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Idea to Innovation (I2I) Grant

Grants to Canada IHE Faculty Members to Partner
with For-Profits for the Transfer of Technology

Agency Type:


Funding Source:

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Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)

Deadline Date:

09/24/18 8:00 PM ET Receipt


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Grants to Canada IHE faculty members to partner with companies, researcher-owned companies, and early-stage investment groups to support the transfer of technology originating from IHEs. This program seeks to support research and development projects demonstrating technology transfer potential.


The objective of the Idea to Innovation (I2I) Grants is to accelerate the pre-competitive development of promising technology originating from the university and college sector and promote its transfer to a new or established Canadian company. The I2I Grants provide funding to college and university faculty members to support research and development projects with recognized technology transfer potential. This is achieved through defined phases by providing crucial assistance in the early stages of technology validation and market connection.


Four distinct funding options are proposed, which are characterized by the maturity of the technology or the involvement of an early-stage investment entity or an industrial partner (see Partner Eligibility for definitions). In the Market Assessment, NSERC will share costs of an independent and professional market study with the institutions (including the industry liaison office [ILO] or its equivalent). In Phase I, the direct costs of research will be entirely supported by NSERC; in Phase II, they will be shared with a private partner. The technology development may begin with a Phase I project (Reduction-to-Practice Stage), followed by a Phase II project (Technology Enhancement) or, if the development is at a later stage, it can start directly with a Phase II project. In any case, the combination of Phase I and Phase II will be limited to a maximum of three years' funding for any given project.

Eligible research and development activities include (but are not limited to):
-Refining and implementing designs;
-Verifying application;
-Conducting field studies;
-Preparing demonstrations;
-Building prototypes; and
-Performing beta trials.

Certain expenditures related to project management are now eligible as a direct cost of research in Phase IIb projects, up to a maximum of 10 percent of the total direct costs (see the Guidelines for Research Partnerships Programs Project Management Expenses).

The discoveries must be disclosed by the investigators according to institution policy and the ILO or its equivalent must endorse and work on each new proposal.

For all phases except the Market Assessment, the projects must describe the strategy to protect the commercial value of the technology and relate it to the commercialization strategy. Filing of patents, trademark, trade secrets and copyrights are tools that can be used to protect the commercial value of the technology; if you are using them, you need to explain how they will help you bring the technology to market. There are many situations in which patent protection is not the ideal course of action; in those cases, a greater focus should be placed on the go-to-market strategy. Note that the patent landscape and Freedom to Operate related to the technology should be discussed even if you don’t plan on filing a patent.

All proposals must include a technology transfer plan, appropriate to the maturity of the technology, that describes how the work will proceed through the next stages in the validation process up to eventual market entry. The ILO or its equivalent assists the applicant(s) in evaluating and protecting the new technology, service or process; developing proposals; preparing a technology transfer approach; making business contacts; and negotiating licensing or other such arrangements with potential partners. A portion of the award may be used to co-support some of the activities undertaken by the ILO or its equivalent.

Eligible technology transfer activities include (but are not limited to):
-Consulting fees to develop the strategy to protect the technology’s commercial value;
-Market investigations;
-Consulting fees for business plan, market survey, etc.;
-Business mentoring by experienced entrepreneurs;
-Sharing of patenting expenses; and
-Expenses associated with creating a partnership (such as travel, etc.).

Market Assessment:

Market Assessment projects are designed to enable institutions to do a market study for a product, process or technology they plan to develop. Understanding market potential is crucial when developing a new technology. The Market Assessment funding option is a tool to help identify industry and market issues. It can be used to better position a proposed technology in an I2I application (to provide the reviewers with a better understanding of the market for a given technology) or identify the appropriate NSERC program.

The market assessment should precede a Phase I proposal, if the applicant and ILO or its equivalent have not yet developed an understanding of the potential market. In certain instances, like development of a platform technology, requests for a market assessment can be submitted as a standalone proposal at the same time as a Phase I application.

The aim of the market assessment should be to address essential questions such as: What is the problem or opportunity? What is the frequency or extent of the problem or opportunity? Who is looking to solve the particular problem or take advantage of the opportunity, and are they willing to pay to solve it? What is the proposed solution to address this identified problem or opportunity, and who will pay for the solution? Why has this problem not been solved already? What barriers exist? What is being proposed to overcome the barriers? How is it different than existing solutions, and why will someone choose the proposed solution instead? Applicants may wish to consider other relevant questions and can outline these in the proposal.

Furthermore, it is important that the market assessment objectively establishes market size, demonstrating real market opportunity. Primary research (e.g., surveys, polls) is strongly encouraged.

