NSERC Discovery Horizons - 2021 Call for Proposals

Updated Information

Update to the Internal Deadline: Please do not "accept" the Terms and Conditions to finalize your LOI at this stage. Clicking accept will submit your LOI directly to NSERC.


Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)


Discovery Horizons

For More Information

NSERC - Discovery Horizons


Discovery Horizons grants support investigator-initiated individual and team projects that broadly integrate or transcend disciplines to advance knowledge in the natural sciences and engineering. Full applications submitted to this NSERC program will be reviewed by a tri-agency interdisciplinary peer review committee.

In partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), NSERC is piloting this new interdisciplinary peer review mechanism. The shared peer review committee will assess all full applications submitted to NSERC’s Discovery Horizons program, as well as relevant applications submitted to SSHRC’s Insight Grants and CIHR’s Project Grants programs.

In the context of this funding opportunity, the term “interdisciplinary” should be understood to fully encompass all research that connects, crosses or falls in between the traditional disciplines of the three agencies, including transdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, convergence research and other approaches at the interface.


The Discovery Horizons program provides NSERC’s entry-point to the tri-agency interdisciplinary peer-review mechanism. It supports Discovery research projects that would significantly benefit from being assessed by a tri-agency interdisciplinary peer review committee and aims to:

  1. answer natural sciences and engineering (NSE) research questions that are best addressed through interdisciplinary approaches
  2. advance NSE disciplines through cross-fertilization and new ways of thinking about research questions, ideas and frameworks; approaches and methods; platforms, tools and infrastructure; people, partners and trainees
  3. provide leading-edge NSE training for highly qualified personnel (HQP) in interdisciplinary research environments


Applicants and co-applicants

Both individuals and teams may apply to the Discovery Horizons program. The applicant and any co-applicants must all be eligible to hold NSERC funding. One person must be designated to administer the grant. This person is the “applicant” and is responsible for completing and submitting the full application on behalf of the team. NSERC’s eligibility criteria for faculty can provide more information on the role of applicants and co-applicants.

There are no requirements with respect to team size or composition. However, individuals are only allowed to participate in one Discovery Horizons application, as either an applicant or co-applicant, per competition cycle.

Note that the applicant may add or remove invitations to co-applicants and collaborators at both phases of the application process (LOI and full application).


Collaborators contribute to the execution of research activities but do not have access to grant funds. Any individual whose contributions to the project will be supervised by a member of the research team and/or by another collaborator cannot be considered a collaborator.

Applicant categories

Applicants and co-applicants to the Discovery Horizons program are categorized as either early career researchers or established researchers. Refer to the Discovery Grants applicant categories page for more information. Applicant categorization is the responsibility of NSERC staff and is done based on the information provided in the application.

Subject matter eligibility and funding from other sources

An eligible proposal must meet both of the following criteria:

  1. Its primary objective must be to advance knowledge in the natural sciences or engineering
  2. It must integrate or transcend disciplines in ways that would significantly benefit from peer review by a tri-agency interdisciplinary committee

The tri-agency interdisciplinary peer review mechanism will assess projects submitted to all three federal granting agencies. Applications should be submitted to the agency that is responsible for the dominant research discipline(s) or area(s). Refer to Selecting the appropriate federal granting agency, and the Addendum to the guidelines for the eligibility of applications related to health for further information.

Applications must indicate that the funds requested from the Discovery Horizons program will be for expenses that are distinct from those covered by support from other sources. For funding applied for, you must indicate that there will be no duplication of funding for the same expense(s) and explain how funds will be used if all applications are successful.

Funding Availability

Discovery Horizon grants are expected to be valued from $50K–$100K per year. For this pilot year, NSERC is expecting to award approximately 10–20 grants.

Indirect Costs


Project Duration

Up to five years.

Special Notes

Equity, diversity and inclusion

NSERC is acting on the evidence that achieving a more equitable, diverse and inclusive Canadian research enterprise is essential to creating the excellent, innovative and impactful research necessary to advance knowledge and understanding, and to respond to local, national and global challenges. This principle informs the commitments described in the Tri-agency statement on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

Applicants are expected to increase the inclusion and advancement of under-represented groups in the natural sciences and engineering, as one means to enhance excellence in research and training. Where applicable, consideration of sex, gender and diversity in the research design should be addressed in the proposal. Equity, diversity and inclusion considerations should be developed into the rationale for the composition of research teams, including trainees. For more information, applicants should refer to the application instructions and the Guide for applicants: Considering equity, diversity and inclusion in your application.

All applicants to any tri-agency program are asked to voluntarily provide self-identification information to aid efforts to strengthen equity, diversity and inclusion in Canada’s research sector. Discovery Horizons applicants and co-applicants will also be asked to provide consent for NSERC to potentially use their self-identification information to improve equity and diversity in funding decisions. Priority may be given to letters of intent and/or applications from those who self-identify as members of underrepresented groups, amongst similarly ranked LOIs and applications.

Please note that research activities carried out in the context of COVID-19 need to adhere to the University of Guelph COVID-19 research principles, policies, guidelines and processes as they may be updated from time to time and communicated on the Office of Research web-page.


If College-level review is required, your College will communicate its earlier internal deadlines.

Internal Deadline

Please provide the completed LOI form along with a signed OR-5 form to research.services@uoguelph.ca
Note: Please do not "accept" the Terms and Conditions to finalize your LOI at this stage. Clicking accept will submit your LOI directly to NSERC.

External Deadline

Applicant to submit LOI using the Convergence Portal.

Please note: a limited number of applicants will be invited to submit a full application based on a relevance review of their LOI.

Internal Deadline

Please submit the full application to research.services@uoguelph.ca.

External Deadline

Applicant to submit full application using the Convergence Portal.

How to Apply

The Discovery Horizons application process has two stages.

Letter of intent (Deadline: June 15, 2021)

The LOI is mandatory and includes a brief summary and responses to the four points below.  Reviewers will assess program fit, to identify a limited number of LOI applicants who will be invited (no later than August 16) to submit a full application.

  1. Explain how this project would benefit from being assessed by a tri-agency interdisciplinary peer review committee, as opposed to a joint review by NSERC's Discovery Grants evaluation groups
  2. Demonstrate that the interdisciplinary approach is essential to achieving the project goals
  3. Describe how the interdisciplinary approach enriches HQP training
  4. Demonstrate that the interdisciplinary elements are integrated and inseparable (i.e., not sub-projects that could be reviewed on their own merit)

See the instructions for completing a letter of intent for more details.

Full application (Deadline: October 18, 2021)

Selected applicants will be invited to submit a full proposal and will receive further guidance on application requirements with that invitation. Full applications will need to address the selection criteria listed below, in a ten-page (max) research proposal. The full application instructions (forthcoming) will provide more details.

For Questions, please contact

For more information, please contact horizons@nserc-crsng.gc.ca.

Office of Research

Vanessa Knox, Awards and Agreements Officer
Research Services Office
519-824-4120 x53429

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