Tri-Agency New Frontiers in Research Fund - Exploration Grant

Updated Information

January 21, 2019

Internal deadline changed:

  • FROM: January 31, 2019
  • TO: February 7, 2019

External deadline changed:

  • FROM: February 7, 2019
  • TO: February 14, 2019

December 19, 2018

Internal deadline added: 

  • January 21, 2019, 12:00pm
  • Optional non-scientific strategic review: Applicants may request an optional non-scientific review by emailing their draft plan of work and complete NOI along with the signed OR-5 form to with "NFRF OPTIONAL REVIEW" in the subject line.


Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat (TIPS),on behalf of Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).  


New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) - Exploration Grants

For More Information

New Frontiers Call - Inaugural Competition Announcement

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


The New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) will invest $275 million over the next five years, and $65 million ongoing, to support international, interdisciplinary, fast-breaking and high-risk research. It is comprised of three streams to support groundbreaking research: 

  • Exploration will generate opportunities for Canada to build strength in high-risk, high-reward and interdisciplinary research;
  • Transformation will provide large-scale support for Canada to build strength and leadership in interdisciplinary and transformative research; and 
  • International will enhance opportunities for Canadian researchers to participate in research with international partners.

The Canada Research Coordinating Committee (CRCC) designed the fund following a comprehensive national consultation, which involved Canadian researchers, research administrators, stakeholders and the public. The fund is administered by the Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat (TIPS), which is housed within the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), on behalf of Canada’s three research granting agencies:  the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and SSHRC.  

The objective of this inaugural competition is to generate opportunities for early career researchers (ECRs) to conduct high-risk, high-reward and interdisciplinary research not available through funding opportunities currently offered by the three agencies. It seeks to inspire highly innovative projects that defy current research paradigms, propose a unique scientific direction, bring disciplines together beyond the traditional disciplinary approaches, and/or use different perspectives to solve existing problems.


This call is open to early career researchers only.

Early career researchers (ECR) are defined, in the context of this call, as individuals who have five years or less experience since their first academic appointment as of the NOI deadline, with the exception of career interruptions. Additional details are available in the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

Applications may be submitted by an individual researcher (the nominated principal investigator) or a team of researchers. In addition to the nominated principal investigator, a team may include one co-principal investigator, and any number of co-applicants, and/or collaborators.

Individuals can participate in only one application as a nominated principal investigator, co-principal investigator, or co-applicant in this competition. Furthermore, for future Exploration competitions, individuals cannot participate as a nominated principal investigator, co-principal investigator or co-applicant on a proposal if they are already a grantee or co-grantee of an Exploration award. This restriction does not apply to collaborators.

Nominated principal investigator

The nominated principal investigator must be an ECR and must be considered an independent researcher at their primary affiliation.

An independent researcher is an individual who:

  • engages in research-related activities that are not under the direction of another individual; and
  • has an academic or research appointment that:
    • commences by the effective date of funding;
    • allows the individual to pursue the proposed research project, to engage in independent research activities for the entire duration of the funding, to supervise trainees (if applicable, as per his or her institution’s policy), and to publish the research results; and
    • obliges the individual to comply with institutional policies concerning the conduct of research, the supervision of trainees (if applicable) and the employment conditions of staff paid with tri-agency funding.

Students, postdoctoral fellows, research associates, etc. are not eligible to apply.

The nominated principal investigator’s primary affiliation must be with a Canadian institution holding full institutional eligibility with one of the agencies. The nominated principal investigator will:

  • be responsible for the direction of the proposed activities, with the co-principal investigator (if applicable);
  • assume the administrative and financial responsibility for the grant; and
  • receive all related correspondence from the agencies.

Co-principal investigator

The co-principal investigator must be considered an independent researcher. If their affiliation is with an academic institution, they must also qualify as an ECR. They must not be affiliated with a federal, provincial, territorial or municipal government department or a for-profit organization. The co-principal investigator shares responsibility for the direction of the proposed activities.


Co-applicants contribute to the proposed activities and do not need to be ECRs.  For the inaugural competition, co-applicants cannot be affiliated with a federal, provincial, territorial or municipal government department, or a for-profit organization. Co-applicants can be independent researcher(s) or can be, but are not limited to, practitioners, policy-makers, educators, decision-makers, health-care administrators, Indigenous elders, Indigenous knowledge keepers, community leaders, or individuals working for a charity.


