Alliance Grants: How Partnering with Organizations Can Reduce Your Costs

Alliance Grants: How Partnering with Organizations Can Reduce Your Costs

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) has just recently announced the introduction of Alliance grants. These grants are designed to support research collaborations within Canada’s R&D system through partner organizations. Different sources of funding help you to cover the costs of your project through cash contributions from partner organizations, universities, and other external funding sources.

NSERC also provides funds to cover the direct costs related to your project and any other related research. The amount of funding granted by NSERC is proportionate to the funds provided by partner organizations on a cost-sharing basis.

If you prefer to talk to a grant specialist and learn more about Alliance Grant, EVAMAX can help you.   

Project Budget Table

There are certain costs that can or can not be considered as NSERC related expenses. The list below outlines expenses that are qualified as NSERC-eligible.

  • Direct costs of research
  • Salary support for research trainees, of all qualifications and skill levels, to perform research and related training
  • Materials and supplies
  • Activities that support collaborations and knowledge mobilization related to the project
  • Activities to develop and grow the research collaborations with the partner organizations
  • Costs of equipment provided that the equipment is essential to achieving the objectives of the research project and is incremental to the equipment already available for use
  • Project management costs (for large or multi-party projects only)

Related: SRED: The most generous R&D cash refund Program

Calculating the NSERC Funding Through Cost-Sharing

The Alliance grant is calculated in correspondence to cash contributions from partner organizations who are recognized for cost-sharing. These cash contributions incorporate any funding received to start the project up to 3 months prior to submitting the application, excluding contributions from the university, other funders, and non-recognized cost-sharing partner organizations.

The tables below outline the two cost-sharing options offered by NSERC. Depending on the size and type of partner organizations involved, NSERC will cover a certain percentage of your costs through Alliance grants.

The amount of funding to request from NSERC is calculated by multiplying the applicable cost-sharing percentage by the total cost of the project. Ensure you deduct any contributions from the university, other funders or partner organizations not recognized for cost-sharing from the total project cost before multiplying. EVAMAX can assist your application by providing clarification and ensuring you are claiming all entitled benefits.

Option 1

  • Applications per year: no limit
  • Grant size: $20,000 to $1 million per year
  • Duration: 1 to 5 years
Size of Partner Organization Type of Partnership NSERC Contributions to Project Costs
Large organizations, including private, public and not-for-profit organizations (500 or more employees globally) As a sole partner organization or in partnership exclusively with other large organizations 50% (1:1 leverage)
As a partner with small and medium-sized enterprises such as in a value or supply chain relationship, or with other sectors (private, public, not-for-profit) 66% (2:1 leverage)
Small and medium-sized private, public or not-for-profit organizations (fewer than 500 employees globally) As a sole partner organization or in partnership with other sectors (private, public or not-for-profit) 66% (2:1 leverage)

Related: Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP)

Option 2

  • Applications within a 12-month period:
    • Two for non-academic partners
    • Two for applicants (one as the principal investigator, one as the co-applicant)
  • Grant size: $20,000 to $200,000 per year
  • Duration: 1 to 5 years
Size of Partner Organizations Type of Partnership NSERC Contribution to Project Costs
All Partner sizes

Partnership must include one organization that is recognized for NSERC cost-sharing

Exclusively not-for-profit and public partner organizations 100%
Any private-sector partner organization; this option requires a 10% cash contribution from the combined partner organizations 90%

Related: NSERC: Engage Grants

 Reviewing and Evaluating Your Proposal

The NSERC analyzes each application meticulously and follows a specific approach valuing both financial and non-financial aspects of a company. See below for the four main criterion the NSERC uses to evaluate proposals.

  • Relevance and Outcomes
    • The NSERC examines the impacts of the intended outcomes of the proposal. The environmental, economic and social influences of the outcomes should be beneficial to Canada.
    • The assessment of one’s proposal will also be based on the need and potential of the outcomes of their project
  • Partnership
    • The type, role, and contributions from partner organizations are taken into consideration when evaluating Alliance applications
  • Quality of Proposal
    • NSERC heavily considers the clarity, appropriateness, and justification for expenditures and outcomes
    • It is important to identify how you monitor your progress and evaluate the outcomes of your project
  • Training
    • Ensure there are opportunities to train employees and other necessary parties, regardless of their qualifications
    • NSERC values diversity and gender equity

With regards to the evaluation criteria above, NSERC uses different assessment tools to analyze your proposal.

  • Approximate thresholds
Small Project Medium Project Large Project
The average annual request of $20,000 or more, up to $30,000 for 1 to 5 years The average annual request of more than $30,000 and up to $300,000 for 1 to 5 years The average annual request of more than $300,000 and up to $1,000,000 for to 1 to 5 years
  • Review mechanisms
Small Project Medium Project Large Project
NSERC File Managers

Evaluation supported by existing NSERC peer review (such as Discovery Grant rating, active Canada Research Chair holders, prior Partnership grants)

If no existing NSERC peer review evidence is available then external reviewers will be used

External Reviewers

With expertise directly related to the proposal


Provide review based on all evaluation criteria

Ad hoc committee of external reviewers

With expertise directly related to the proposal


Provide review based on all evaluation criteria

  • Expected decision time
Small Project Medium Project Large Project
4 weeks 8-12 weeks 12-16 weeks
  • Funding decisions
    • Funds other than those provided by NSERC or cost-sharing can be listed in the project budget table. These funds are assessed when determining the merit of the proposal based on the following criteria
      • How much value they add to the project
      • How appropriate they are for the size of the project
      • How appropriate they are for the partner organization’s role and the desired outcome of the project
    • Each of the four evaluation criterion stated previously are ranked based on indicators of merit. The purpose of this is to determine priority for small, medium and large projects. The range of the merit indicators include:
      • Exceptional
      • Exceeds
      • Meets
      • Does not satisfy

As stated before, Alliance grants were implemented to support research collaborations with partner organizations. NSERC supports university students, promotes discovery research and fosters innovation by providing incentives for companies to participate in postsecondary research projects.

If you are interested with Alliance grant or other sources of NSERC funding, contact EVAMAX for a free consultation.


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