In your application, you will be able to describe how the COVID-19 pandemic may have affected your training or research activities during the past few months, in order for this information to be considered in the evaluation of your application. Please refer to the document “Considering the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in the evaluation of funding applications” for further information.
This program refers to the FRQ’s Common General Rules CGR, which govern all Fonds de recherche du Québec — Nature et technologies (FRQNT) programming. This document provides rules specifically applicable to the Innovation catalyst: college-university cluster (RIC) program, which take precedence over the CGR.
The link to the FRQnet Electronic Portfolio and the forms associated with this competition are available under the Portal Access tab of the website. More information is available in the About FRQnet section. It is the applicant’s responsibility to choose the correct application form. Should an error occur, the Fonds will not transfer the application from one program to another and the application will be deemed ineligible.
before 4 p.m. on November 20, 2020.
The Fonds requires the Canadian Common CV and its PDF file of detailed contributions to be included in the appropriate section of the E-portfolio. The applicant must complete the Fonds Nature et technologies version of the Canadian Common CV, update this document within 12 months prior to the competition deadline, and complete the Detailed Contributions file in due form. Please refer to the Application Presentation Standards – FRQNT document, available in the program’s Toolbox, for complete presentation instructions.
Table of contents
- Eligibility requirements
- Contents of the funding application and required documents
- Procedure for submitting a letter of intent and funding application
- Assessment of letters of intent and applications
- Description and nature of funding
- Duration and management of the grant
- Announcement of results
- Ethics and the responsible conduct of research
- Integrity of the assessment process
- Equity, diversity and inclusion
- Liability of the Fonds
- False or misleading information
- General considerations
- Effective date
- Contact person for this program
A college-based innovation catalyst (RIC) brings together researchers from colleges, college centres for technology transfer (CCTT) and universities to address the needs of key knowledge users and accelerate the sharing of research results (practitioners).
The objectives of the RIC program are to:
- Foster and consolidate the development of sustainable interfaces between research teams from colleges, college research centres, CCTTs and universities for the benefit of practitioners;
- Strengthen and support the emergence of centres of research excellence around structuring activities, that are part of provincial, national or even international initiatives;
- Contribute to the development of priority research areas for Québec, i.e. those defined in various government policies or strategies.
More specifically, this funding program aims to:
a. Encourage the pooling of college and university expertise to address the research needs of practitioners;
b. Encourage the development of mechanisms enabling the practice setting to express its needs for research and the development of skills;
c. Facilitate the transfer of knowledge and the uptake of research results and the establishment of sustainable partnerships with practitioners (public and private);
d. Increase the emergence of stimulating and quality host environments for the training of highly qualified personnel in response to the needs of practitioners;
e. Encourage the consolidation and development of collaborations between post-secondary institutions;
f. Facilitate the emergence or consolidation of groups of researchers from different disciplines and backgrounds to identify potential solutions for the user community;
g. By bringing together experts, contribute to the integration of researchers into provincial, national, and even international initiatives;
h. Exert a significant leverage effect to maximize investments in research and development in priority research areas for Québec.
The purposes of an RIC are:
- To be at the forefront of sharing expertise among researchers in colleges, CCTTs and universities for the benefit of practice environments;
- The mobilization and dissemination of knowledge and/or technologies with high development potential for Quebec.
2. Eligibility requirements
This program is intended for college institutions recognized by the FRQ to manage funding in fields covered by the Fonds de recherche du Québec-Nature et technologies (FRQNT). The leader of an RIC must be affiliated with a college or CCTT recognized by the FRQNT.
2.1 Innovation cluster
To be eligible, an RIC must:
2.1.1 Present a coherent research program that integrates activities oriented towards the needs of the user community;
2.1.2 Respond to the strategic plans of the institutions represented in the RIC with respect to research;
2.1.3 Respond to the action plans and/or strategic plans of the CCTTs and college research centres;
2.1.4 Have an organizational governance structure specific to the RIC and distinct from that of a college institution, a department, a CCTT or a national school;
2.1.5 Be located within a college institution recognized by the Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ) to manage funding;
2.1.6 Establish a new partnership between the members from colleges, CCTTs and universities and the members from the practitioners;
2.1.7 Have a minimum of 9 members and a maximum of 20 members;
2.1.8 Two-thirds of its members must be from colleges and/or CCTTs;
2.1.9 The other third of its members must include:
- A minimum of one member and a maximum of 3 members from universities AND
- A minimum of 2 members representing the practitioner;
2.1.10 80% of its members, including the cluster leader, must work in disciplinary fields supported by the FRQNT.