The application should demonstrate what approach, activities and tools (i.e., SWOT analysis, PEST) are planned to address the above questions. These studies should be conducted by an experienced professional such as an outside consulting firm. A tender of service from the consultant listing the scope, deliverables and other relevant elements is required.

NSERC will co-support up to three-quarters of the costs of the project contracted out to a consultant, with the institution providing the balance in cash (a person employed part-time or full-time at an ILO or its equivalent cannot act as an external consultant on an I2I Market Assessment project). Funding is available for up to 12 months, with a maximum contribution from NSERC of $15,000.

Funding is non-renewable.

Phase I – Reduction-to-Practice Stage:

Phase I reduction-to-practice projects are designed to advance promising technologies in order to attract early-stage investment and/or to build valuable intellectual property (e.g., strengthening the commercial value of the technology, broadening patent claims or strengthening licensing opportunities) in anticipation of transferring the technology to a new or established company.

One of the main reasons why Phase I proposals are rejected is that the technology is at too early a stage to be eligible for the I2I Grants. Phase I proposals must be based on strong scientific evidence and present the following elements:

-The technology must be sufficiently mature. The basic parameters of the concept must have already been explored, and sufficient testing should have been done to assess the potential of the innovation to work in a "product" environment or for its intended purpose.
-There must be a clearly identified and well-described potential market. Meaningful letters of support from potential receptors, end-users/clients and industrial value-chain players may be very useful.
-The content of the technology transfer section should address the essential questions asked through the market assessment portion.
-Involvement of experienced business mentors is recommended when the team is planning to spin off a new company.
-A company may be involved as a testing bed for the technology (i.e., potential client). However, when a collaborating company is the intended receptor for the technology (i.e., the company that will market the end product), the cost of the project should be shared with this partner and the application submitted as a Phase IIb proposal.

Each project is expected to have a "go/no-go" decision point, representing the achievement of a predefined scientific or engineering milestone, at the end of Phase I when either seed funding will be provided by an early-stage investment entity or the technology will be further developed with an established or start-up company.

All Phase I proposals require a plan describing how a partnership will be established with a Canadian company that has the capacity to commercialize the research results. Although a business partner is not a prerequisite for Phase I applications, a demonstration of interest may strengthen the proposal. It is expected that technologies implicitly or explicitly committed to a specific receptor organization or industrial partner will be submitted as Phase II applications. This may not apply if the intention is to create a spin-off company.

NSERC offers an I2I Phase Ib supplement. This funding, up to $60,000 for six months, can be made available for successfully completed Phase I projects with high promise to secure an investor or a licensing company. ILOs or their equivalent should contact their NSERC staff for more information.

Phase II – Technology Enhancement:

Phase II projects are designed to provide scientific or engineering evidence establishing the technical feasibility and market definition of the technology, process or product. Phase II projects require an early-stage investment entity (Phase IIa) or a company (Phase IIb) to share the costs of the project. The supporting organization is expected to participate actively in the planning of the project. The proposals fall into two categories according to the partner involved as described below.

Phase IIa – Early-stage Investment Partner:

Proposals with an early-stage investment entity must be designed with a "go/no-go" decision point, after six to 18 months, representing the achievement of a predefined scientific or engineering milestone that justifies moving forward by further developing the technology either through a new (i.e., start-up) or established company. NSERC can support up to two-thirds of the costs of the project with the early-stage investment entity providing the balance in cash.

-The partnering firm must provide input into the technology transfer plan and contribute at least a third of the funds required for the project.
-It is expected that the collaborator has the financial strength to carry the project into Phase IIb or directly to market. If this seed funding will support a spin-off or entrepreneurial start-up, the financial standing of the firm will be closely scrutinized in the evaluation.
-The technology transfer terms must be disclosed.
-The science has to be substantiated to the point that its end product is easily identifiable.
-Thorough market research is required and potential buyers/markets must be specified. Meaningful letters of support from potential receptors, end-users/clients, industrial value-chain players are very useful.
-Well justified budgets are a prerequisite, and indications of future financial requirements, as well as the plan to secure these funds, should be provided.
-Involvement of experienced business mentors is required when the team is planning to spin off a new company.
-Projects that achieve critical milestones may be pursued during another six- to 24-month period with either the newly created company or an established Canadian company providing the cost-sharing arrangement for Phase IIb projects are met.

