Tri-Agency New Frontiers in Research Fund - Exploration Grant 2019

Updated Information

​Attachment ​section updated with Full Application Webinar. How to Apply section updated with links to the Full Application Webinar for Applicants/Research Administrators. 


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 2019

For More Information

NFRF - 2019 Exploration Competition

2019 Exploration Competition - NOI Submission Guidelines

2019 Exploration Competition - LOI Submission Guidelines

2019 Exploration Competition - Full Application Submission Guidelines

Frequently Asked Questions

2018 Feedback for Applicants

2018 Co-Chairs Report

Current Review Merit Indicators 

Best Practices in EDI (Requirement for Full Application Stage)



Program Description

The objective of the Exploration stream of the NFRF program is to support high risk, high reward and interdisciplinary research that is not easily supported through funding opportunities currently offered by the three agencies. It seeks to inspire projects that bring disciplines together beyond traditional disciplinary or common interdisciplinary approaches by research teams with the capacity to explore something new, which might fail but has the potential for significant impact. Exploration grants aim to have a variety of types of impacts, some of which might be social, economic, scientific, artistic or cultural. This is not an exhaustive list; other types of impacts are also recognized.   

Subject Matter (Fit to Program)

Exploration grants support projects that are high risk, high reward and interdisciplinary. They may involve any disciplines, thematic areas, approaches or subject areas eligible for funding across the tri-agencies.

To meet the minimum requirement to be considered interdisciplinary, 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). Note that projects that incorporate two disciplines with a long and established tradition of working together (e.g., biology and chemistry or psychology and education) may satisfy the above requirement but not meet the expectations of the program. The onus is on the applicant to explain the novelty of the interdisciplinary approach to justify the fit to program.  

Proposed projects may range from basic research to development. Eligible projects include those with specific short- to medium-term objectives, as well as discrete phases in programs of longer-range research.

The following elements are considered to be indicative of projects that do not meet program expectations with regard to high risk, and are therefore discouraged: research that is the obvious next step; data collection without interpreting underlying mechanisms; professional practice or consulting services (contract research); the set-up and operational management of an institute or a formal or informal group of researchers (network); curriculum development; organization of a conference or workshop; digitization of a collection or creation of a database; the application of existing technology or the commercialization of a product/process; routine analyses; and/or the acquisition and maintenance of scientific equipment.

Applications for projects that are the same or similar, in whole or in part, to ones that have been funded by other agency programs should not be submitted to the NFRF program. Applications for the same or similar projects that have been unsuccessful in other agency programs may be submitted to the NFRF program in cases where the reason for the lack of success is the high risk and/or interdisciplinary nature of the project, rather than limited funds in a highly competitive pool. Exploration grants are intended to fund projects that are not easily funded through existing agency programs. Applications for the same or very similar research cannot be simultaneously submitted to two different funding opportunities, including to funding opportunities at different agencies.

Applications not meeting any of the requirements outlined above may be withdrawn at any point in the competition or have their NFRF grant terminated (with the NPI's primary affiliation being responsible for reimbursing the total amount of the grant) if terminated at a later date.  

Applicants are strongly encouraged to review the Feedback to Applicants and the Report from the Co-Chairs from the inaugural (2018) Exploration competition for additional tips regarding subject matter and preparation of submissions.


To encourage projects that push the boundaries in terms of interdisciplinarity, proposals must be submitted by research teams composed of at least two individuals. This minimum applies to all stages of the competition—Notice of Intent to Apply (NOI), Letter of Intent to Apply (LOI) and Full Application. In addition to the nominated principal investigator (NPI), the team must include either a co-principal investigator or a co-applicant. Teams may include up to one co-principal investigator and any number of co-applicants and/or collaborators. The NPI and team members can be from any discipline(s).  

To ensure that Exploration grants support high risk, high reward projects across the broadest spectrum of disciplines, individuals may participate in only one Exploration stream application or grant at one time. Individuals can participate in only one application as either an NPI, a co-principal investigator or a co-applicant. Individuals cannot participate in any of these roles if they are a grantee or co-grantee on an active Exploration grant. These restrictions do not apply to collaborators.

For a proposal to be considered to be led by Early Career Researchers (ECRs), both the NPI and co-principal investigator (if applicable) must be ECR. For competitions under the Exploration stream, ECRs are defined as individuals who have five years or less experience since their first academic appointment as of the first of the month in which the competition was launched (July 1, 2019, for this competition), with the exception of career interruptions (e.g., maternity or parental leave, extended sick leave, clinical training and family care) that occurred after their appointment. Part-time positions are also taken into consideration. For maternity or parental leave, the five-year window is extended by an amount equal to twice the time interruption taken. In the case of a first academic appointment having been a part-time appointment/position, the years of experience following it are counted at 50% until the time of an appointment to a full-time academic position.

