NSERC looks to improve on Tech Community awareness

Last night at the Vancouver Enterprise Forum’s monthly networking event, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (better known as NSERC) announced two new programs and modified existing programs to make it easier for industry and universities to establish productive research partnerships.

As part of their new Strategy for Partnerships and Innovation, NSERC President Dr. Suzanne Fortier announced that they are committed to doubling the number of industry-acadmeic partnerships they support by 2014.

The Engage Grants Program will support the creation of a new university-industry partnership to undertake a fully funded, short-term research project that addresses a company-specific problem. It awards up to $25,000 over a maximum of six months to cover direct project costs.

The Interaction Grants program will help establish new contacts between companies and NSERC-eligible researchers to identify a company-specific problem that could be solved through a subsequent R&D partnership. Up to $5,000 over three months covers such expenses as travel and meetings needed to set up the partnership.

In addition to the new programs, the Industrial Research Chairs, Collaborative Research and Development Grants, Idea to Innovation (Phase IIb) and Strategic Projects Grants programs will be modified to allow up to 10 percent of the eligible direct cost of research to be devoted to project management expenses. The Idea to Innovation Program now also allows institutions to submit proposals devoted solely to market studies on potential products, processes or technologies.

Great to see NSERC out promoting their program. According to a 2008 Statscan survey, only 2% of Canadian enterprises spending between $10K and $250K on R&D activity used NSERC and 70% of non-users cited “they were not even aware of NSERC”. By comparison, 90% of these same companies used the Scientific Research and Experimental Development tax incentive program (SR&ED) and 17% used NRC’s Industrial Resarch Assistance Program (IRAP).

NSERC is a federal research granting council that invests more than $1 Billion annually in people, discovery and innovation at universities and colleges across Canada.