Refer to Section 2.3 for further details on members and their statuses.
2.2 Leader of the RIC
The RIC leader has the role of principal investigator in the application.
Eligibility requirements for the role of principal investigator
A college researcher, as defined in the CGR (Status 3) who meets the following conditions:
2.2.1 Has a master’s or PhD and possess the professional autonomy required to direct research projects and supervise students;
The managing institution must be able to confirm, at each grant instalment and for the entire duration of funding, that the RIC leader meets the following conditions:
2.2.2 Is employed full-time for at least two consecutive terms per year.
2.2.3 The RIC leader holds:
a. A position as a college-level professor;
b. A position as a CCTT or college research centre researcher;
c. A position in a college in which at least 75% of their workload is dedicated to research activities. The workload is calculated based on the official school calendar established for Cégeps by the Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur (MÉES) i.e. from July 1 to June 30 of each year.
The following are not eligible to lead an RIC:
2.2.4 Individuals who do not meet the eligibility requirements listed above;
2.2.5 Individuals who hold a position as an associate professor in a university potentially related to this application.
2.2.6 Researchers whose work is in a field that is not covered by the Fonds de recherche du Québec — Nature et technologies (FRQNT).
2.3 RIC members
The cluster must have a minimum of 9 members and a maximum of 20 members. Each post-secondary institution may be represented by a maximum of 2 people and the practitioners by a minimum of 2 people.
RIC members have the role of co-investigator and must have one of the following statuses as defined in the CGR:
2.3.1 College researcher (Status 3)
2.3.2 College research centre researcher;
2.3.3 University researcher (Status 1);
2.3.4 Practitioner (Status 4c);
RIC members with Status 3 (CGR) and the status of College research centre researcher are subject to the same eligibility requirements as the cluster leader. In addition, those who meet the conditions set out in 2.2.5 and 2.2.6 are also eligible.
RIC members with Statuses 1 and 4c (CGR) may work in areas not covered by the Fonds de recherche du Québec — Nature et technologies (FRQNT).
In an effort to foster the intersectorality of the RIC, researchers working in disciplinary fields covered by the Fonds Société et culture (FRQSC) and Santé (FRQS) will be admitted as members of the RIC, while respecting the condition set out in 2.1.10.
2.4 Managing institution, partner institutions and practitioner
The institution of the principal investigator submitting the application (RIC leader) is designated as the managing institution.
The managing institution must be a college institution recognized by the Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ) to manage funding.
At the time of submission of the RIC application, the managing institution must formally affirm its support.
All other institutions comprising the RIC will be considered partner institutions.
The members representing partner institutions therefore all have the role of co-investigator.
Members representing user communities are identified as practitioner and assume the role of co-investigator (Status 4c). They receive no remuneration under the grant for their contribution to the cluster.
2.5 Support from the institutions and practitioners
In the creation of a RIC, the cluster must receive support from the post-secondary institutions and the practitioners that will use the research knowledge. A minimum additional contribution equal to 25% of the grant is required, broken down as follows: 10% in cash and 15% in kind in the form of human and/or material resources.
The cash contribution cannot come entirely by the managing institution. It must be the sum of contributions from the managing institution and all partner institutions and practitioners.
Contribution from the managing institution and all partner institutions and practitioners
Per year: $150,000
Over 3 years: $450,000
The financial contribution may be spread unevenly between years, as long as the total contribution required for the duration of the grant is respected.
At the application request stage, financial and in-kind contributions must be entered in the section Contributions from project partners and not added to the grant amount in the budget section of the form.
2.6 Exclusions and special conditions.
The RIC leader and the managing institution, as well as the co-investigators from the cluster’s partner institutions, can only present or be part of one letter of intent under this competition.
Any combination of managing institution and partner institutions that presents an application to create an RIC with a theme that is essentially the same as that of a Strategic cluster will be refused.
