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October 1, 2022: Research Services proposes a process (.pdf) to help SFU researchers complete the risk assessment form (see the July 12, 2021 update below) as well as provide more in-depth information including an FAQ section.

July 12, 2021: NSERC Alliance applications involving private sector partners must apply the new National Security Guidelines for Research Partnerships. This includes completing a risk assessment form. Research services has prepared a document to provide more information about the process and to assist SFU researchers with completing the risk assessment form.

Program Overview 

Alliance grants encourage university researchers to collaborate with partner organizations, which can be from the private, public or not-for-profit sectors. These grants support research projects led by strong, complementary, collaborative teams that will generate new knowledge and accelerate the application of research results to create benefits for Canada.

Research supported by Alliance grants will:

  • generate new knowledge and/or technology to address complex challenges;
  • create economic, social and/or environmental benefits;
  • contribute to Canada’s long-term competitiveness;
  • support public policy;
  • train new researchers in areas that are important to Canada and to the partner organizations;
  • draw on diverse perspectives and skill sets to accelerate the translation and application of research results.

Projects supported under Option 2 grants will also:

  • address a societal challenge that will result in new natural sciences and engineering knowledge and societal impact;
  • bring together academic, partner organization and societal perspectives and skill sets throughout the collaboration; and
  • demonstrate how all interested individuals will learn about and use the products, services or policies that stem from this research.

Value: $20,000 to $1 million CAD per year, for one to five years. NSERC is accepting applications that are requesting over $20,000, in Option 1, as well as Option 2 applications for projects between $30K to $300K per year requesting NSERC support for up to 90% or 100% of project costs. Option 2 Alliance projects are more than simply having NSERC cover a larger portion of the project costs; see this information sheet to determine if it is a good fit for your project.

Cost-sharing with NSERC: The amount you can request from NSERC depends on the type and size of the partner organizations contributing cash contributions to the direct costs of the research project. University cash contributions are not recognized for cost-sharing.

Timeline: This is an open competition and there are no deadlines.

Joint NSERC Alliance-Mitacs Accelerate grants support projects of varying scale and complexity, from short-term smaller projects involving one researcher to long-term projects involving researchers across several universities, and from one-on-one collaborations with a single partner organization directly involved in the research to projects involving many partner organizations across multiple sectors.
This joint funding opportunity allows applicants to leverage cash contributions from partners for funding from both NSERC and Mitacs. To take advantage of this opportunity, applicants must complete an Alliance application and may request additional support through Mitacs Accelerate internships as a component of the training of highly qualified personnel (HQP). As in all Mitacs internships, a cash contribution from an eligible partner is required. Mitacs internships cannot be the only mechanism for HQP training in the joint proposal; HQP should also be supported by NSERC funds.
As per its unique IP Policy, SFU strongly recommends that SFU Faculty wishing to apply to this joint NSERC Alliance-Mitacs Accelerate grant opportunity review NSERC’s criteria and SFU’s internal process and general information about the program.


Important Links

Additional Information

See Who can apply? for additional details:

  • Canadian university researchers who are eligible to receive NSERC funds can apply on their own or as a team with co-applicants who are also eligible academic researchers.
  • Requires at least one partner organization (in the private, public or not-for-profit sector) whose cash contributions will be recognized for cost-sharing.
  • Projects of varying scale and complexity will be supported
  • For option 2, principal investigators and co-applicants are limited to one submission within a 12-month period

Those interested in applying for this opportunity should contact their faculty Research Facilitator regarding faculty-specific requirements and timelines.

To request a consultation, strategic advice and/or a content review of a draft application, please contact our office:, 778-782-3229.

*Two separate SFU signature sheets are required: one for NSERC portion (0% overhead) and one for industry cash contribution (25% overhead).  SFU signature sheets due to and application in submit mode no later than 3 business days before you intend to submit an application to the agency.


