ensure the health and humane treatment of all animals used in research and teaching at Simon Fraser University. The same standards apply to all field studies as well. These standards are specified by a national agency, the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC), as well as the university’s own policies, such as SFU Policy R20.03 Treatment of Animals in Research and Teaching, under the direction of the office of VP Research and the University Animal Care Committee (UACC).
In order to conduct research involving animals, SFU faculty members must submit an application to the UACC for approval. No research is conducted without this approval. All Animal Care Protocols are reviewed annually and researchers must re-apply every four years, for long term studies.
A portion of SFU's RSF is applied toward the salaries of the animal care staff, technicians and manager. Without the RSF support, animal research at SFU would be 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.
Intellectual Property and Knowledge Mobilization
SFU's Technology Licensing Office (TLO) is focused on delivering intellectual property (IP) protection and technology licensing services and support.
The TLO supports faculty, graduate students and university researchers in the strategic management of the IP they generate through their inventions.
The major cost drivers in this category are annual step progressions, negotiated salary increases and benefit costs.
Technology Licensing Office
The RSF covers the salaries of staff within SFU’s Technology Licensing Office. 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.