Good to know
3. Contents of the funding application and required documents
All attachments and sections of the electronic forms, including the Detailed Contributions attachment, must meet the requirements presented in the Application Presentation Standards — FRQNT document, which can be accessed in the program Toolbox. Failure to comply with these requirements will result in the letter of intent or application being deemed INADMISSIBLE.
3.1 Stage 1: Letter of intent form
The letter of intent confirms relevance through a 4-page document presenting a description and the relevance of the RIC. See the section Assessment of letters of intent and applications for the applicable criteria.
The following documents must be added in the Other Documents section of the Letter of Intent form:
a. A letter of commitment form from the managing institution;
b. A contribution agreement form from the managing institution and each partner institution and for each individual from a practice setting.
These forms are available on the competition web page under Toolbox. Each form must be signed by an executive director or authorized manager of the institution, or by the individual from a practice setting or a person with the authority to bind his/her institution (company, NPO, cooperative, etc.).
The following document must be added to the Letter of Intent form:
c. The Canadian Common CV of the principal investigator designated as leader of the RIC;
3.2 Stage 2: Application form
Only RIC leaders whose letters of intent are declared eligible and receive a positive assessment will be invited to submit a funding application.
The funding application consists of a 10-page document that explains, in detail: the quality of the RIC, the quality of its program, its organization and management, the quality of the dissemination and knowledge transfer mechanisms. See the section Assessment of letters of intent and applications for the applicable criteria.
The funding application form must be accompanied by the following documents:
a. The Canadian Common CV of the RIC leader (principal investigator) and his/her detailed contributions over the past 5 years;
b. The Canadian Common CVs of all co-investigator members of the RIC who do not have Status 4c and their detailed contributions over the past 5 years;
The following forms must be added in the Other Documents section of the funding application:
c. A 2-page abridged CV form for co-investigator members of the RIC with Status 4c (CGR). The CV should summarize the following information as it pertains to the cluster’s research program, in this order: 1) training, 2) experience and, 3) publications or other scientific achievements, if applicable. The form is available in the program Toolbox.
The RIC leader is responsible for adding all the Coinvestigator with 4C Status to the funding application. Click here for instructions on how to add 4C Status to your cluster.
4. Procedure for submitting a letter of intent and funding application
The letter of intent and funding application must be completed using the appropriate forms available in the FRQnet E-portfolio of the person designated as the leader of the RIC (having the role of principal investigator).
The letter of commitment from the managing institution, the contribution agreement forms from the institutions and practitioners and the abridged CV form are available in the program’s Toolbox. These must be added to the Other documents section in the FRQnet electronic portfolio.
The letter of intent and funding application, as well as all required documents, must be submitted by the deadlines indicated below:
- Letter of intent: 4 p.m. on November 20, 2020;
At the beginning of December 2020, the Fonds will send the results of the RIC relevance assessment to the authorities of the managing institutions concerned.
- Funding application: 4 p.m. on February 15, 2021;
Eligibility of applications will be announced in February and the visiting committees for scientific assessment will be held between March 8 and March 22 2021..
5. Assessment of letters of intent and applications
5.1 Assessment of letters of intent
Letters of intent that meet the eligibility requirements are submitted to the FRQNT scientific advisory board to be assessed for relevance. The board may call on external experts as needed.
The letters of intent are evaluated based on the following criteria:
a. Justifies bringing together science and technology experts and practitioners; (10 points)
b. Describes the structuring effect and advantages of forming an RIC (20 points);
c. Describes the composition of the RIC: research members, emerging or established collaborations and relationship with the practitioners (10 points);
d. Explains the role of the RIC in the college research community in comparison to existing networks in the field, including FRQNT strategic clusters (10 points);
e. Explains how the RIC responds to the strategic plans and action plans of its member institutions with respect to research development (10 points);
f. Describes how the RIC fosters innovation in the targeted research area (10 points);
g. Describes how the program fits into priority research areas for Québec, i.e. those defined in various government policies and strategies (20 points);
h. Shows significant financial support from the managing institution, the partner institutions, and practitioners (10 points).
The letter of intent must receive a relevance evaluation score of 80% and is an eliminatory step.
5.2 Assessment of the funding application
Each funding application is assessed by a thematic visiting committee (TVC) composed of college and university researchers and representatives of the research community with expertise in the proposed research theme. The composition of the visiting committees is determined according to the research areas of the funding applications submitted to the FRQNT.