Phase IIb – Partnership with a Canadian Company:

Most of the requirements for Phase IIa listed above also apply to Phase IIb applications. As well, if the development of the technology was supported by a previous I2I phase, proof that the objectives of the earlier project were achieved must be provided, specifically:

-The "prototype" must already be in existence;
-A strong business plan is required;
-Involvement of experienced business mentors is required when the team is planning to spin off a new company;
-The receptor capacity to manufacture, distribute, license, etc. must be substantiated;
adequate budgets are required to show that the product will be at the marketing/manufacturing stage at the end of the Phase IIb Grant; and
-The "in-kind" contributions should be fully justified as they will be carefully scrutinized.

The industrial partner must have, or be able to acquire by the end of the project, the technical capability to undertake any further development necessary to take the product or process to market. The company receiving the technology should be prepared to carry out a market study, product/process development, engineering, and sales and marketing planning required to establish that a technology is viable, and to enter the market successfully.

The ILO or its equivalent is expected to assist the applicant(s) and the partner in developing proposals, identifying markets and negotiating licensing or other such arrangements.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 160240

Estimated Size of Grant:

Market Assessment:
-Maximum Amount Requested: $15,000
-Technology transfer activities*: $5,000

Phase I:
-Maximum Amount Requested: $125,000
-Technology transfer activities*: Half the cost supported by NSERC up to a maximum of 10% of the award. Institution or partner must cover the other half.

Phase Ib
-Maximum Amount Requested: $60,000
-Technology transfer activities*: Half the cost supported by NSERC up to a maximum of 10% of the award. Institution or partner must cover the other half.

Phase IIa:
-Maximum Amount Requested: $125,000
-Technology transfer activities*: Half the cost supported by NSERC up to a maximum of 10% of the award. Institution or partner must cover the other half.

Phase IIb:
-Maximum Amount Requested: $350,000
-Technology transfer activities*: Half the cost supported by NSERC up to a maximum of 10% of the award. Institution or partner must cover the other half.

*Additional funds needed from ILO or its equivalent

Term of Contract:

Duration (non-renewable)
-Market Assessment: Up to 12 months
-Phase I: Up to 12 months
-Phase IB: Up to 6 months
-Phase IIa: 6 to 18 months
-Phase IIb: Up to 24 months

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Grants provide funding to college and university faculty members.

NSERC will evaluate the eligibility of sponsors before accepting proposals for review. The following organizations may be considered as eligible partners:

Early-stage investment group: This term refers to either venture capital, a seed capital funding entity, angel investors, university technology transfer corporations, incubators or other similar funding or technology transfer organizations. Organizations that have received public funds as seed funding, but are functioning in a competitive environment and are required to achieve self-sufficiency within a pre-determined time period, may be considered as equivalent to industry.

Companies: Normally, participating companies must be Canadian. Companies outside Canada may also be considered as partners provided they can demonstrate that there will be clear and direct benefits to the Canadian economy as a result of their participation. As partners, companies must demonstrate that they have, or have the potential to acquire, the capability to commercialize the technology under development.

Researcher-owned companies: A researcher's own consulting company or sole proprietorship is not eligible to collaborate on a project in which the researcher is the applicant or co-investigator. Situations where the researcher is a part owner are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and the company's stage of development will be taken into consideration in determining the eligibility. The commercial activity must conform to the institution's established policies relating to the disclosure of commercial interest and conflict of interest.

Pre-Application Information:

Percent of Project Costs Covered by NSERC:
-Market Assessment: 75%
-Phase I: 100%
-Phase IB: 100%
-Phase IIa: 67%
-Phase IIb: 50%

The institution must justify technology transfer activities expenses and commit itself to bear at least half of their cost. NSERC may provide support up to a maximum of 10 percent of the total requested amount (i.e., the NSERC contribution will be no more than $12,500 for a $125,000 requested budget). Staff activities are not considered an eligible expense and cannot be used to leverage NSERC funds. Technology transfer expenses related to the proposed technology and incurred previously will not be considered in the cost-sharing of proposed activities.

NSERC staff is willing to review draft proposals submitted sufficiently in advance of the application deadline.

The application must be received at NSERC by 8:00 PM (ET) on the deadline date.

Application Deadlines:
-January 8, 2018
-April 3, 2018
-July 3, 2018
-September 24, 2018

Applications Instructions:

PDF Forms and Instructions:


Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Apply Online:

Idea to Innovation Grants (I2I):

General Inquiries:

Send your correspondence to:

350 Albert Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 1H5

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URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

Canada: Alberta   British Columbia   Manitoba   New Brunswick   Newfoundland and Labrador   Northwest Territories   Nova Scotia   Nunavut   Ontario   Prince Edward Island   Quebec   Saskatchewan   Yukon