Funding Availability

$25,000,000 over two years. A minimum of 100 grants will be awarded. A proportion of awards equal to the proportion of applications received from early career researchers (ECR's) will be reserved for ECR's.

Maximum Project Value

Up to $125,000 per year (including indirect costs). Maximum direct costs per year is $100,000 (with an additional $25,000 indirect costs). 

Indirect Costs


Project Duration

Up to two years.

Special Notes

Research Team

Nominated Principal Investigator (NPI):

  • is responsible for the direction of the project and coordinating proposed activities, in conjunction with the co-principal investigator (if applicable);

  • completes and submits the NOI, LOI and application through the research administrator at their institution;

  • assumes the administrative and financial responsibility for the grant; and

  • receives all related correspondence from the agencies.

The NPI must be considered an independent researcher at their primary affiliation, defined as the primary organization where the individual is employed, is appointed or conducts research.

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 March 31, 2020;

    • 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 as NPI's.

Co-principal Investigator

The co-principal investigator shares responsibility with the NPI for the direction of the proposed activities and may access grant funds.

The co-principal investigator must also be considered an independent researcher and may not be affiliated with a federal, provincial, territorial or municipal government department or a for-profit organization. Students, postdoctoral fellows, research associates, etc. are not eligible to participate as a co-principal investigator.


Co-applicants contribute to the execution of the research project and may access grant funds. 

Co-applicants can be independent researchers 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. To be eligible as a co-applicant, researchers and professors must be considered independent researchers. Co-applicants may not be affiliated with a federal, provincial, territorial or municipal government department or a for-profit organization. Students, postdoctoral fellows, research associates, etc. are not eligible to participate as a co-applicant.


Collaborators contribute to the execution of research activities but do not have access to grant funds.

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 may include individuals affiliated with a federal, provincial, territorial or municipal government department or a for-profit organization. Any individual whose contributions to the project will be supervised by the NPI, co-principal investigator, co-applicant and/or another collaborator cannot be considered a collaborator.


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

Internal Deadline

Stage 1: Notification of Intent to Apply (NOI)
The Nominated Principal Investigator must submit their NOI through the Convergence Portal by 9:00am on Tuesday, August 6th, 2019. The NOI is mandatory to progress to the next stage. An OR-5 form is not required at this stage.

Please see Submission Guide for NOI for more information.

External Deadline

Stage 1: NOI
The Office of Research Services will submit the completed NOI directly through the Convergence Portal on behalf of the research team. 

Please Note: Once an NOI has been submitted by ORS, the NPI, co-principal investigator and/or co-applicants may not remove themselves from the project to join a different project within the Exploration stream.

Internal Deadline

Stage 2: Letter of Intent to Apply (LOI)
The Nominated Principal Investigator must submit their completed Letter of Intent (LOI) in the Convergence Portal and submit a signed OR-5 to This deadline is to allow the Office of Research Services time to verify eligibility of co-applicants, as well as verifying the appropriate indirect costs are included in the budget.

Please see Submission Guide for LOI for more information.

External Deadline

Stage 2: LOI
The Office of Research Services will submit the completed LOI directly through the Convergence Portal on behalf of the research team. 

Internal Deadline

Stage 3 (If Invited): Full Application
If invited to Full Application, the Nominated Principal Investigator must submit their completed Full Application in the Convergence Portal, and notify

Please see Submission Guide for Application for more information. 

External Deadline

Stage 3 (If Invited): Full Application
The Office of Research Services will submit the completed Full Application directly through the Convergence Portal on behalf of the research team. 

How to Apply

Please see the Submission Guidelines for submitting an NOI, LOI, and Full Application, linked in the 'For More Information' section. 

Please see below for links to the recording of the NOI Webinar for Applicants:

English Recording - July 17        July 17th            Password: pVk8MpeC

French Recording - July 15        July 15th             Password: nNyZuJk3​

Please see below for links to the recording of the LOI Webinar for Applicants:

English Recording - Aug 14        August 14th       Password: PqRkN9vY

French Recording - Aug 15        August 15th         Password: eJQuvmn2

Please see below for links to the Full Application Webinar for Applicants/Research Administrators:
For applicants and research administrators:
English Recording     November 5th     Password: mEEn7Hvf
French Recording     November 5th     Password: 3iMnCnA4

Information For Co-applicants

If you are a formal Co-Principal Investigator or Co-Applicant on an NFRF Exploration Grant 2019 proposal led by a Nominated Principal Investigator at another institution, you are required to submit a copy of the Letter of Intent to Apply (LOI) and a signed OR-5 form to at the LOI Internal Deadline, August 27th, 2019.


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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