Each visiting committee is chaired by a college researcher. The FRQNT program manager for the RIC program acts as an observer and resource person. A FRQNT staff member acts as secretary to the various visiting committees and, in this capacity, writes all the committee reports.
The members of the visiting committee individually carry out an in-depth analysis of the funding application. Before visiting the managing institution, the visiting committee meets to discuss elements that need to be clarified during the plenary assessment.
The assessment meeting takes place in plenary with all members of the proposed RIC. Videoconferencing may be used to present the administrators of the institutions concerned.
Each visiting committee holds an assessment meeting with the following schedule:
|Duration of activity (minutes)||Description of assessment activity|
|30||Presentation of the administrators of the institutions concerned|
|60||Presentation of the initiative by the RIC leader|
|60||Exchange period with all research members of the RIC|
|60||Meeting with the practitioner members|
|120||In-camera dinner meeting of the visiting committee to prepare the meeting report|
The multidisciplinary assessment committee (MAC) is composed of the chairperson of each visiting committee and one or more members of the scientific advisory board, as well as college and university researchers and representatives from various public and private research communities at the provincial, national and international levels. Following these plenary activities, each visiting committee provides the CEM with a recommendations report for each evaluation criterion.
The MAC then analyses each of the reports and establishes a standardized merit rating of all the applications analysed by the various visiting committees. The MAC proposes applications for funding, to be approved by the FRQNT Board of Directors.
The FRQNT program manager must ensure that all participants involved in any stage of the assessment process respect the evaluation criteria and procedures as well as the rules relating to ethics, confidentiality and the responsible conduct of research. In addition, in collaboration with the Chair, he or she identifies the members who sit on the visiting committees.
Upon confirmation of the eligibility of the application, you will be asked to confirm your availability for the assessment, which will take place at the managing institution.
5.3 Application evaluation criteria
Funding applications are analyzed based on the following criteria and weighting:
1- Quality of the RIC (30 points)
- Competence of the cluster leader and the members of the RIC;
- Complementarity and degree of involvement of all members;
- Relevance of member skills in relation to the program and field;
- Integration of new college and university researchers.
2- Quality of the program (30 points)
- Alignment of the program with priority areas for Québec;
- Program objectives;
- The innovative approach to activities within the RIC;
- Consideration of the needs expressed by the user community;
- Development plan for the RIC;
- The feasibility of the schedule of activities and the management of risks related to the program.
3- Organization and management (15 points)
- Leadership within the cluster;
- Management and organizational models, including partnership agreements, if applicable;
- Collaboration between the managing institution, the partner institutions and the practitioners;
- Realism of the budget and the diversification of funding sources.
4- Quality of mechanisms for dissemination and knowledge transfer (20 points)
- Establishment of effective mechanisms to foster the development of partnerships between colleges, CCTTs, universities and practitioners;
- The creation of new research, knowledge sharing, mobilization and dissemination activities and their relevance and impact;
- The leveraging effect of the RIC;
- Practices adopted to produce benefits for college training programs;
- Relevance and impact of knowledge dissemination and sharing activities, mobilization with practitioners;
- Dissemination of research results to the general public.
5- Integration of the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion* (5 points)
- Efforts put in place to promote equity, diversity and inclusion. It is up to each team to choose how it wishes to address this criterion, through concrete actions, taking into account the specific context of the cluster. Efforts may involve composition, organization and management, knowledge sharing and dissemination to user communities, etc.
*Equity: fair treatment, including the elimination of systemic barriers that disadvantage particular groups. Fair treatment is not necessarily the same for everyone, but takes into account different personal realities, both present and historical, to provide all individuals with access to the same opportunities for the promotion and support of research.
Diversity: the presence within the research ecosystem of people from different groups, which promotes the expression of diverse perspectives, approaches and experiences, including those of underrepresented groups. The FRQ value the contribution of this diversity to research.
Inclusion: the establishment of practices that allow all members of the research community to be and to feel valued, supported and respected, paying particular attention to underrepresented groups.
For more information on how to address this criterion, please consult the document entitled Guidelines on considering equity, diversity and inclusion in the evaluation of strategic clusters, available in the appendix of this document and in the Toolbox of the competition web page.
