Research Support Fund | 2017-2018

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 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.

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 $8.8 million from the RSF program in 2017-18. The majority of this funding is dedicated to maintaining and upgrading SFU's research facilities, as well as supporting the management and administration of the university'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 SFU can fulfil 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
  • Fraser Health

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 2016-2020 (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.

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. 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's Big Data Hub

SFU's Big Data Hub connects SFU's Burnaby campus community and external partners to big data, bringing people together from traditional and non-traditional fields to focus on data-intensive discovery and computation. With RSF support, renovations were completed in the Hub for a designated space where industry can connect with SFU's principal investigators and students. 

See the Research News story about how the RSF contributes to the success of SFU's Big Data Hub.

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 Surrey's Innovation Boulevard. 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. This facility is in part possible because of RSF support. ImageTech Lab is gearing up for a celebratory launch event in Fall 2018.


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

Research Funding and Award Opportunities Database

With help from the RSF, SFU launched 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. 

Library Resources

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. For example, SFU Library's Research Commons supports the research endeavours of the university community, with particular focus on graduate students during all stages of the research lifecycle—ideas, partners, proposal writing, research process, and publication—and provides easy access to both virtual and physical research resources.

Read the Research News story about how the RSF contributes to SFU Library's Research Commons.

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 Researchers:

Institutional Strategic Awards

The Office of the Vice-President, Research (VPR) is in the process of making some changes to how we support grants. This will include an increased investment in grants facilitation and project management services for researchers, as well as some organizational changes. Part of this support is provided by the RSF. A new office known as Institutional Strategic Awards (ISA) has been created. Functionality which previously existed in the Major Projects Office (MPO), the Major Awards Office, and the project management component of research operations are being migrated to ISA to streamline our support services for faculty. 

Office of Research Services

The Office of Research Services (ORS) 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 VPR Office, as well as with Research Accounting and faculty-based research grants facilitators.

Read the Research News story about how the RSF maximizes the benefits of SFU’s Research Services.

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

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

SFU Industry Engagement supports the university’s innovation strategy, SFU Innovates, and creates innovations that benefit society. IE's vision is to establish SFU as the go-to university for industry, communities and researchers working to solve global issues.

IE services include:

- Intellectual property protection and commercialization assistance
- Industry partnership development
- Knowledge transfer leadership

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

SFU Industry Engagement

The RSF covers the salaries of staff within Industry Engagement (IE). 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 IE leadership team has recently completed the full hiring process, and all positions are in place for IE to run at full capacity. 

See the Research News story about how the RSF contributes to the success of the IE leadership team.