Collaborators do not need to be affiliated with an eligible institution. Any individual who will contribute to the project is eligible to be a collaborator. Collaborators do not have access to grant funds and are expected to bring their own resources. Collaborators do not include individuals whose activities on the project will be supervised by the nominated principal investigator, co-principal investigator or co-applicants.

Subject matter

  • Projects must be high-risk and high-reward and may involve any disciplines, thematic areas, approaches or subject areas eligible for funding across the tri-agencies.
  • Projects must be interdisciplinary. The nominated principal investigator and team members (if applicable) can be from any discipline, but the proposed research project must include elements from at least two different disciplines (as defined by a group-level classification based on the Canadian Research and Development Classification).
  • Projects may range in value and duration, up to $250,000 over two years ($125,000 per year) and can be at any point in the research and development spectrum. Eligible projects include those with specific short- to medium-term objectives, as well as discrete phases in a program of longer-range research.
  • Projects are not eligible if they include any of the following: a focus on the application of existing technology; provide routine analyses; collect data without interpreting underlying mechanisms; provide professional practice or consulting services (contract research); involve the set-up and operational management of an institute, a formal or informal group of researchers (network); and/or are principally associated with the acquisition and maintenance of scientific equipment, curriculum development, organization of a conference or workshop, digitization of a collection, or creation of a database.

Exploration grant projects must be innovative in nature and use unconventional approaches or ideas to achieve high-risk and high-reward interdisciplinary research. Therefore, projects are also not eligible if they: focus solely on research within a single discipline; propose research that is the obvious next step; would likely be funded through another program offered at one of the three agencies; have not taken into consideration sex- and gender-based analysis (if applicable); or do not support equity, diversity and inclusion in their team and training environment.

Maximum Project Value

Up to $125,00 per year (including indirect costs)

Indirect Costs

All Applications must include 25% indirect cost rate.

Project Duration

Up to two (2) years, commencing March 29, 2019 


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

External Deadline

The Principal Investigator will submit the complete NOI directly to the Sponsor using the Convergence Portal on behalf of the research team. Please indicate your intention to submit an NOI to your College as per "How to Apply" section. An OR-5 form is not required at this stage.

Please consult: "Completing the NOI"

Internal Deadline

Optional non-scientific strategic review: Applicants may request an optional non-scientific review by emailing their draft plan of work and complete NOI along with the signed OR-5 form to with "NFRF OPTIONAL REVIEW" in the subject line.

Internal Deadline

Principal Investigator must submit a complete, signed OR-5 form along with a copy of the complete Full Application to

The Full Application will be available on the Convergence Portal as of January 14, 2019.

External Deadline

Office of Research Services will forward the complete Application on behalf of the researcher/ research team to the Sponsor.

How to Apply

Interested applicants must communicate their intention to apply to this call to your Associate Dean of Research (ADR) and/or College Research Manager (CRM) prior to submitting an official NOI. Please check with your College regarding any additional internal deadlines for this call. 

To apply for an Exploration grant, nominated principal investigators must first submit a notice of intent to apply (NOI) by the deadline date. The NOI is a mandatory step in the application process. 

Nominated principal investigators, along with the co-principal investigator and co-applicants (if applicable), must then complete and submit the Application by the deadline date.

Applicants must complete both the NOI and application using the Convergence Portal, following the accompanying instructions.

Note: the Convergence Portal will be open as of December 17, 2018. Nominated principal investigators will be able to create the NOI as of this date, and the application as of January 14, 2019.

The NOI will be submitted directly by the principal investigator. 

The Application will be submitted to the Office of Research, who will forward the complete submission on behalf of the principal investigator.

Information For Co-applicants

If you are a formal Co-Principal Investigator or Co-Applicant on a Full Application that will be led by a Principal Investigator at another institution, you are required to submit a signed OR-5 form and copy of the Application (including budget details) to at least one (1) week ahead of the External Deadline.

For Questions, please contact

If you have questions:

Office of Research

Carolyn Osborn, Director, Grants & Contracts
Research Services Office
519-824-4120 x52935

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