The funding application must receive an evaluation score of 80%.
Each visiting committee submits a report. The MAC then makes recommendations to the Board of Directors of the FRQNT, which makes funding decisions based on available budgets. These decisions are final.
5.4 RIC follow-up
Each funded RIC must produce a brief annual report, beginning at the end of the first year of operation, outlining the progress of its work and the performance indicators to be considered in subsequent annual assessments (a template will be provided).
This report must be accompanied by proof of the contribution made by each user partner listed in the funding application. These documents will be assessed and must be deemed satisfactory by the program administrator in order for funding to be maintained.
The Year 2 annual report is assessed by the scientific advisory board. This assessment will consider the progress of the work based on the RIC’s initial proposal and the selected performance indicators. This assessment will be used by the board to make recommendations on the level and/or period of funding as well as any other proposals it deems appropriate under the circumstances.
Failure to submit a report by the date indicated is interpreted as a decision on the part of the RIC leader not to pursue the cluster’s activities. From that point on, grant instalments will no longer be paid, and a final report must be provided by the RIC leader.
In the event that a report is not submitted within the prescribed deadline or if the quality of the report is inadequate, the RIC leader is no longer eligible to receive new financial assistance from any of the three Fonds or may have their payments suspended until this condition is met.
6. Description and nature of funding
RIC leaders should refer to the CGR for the rules governing the use and management of the grant.
The maximum grant amount is set at $150,000 per year for up to three years. The funding is primarily intended to support coordination, outreach, networking, mobilization and dissemination, as well as research activities.
The RIC leader receives salary support of up to $27,000 annually to carry out coordination activities.
6.1 Eligible expenses
Eligible expenses must be directly related to carrying out the activities of the RIC. The following expenses are eligible for managing institutions and college-level partners. Only expenses that are not subject to indirect costs of research in universities are eligible for members from university-level partner institutions. The percentage attributed to each budget item must be respected for each year of funding from FRQNT.
|Category of expense||Type of expense||Activities|
|Highly qualified personnel (HQP), research and administrative staff 50%|
|Support for researchers|
Salary support — Salary and benefits (18%)
Salary support — Salary and benefits
|Support for highly qualified personnel|
Salary and benefits
|Support for administrative staff|
Salary and benefits
|Training of HQP and introduction to research 10%|
|Support for students|
Salary and benefits or scholarship
|University student (undergraduate, graduate, postgraduate)|
|Initiation of a research project|
|Material, equipment and resources|
Research material and supplies
|Knowledge dissemination and transfer 40%|
|Dissemination and knowledge transfer|
|Travel and living expenses|
Allocation of the grant and disbursement of funds for the first year are conditional on:
6.2.1 The RIC leader’s agreement to carry out the cluster’s activities according to the objectives and timeframe established in the funding application, with the financial resources awarded and in compliance with the grant conditions accompanying the announcement letter;
6.2.2 The maintenance of the initial eligibility requirements by the RIC leader throughout the term of the grant. The managing institution will be asked to provide a certificate of continued eligibility for each instalment;
6.2.3 The submission of a contribution agreement from the managing institution and each partner institution and user partner, as evidence of support for the RIC.
All other conditions related to awards set out in the CGR must also be respected. Any additional conditions, if applicable, will be indicated in the award letter or at the time of subsequent instalments.
7. Duration and management of the grant
The grant awarded to the RIC is for a period of 3 years with an assessment after two years of funding. Following this assessment, the FRQNT may decide to revise the amount. In the event of a negative assessment, the grant for the final year may constitute a probationary grant, and the annual amount may be adjusted accordingly.
Grants are disbursed annually for the period from April 1 to March 31 of each year.
The rules governing residual balances, unexpended funds and overpayments are described in the CGR.
The RIC may apply for a single renewal for a new period of 3 consecutive years. To apply for a renewal, the cluster leader must submit a notice of intent to renew before the letters of intent deadline for the next competition. The RIC will then be invited to apply to the annual competition. Acceptance of the renewal application is conditional on the submission of the final report for the previous three years.
8. Announcement of results
Grant awards will be announced in the spring of 2021. The decisions of the Board of Directors are sent to the managing institution and the RIC leaders concerned. All decisions made by the Board of Directors of the FRQNT are final and cannot be appealed.
