Mathematical Scientist's Guide to Innovation Funding Sources in Canada

The NSERC investment in the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences (PIMS), the Fields Institute, and the Centre de Recherches Mathématiques (CRM) was last renewed in 2014. These institutes contributed funds from this investment to support the launch of the Canadian Statistical Sciences Insitute (CANSSI) and continued to provide support for the Atlantic Association for the Research in the Mathematical Sciences (AARMS). The Institutes received additional seed funds, not sourced through the math/stats Discovery envelope, to support the launch of the Insitutes Innovation Platform (IIP), a program aimed at fostering “partnerships between mathematics and statistics researchers and non-academic partners in the public and private sectors.” This post provides guidance to mathematical scientists who may wish to seek funding to support collaborations with non-academic partners. So far, I’ve explored programs offered by NSERC and Mitacs and hope to supplement this guide with programs offered by the provinces sometime in the future.

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NSERC Innovation Programs

NSERC Connect

Mathematical scientists can explore the idea to collaborate with industry using funds offered through the NSERC Connect program. NSERC Connect is ramified into three levels with funding support up to CAD5K, CAD10K and CAD25K. The CAD5K grant can be used to cover travel expenses related to the development of a new academy-industry collaboration. Regional programs aimed at promoting new academy-industry research collaborations or student-industry training programs may be supported at the CAD10K level. National programs targeting “substantial new research collaborations” between post-secondary researchers and non-academic partners may be supported at the CAD25K level.

NSERC Engage

The NSERC Engage program offers CAD25K to support academic researchers working to solve problems for an industry partner. The funds are directed to the academic researcher. All intellectual property developed in the collaboration are owned by the collaborating industry partner. Engage grants can be extended with Engage Plus. Industrial internships for graduate student and postdoctoral researchers can be supplemented with Mitacs Accelerate (see below). The application process is quite simple. Pawel Pralat of Ryerson has secured seven Engage grants. Some further notes (in the form of a GitHub Gist) on NSERC Engage including the application template are available here.

NSERC supports deeper investments in academic-industrial research collaboration through the Strategic Partnership Grants and Collaborative Research and Development Grants (CRD) programs. NSERC also offers funding support for talented undergraduates to collaborate with industry through the Industrial Undergraduate Student Research Awards (IUSRA) program.

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Mitacs Innovation Programs

Mitacs Accelerate

The Mitacs Accelerate program generates CAD15K to support four month long industrial internships for graduate student and postdoctoral researchers. The intern receives at least CAD10K as a stipend during the collaboration. Mitacs provides CAD7.5K and the industry partner provides the matching CAD7.5K. NSERC Engage grants can be combined with Mitacs Accelerate internships to fund a longer term interaction between university researchers and industry. The Mitacs Accelerate Cluster program is designed to support the formation of teams focused on advancing on a single cohesive research plan. Relative to a collection of single Accelerate internships, there are significant financial benefits generated through the Mitacs Accelerate Cluster program. Some further notes (in the form of a GitHub Gist) including the application template and “two-pagers” for industry partners and universities on Mitacs Accelerate are available here.

Mitacs Elevate

The Mitacs Elevate program provides a two-year training program to support postdoctoral fellows who lead an industrially relevant research project. The program supplements the academic activities of a postdoctoral fellowship with specialized training in communication, leadership and other skills crucial to success in business. Elevate Fellows receive a salary of at least CAD50K per year.

Further Assistance

Researchers with some interest in collaborating with non-academic partners are encouraged to reach out to staff at the Institutes, Mitacs, NSERC or their institution’s research services office. If I can be of any assistance, please feel free to contact me.