Application Process

Fill out the proposal template following the instructions for completing an Alliance grant application. Submit your completed application and supporting documents, including the Personal Data Form with Common CV attachment for the applicant and all co-applicants, through NSERC’s Online system. Your contact person will be invited through the Online system to provide information about the partner organization following the Partner Organization Instructions.

You can apply at any time. The number of applications, review mechanism and expected assessment time differ for each cost-sharing option.

Review Process & Timeline: Cost-sharing Option 1

  • No limit on number of applications per year
  • Value $20K to $1M per year over one to five years
  • NSERC contribution to project costs is 50% (1:1 leverage) or 66.7% (2:1 leverage) depending on organization size and type
Small project
$20K-30K for 1-5 years
Medium project
$30K-$300K for 1-5 years
Large project
$300K-$1M for 1-5 years
Review mechanism

NSERC file managers

Evaluation supported by existing NSERC peer review, or external reviewers if not available


External reviewers with expertise directly related to the proposal

Provide review based on all evaluation criteria

Ad hoc committee of external reviewers with expertise directly related to the proposal

Provide review based on all evaluation

Expected decision time
4 weeks 8 to 12 weeks 12 to 16 weeks
NSERC assigns merit indicators to determine priority for funding for small, medium and large projects.


Review Process & Timeline: Cost-sharing Option 2 

  • Two applications within 12-month period for partner organizations or one within a 12-month period for researchers as an applicant or co-applicant
  • Value $30K to $100K per year over one to five years
  • NSERC contribution to project costs is 100% for not-for-profit and public partner organizations or 90% for private-sector partner organizations with 10% cash contribution from combined partner organizations
  1. Review by a multidisciplinary and multisectoral selection committee of justification for higher NSERC contribution - 4 to 6 weeks
  2. Review of overall merit by expert external reviewers based on Alliance evaluation criteria - 8 to 12 weeks

If your application is not selected in the first step or in the second step, it does count toward the number of applications by the applicant and by the partner organization within any given 12-month period.

See NSERC's Merit Indicators document for full details.


Relevance and outcomes

  • Significance of the intended outcomes and of the economic, social and/or environmental benefits for Canada.
  • Need for original research to address the topic and the potential for generating new scientific knowledge.
  • Extent to which the strategy to apply the research results is likely to achieve the intended outcomes.


  • Appropriateness of the partnership to achieve the intended outcomes; leveraging of different types of partner organizations and the integration of their unique perspectives and knowledge in the project, as appropriate.
  • Clarity of each partner organization’s role in the collaboration with respect to defining the challenge, co-designing and implementing the research, and using the results to achieve the desired outcomes.
  • Appropriateness of the level of cash and in-kind contributions from each partner organization.

Quality of the proposal

  • Clarity of the objectives and deliverables; appropriateness of the scope and size of planned activities to achieve the expected outcomes; justification for the planned expenditures.
  • Appropriateness of the identified indicators and methods for monitoring progress during the project and for assessing outcomes afterwards.
  • Appropriateness of academic researchers’ expertise, and that found within the partner organizations,  both for carrying out the planned research activities and in mentoring trainees.


  • Opportunities for enriched training experiences for research trainees (undergraduates, graduates, postdoctoral fellows) to develop relevant research skills as well as professional skills such as leadership, communication, collaboration and entrepreneurship.
  • Consideration of diversity and gender equity in the training plan (consult EDI in the training plan document)

NSERC’s grant is calculated on the basis of cost-sharing with the partner organizations. The portion of the cost of your project that can be cost-shared with NSERC includes only the cash contributions from partner organizations who are recognized for cost-sharing. You can include cash contributions from them that were spent, up to 3 months before the application is submitted, to start the project. However, NSERC funds can only be applied to expenses incurred after an award is approved.

It does not include cash contributions from:

  • the partner organizations that are not recognized for cost-sharing
  • the university
  • other funders

See NSERC's Table of Cost-sharing options which shows what percentage of your research project’s funding can be covered by an Alliance grant, according to the size and type of partner organization(s) involved.

Last updated: August 8, 2023