There will be no further competitions for this program.
As of Budget 2009, NSERC will continue to support research that is urgent and has a strong potential for breakthroughs through other programs. Existing funding commitments will be honoured, however, NSERC will not continue the Special Research Opportunity program.
Read the complete message from NSERC President, Dr. Suzanne Fortier, and the Honourable James Edwards, Vice-President and Chair of Council, about the Strategic Review and Budget 2009.
|Duration||Up to three years|
|Application Deadline||The program is now closed.|
|How to Apply||NSERC is no longer receiving new applications for this program.|
|Application Forms||Letter of Intent
|Program Contact||View Contact Information|
NSERC-Initiated Requests for Proposals
The Special Research Opportunity (SRO) program supports unique, emerging research opportunities that are timely, urgent, high-risk or have a strong potential for breakthrough that will be of substantial benefit to Canada. The program also supports pre-research activities to investigate and develop potential new collaborative projects necessary to respond to these national and international opportunities.
The special opportunity must be unique, unforeseen, and outside the normal evolution and advancement of a longer term research program. It is timely and linked to a window of opportunity that did not exist a year ago, and will not exist in the future.
In addition, the research project must be novel, high risk, or have a strong potential for breakthrough. Pre-research activities must have the potential to lead to a significant new collaborative project of benefit to Canada.
Advancements of ongoing research and collaboration, such as research supported through an NSERC Discovery Grant, do not constitute a special opportunity. It is understood and expected that new knowledge is developed and that discoveries and breakthroughs are made through all of NSERC’s grant programs. Discovery Grants also allow researchers to pursue new research interests within NSERC’s mandate.
Requests to the SRO program must not be eligible for support under other NSERC programs regardless of funding limitations. Requests to the SRO program may be researcher-initiated or NSERC-initiated through a Request for Proposals. Researcher-initiated proposals can be submitted at any time.
A special research opportunity may be undertaken by an individual or by a team of researchers. It may be specific to one discipline or interdisciplinary. It can be national or international in scope. The SRO program supports projects involving any field of the natural sciences or engineering. The proposed project may range from fundamental knowledge creation to knowledge application. Support will be for up to three years for a specific research project with defined milestones and objectives.
The SRO program also supports pre-research activities involving researchers in Canada and abroad. Typically, this support is for a workshop or a short series of meetings with identified objectives, a clear description of the rationale for the participation of each researcher, and a specific plan to establish an international and/or multidisciplinary research project that addresses a special opportunity.
Types of projects that may be considered by the SRO program:
There is no deadline for researcher-initiated submissions. Proposals must be submitted by an eligible individual or group of researchers. Partnerships and collaborations are encouraged where relevant.
Applying to the SRO program involves two phases.
Phase 1: Letter of Intent
The SRO program is highly selective, with pre-screening based on the Letter of Intent. Only proponents successful at the Letter of Intent stage will be invited to submit a full application. Applicants are encouraged to consult with an SRO Program Officer in preparing the Letter of Intent.
A Letter of Intent is submitted on Form 184. NSERC staff, with input from external referees and the SRO Steering Committee as required, use the letter of intent to assess the fit with the program. Decisions on Letters of Intent normally take four to eight weeks.
In the Letter of Intent, the onus is on the applicant to clearly explain:
Applicant(s) requesting funds from other supporting organizations can apply to the SRO program at the time that the opportunity becomes apparent. Applicants do not need to wait for funding decisions from other agencies in order to submit a Letter of Intent. NSERC funding could be offered conditional on successfully receiving funding from ther agencies.
Funding for equipment can be requested from the SRO program if it is essential for the proposed project, but this should not be the major thrust of the proposal.
Phase 2: Application
Full applications must be submitted within threemonths of the invitation from NSERC. The complete application will consist of the following:
Decisions on applications normally take up to four months.
The review process will depend on the specific nature of the proposal and the amount requested. Proposals requesting $25,000 per year or less may be assessed internally at NSERC. Proposals requesting more than this amount will generally be reviewed by external experts and, if sufficiently complex, may require evaluation by site visit or peer review committee.
The SRO program has a total annual budget of approximately $11 million dollars. The majority of the budget goes to ongoing commitments and Requests for Proposals. Each year, NSERC invests approximately $2 million to new investigator-initiated SRO projects.
For investigator-initiated awards, the program is structured in such a way that awards are granted throughout the year. Given the unpredictable nature of incoming proposals, both in terms of timing and amounts, it is possible that in some years the budget may be spent before the end of the fiscal period. Applicants are encouraged to consult with an SRO Program Officer if they have any questions concerning the SRO funding situation.
If the SRO budget for investigator-initiated awards runs out, NSERC will:
The waiting list will be established as funding decisions become available. In the event that new funding becomes available, NSERC will proceed with funding of projects on the waiting list as long as the projects continue to meet the program criteria and the opportunity has not passed. In the event that the funding available does not meet the amount required to finance all projects on the waiting list, the SRO Steering Committee will be asked to prioritize the applications based on the SRO selection criteria.
The selection criteria are:
Sample Questions to Guide the Evaluation of SRO Proposals
This table presents examples of questions that can be asked based on each SRO selection criteria. These are meant as a guide for the preparation of proposals and for reviewers. Not all questions will be asked for each proposal. This is not an exhaustive list.
|Quality of the Proposal|
For pre-research activities:
|Excellence of the Research Participant(s)|
|Nature and extent of the collaboration (if applicable)|
|Quality of the work plan (assessed at the application phase)|
|Training of highly qualified personnel (HQP) (if applicable)|
|Need for funds and suitability for SRO funding|
Each grantee will be required to follow the Terms and Conditions of their award and submit a final report. Funding is not renewable.
Grantees will be required to submit NSERC’s Grants in Aid of Research, Statement of Account (Form 300). Payment of the second instalment will depend on the use of funds and on the projected amount remaining in the grant account at the end of the first year. Interim progress reports may also be required, and progress on research may affect future instalments.