Awards are contingent on the allocation of funding by the Québec National Assembly and the decisions of the Board of Directors of the Fonds, and may be modified at any time without prior notice. It is therefore highly recommended that no funding be committed before it has been officially announced.
It is strictly forbidden to contact the members of the multidisciplinary assessment committees, members of the visiting committees, or scientific advisors for information on the competition results. All of the above have signed a confidentiality agreement in which they have agreed not to divulge any of the information gained during the course of their mandates. All discussions are also subject to confidentiality rules.
9. Ethics and the responsible conduct of research
Any individual or FRQNT-recognized managing institution that receives an award must demonstrate the highest standards of research ethics and scientific integrity. Please refer to the Common General Rules CGR for further details.
This includes a declaration by the RIC leader and the managing institution that there are no real or apparent conflicts of interest that could influence the application assessment process. This applies to all individuals identified in the application form or the documents required when submitting the funding application.
Please refer to the CGR. for any matter related to responsible conduct in research, privacy and confidentiality, intellectual property and the protection of academic freedom.
10. Integrity of the assessment process
At no time may applying RIC leaders or their institutional authorities make contact with visiting committee or multidisciplinary committee members, unless such contact is specified as part of the assessment process. Similarly, assessment committee members must not make contact with applicants, unless such contact is specifically indicated in the assessment process.
The FRQNT reserve the right to withdraw an application from competition if there is any inappropriate intervention, lobby, undue influence or collusion during the assessment process, as stipulated in the Policy for the Responsible Conduct of Research.
11. Equity, diversity and inclusion
The Fonds de recherche du Québec wish to contribute to supporting a research ecosystem based on equity, diversity and inclusion. Measures have been put in place to strengthen the integration of these principles.
To mitigate the influence of unconscious bias in the scientific assessment process, individuals taking part in the Fonds de recherche du Québec’s peer review process will henceforth be encouraged to take a short online training course. In the interest of avoiding duplication for the scientific community, we have chosen to use the Unconscious bias training module developed by the federal funding agencies and available on the Canada Research Chairs website.
While this training course is not mandatory, we hope that a critical mass of reviewers will choose to take it to help enhance the fairness of the assessment process. Please note that all Fonds staff responsible for assessment committees will be required to complete the online training module as well as additional training.
Funding recipients are also encouraged to consider these measures in the context of their research groups and activities. For more information, please consult our Statement on equity, diversity and inclusion.
12. Liability of the Fonds
The Fonds make all reasonable efforts to ensure optimal service. However, they cannot be held liable for any direct or indirect damage resulting from their handling of applications for funding. Furthermore, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the Fonds are not liable for any direct or indirect damage resulting from the disclosure of personal or confidential information that was not authorized by the Fonds.
13. False or misleading information
The Fonds presume the good faith of the information provided in funding applications or in any other document submitted at any time during the funding cycle, from the initial funding application to the final report. Applicants and funding holders must be transparent and provide accurate and precise information. They must be conscientious about advising the Fonds of any changes in their situation, where applicable.
Under the Act Respecting the Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche, de la Science et de la Technologie (CQLR, c. M-126.96.36.199), any individual who submits an application containing false or misleading information to obtain or procure financial support is committing an offence, is liable to a fine and could be barred from receiving financial support for a period of up to five years. Where a legal person commits such an offence, every director or representative of that legal person who was aware of the offence may be liable to a fine. Furthermore, such a declaration constitutes a breach of responsible research conduct, as set forth in the Fonds de recherche du Québec Policy for the Responsible Conduct of Research and may be subject to sanctions in accordance with this policy.
The Fonds reserve the right to take immediate measures to stop the use of public funds obtained through false or misleading information, and to take legal action to recover fraudulently obtained funds and claim compensation for damages caused where appropriate.
14. General considerations
Researchers and institutions must meet the general eligibility requirements in effect at the time of application, the program rules and the Common General Rules CGR throughout the period covered by the grant.
15. Effective date
These rules apply to the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
16. Contact person for this program
Leira Retamal Covarrubias, Ph.D.
Innovation catalyst: college-university cluster — RIC
418 643-8560 ext. 3355