Grants for Catalyzing Research Clusters

Fostering collaboration is a central priority in UBC’s new strategic plan (Shaping UBC’s Next Century). The Grants for Catalyzing Research Clusters (GCRC) competition was jointly created by the Vice-President Research & Innovation and the Provost & Vice-President Academic to enable the formation and growth of interdisciplinary clusters of research excellence.

For the purposes of this funding competition, a cluster of research excellence is defined as a network of researchers spanning multiple disciplines at UBC who organize to solve key challenges facing society. Our intent with this funding competition is to enable leading researchers to work closely together as a unit on problems that transcend the traditional boundaries associated with departments, institutions, and funding agencies. These awards are specifically targeted at catalyzing advanced research initiatives with the expectation that awards will be used to enable the cluster to have more significant impact than otherwise possible. Researchers from all disciplines are invited to apply for funding. Researchers in the humanities are encouraged to read the joint statement from Gail Murphy, VP Research & Innovation and Matthew Evenden, Associate Dean Research & Graduate Studies in Arts.

GCRC competitions are open to clusters led by researchers at our Vancouver campus. Clusters being led by researchers at our Okanagan campus can apply for funding through the Eminence program


There will only be one competition in the fall for 2018 GCRC awards. New clusters and clusters funded by previous GCRC competitions are eligible to apply.

Researchers are invited to submit a proposal in the form of a plan to show how the requested seed funding will be used to create and/or advance a cluster of research excellence. The goals to be achieved with the GCRC award will vary among proposals (e.g., new partnerships, pursue increased extramural funding opportunities, international collaboration), but applications should make a strong case for the value of those goals to the proposed research cluster and demonstrate how the funding will be used to achieve those outcomes. Applications (4 pages free form and 1-page budget justification form) should clearly:

  1. describe research themes;
  2. identify confirmed team members, collaborators & partners and describe the cluster's commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion;
  3. provide objective measures of excellence in research and/or artistic creation (appropriate measures of excellence vary among clusters);
  4. articulate goals and expected outcomes of the GCRC award; and
  5. detail how funds will be used to achieve the expected outcomes (i.e., justification of proposed activities).

Please note: applications should seek to generate new directions for research (and/or artistic creation), rather than reproduce activities that would be conducted in the normal course of a researcher’s activities. Direct costs of research and student scholarships/fellowships are ineligible.


Clusters can include non-faculty researchers and we encourage clusters to include researchers from both UBC campuses, but the lead PI must be a faculty member at the Vancouver campus. Clusters led by faculty members at the Okanagan campus can apply for cluster funding through the Eminence Program.

Currently and previously funded clusters, as well as new clusters, are eligible to apply for either Emerging or Established cluster grant categories. In addition to the merits of the new proposal, previously funded clusters will be rigorously evaluated based on how they met the expected outcomes of the original cluster grant. If outcomes varied from the original cluster proposal, please contact Helen Burt to discuss beforehand.

In addition to the application and budget justification, previously funded clusters must also submit the GCRC progress report form for their most recent GCRC award.


In this competition, we invite applications led by PIs from all disciplines who seek to propel their clusters towards global leadership. Applicants will be asked to self-identify at submission time if the proposed cluster should be considered as Emerging or Established. Generalized characteristics and potential catalytic activities are presented here for illustrative purposes: 



Examples of cluster characteristics

Examples of catalytic activities

Emerging clusters

 (up to $100k)

Emerging leaders (collaborative history a bonus)

Some knowledge mobilization activities

Defined pathway to impact

Strong academic impact

Secure group grants

Demonstrate group collaboration

Develop partnerships

Community engagement

Joint or collaborative events

Established clusters

 (up to $200k)

Global leaders

Sustained knowledge mobilization activities

Strong socio-economic impact

Sustained funding model

Partner across sectors

Active in translation process

Expand international partnerships

Innovation development plan


A total funding envelope of $3M is available for this competition. Emerging clusters may request an award up to $100,000 per proposal, while Established clusters may apply for awards up to $200,000. In both scenarios, a strong budget justification is expected to align specific activities with goals and expected outcomes. GCRC review committees will carefully consider each budget item and may recommend funding of only some budget items. Successful applications will be notified in early December 2018 and awards will start in January 2019. Funding must be spent within 1 year of award receipt—no extensions will be permitted.

In addition to funds, successful cluster awards will be provided additional support from the VP Research & Innovation Office in the form of web development (provision of a web template plus development support) and access to specialists in knowledge mobilization, innovation, commercialization, funding development and community engagement. Applications that request funding for these types of activities must specify why additional support is required.

Successful clusters will be required to attend a pre-award cluster workshop with the VPRI Office on December 12th from 8:30-10:30am. Please hold this date and time in your calendars when submitting an application. 


Notice of Intent to Apply

In order to submit an application to the Grants for Catalyzing Research Clusters competition, we require that research teams submit a short Notice of Intent (NOI) to apply by 8:00am on September 17th. The NOI is non-competitive and will be used internally to plan review panels. Additionally, if we receive multiple NOIs from a similar research theme, we will alert the teams shortly after the NOI deadline to allow for coordination of proposals before the submission deadline. 

Application Submission

Applications for this funding call must be submitted as a single PDF document to the VP Research & Innovation electronic portal by end of day November 13th (please note this date has been changed as November 12 is a statutory holiday). Please note that during submission, you will be required to select one of two award levels (Established vs. Emerging) and one of three review panels (STEM, Health, or SSH and Performing & Creative Arts). If you are uncertain to which stream you should apply, contact Helen Burt in advance of submission to discuss.

Review Process

Interdisciplinary panels will review applications and make decisions based on merit and the ability to demonstrate how GCRC funds will be used to develop or expand a research cluster. If an application submitted to the Established category does not meet the Established cluster criteria, it will be considered in the Emerging category. Specific assessment criteria for Emerging and Established clusters include:

  • The cluster addresses one or more complex and key questions facing society (or grand challenges) and funding the cluster has the potential for transformative impact on UBC and on society;
  • Proposal leverages GCRC funding to attract further funding opportunities;
  • Interdisciplinary, inter-institutional, and inter-sectoral collaborative research;
  • Demonstrated evidence of excellence in research and/or artistic creation; and
  • The cluster membership and proposed activities reflect a commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion (e.g., through the creation of diverse teams that include a range of gender and sexual identities, career stages, and groups traditionally underrepresented in higher education, as well as a commitment to the development of all team members).

Additional criteria for Established clusters include:

  • Demonstrated track record of teamwork (e.g., co-publications, co-supervised students, team grants, etc.);
  • Evidence of knowledge translation and mobilization activities (e.g., community engagement, policy impact, commercialization); and
  • Ability to achieve a sustained funding model.

Additional criterion for previously funded clusters:

  • The goals of the previous award have been met. If goals have not yet been met, deviations from expected outcomes and progress towards completing goals are sufficiently justified.


The VP Research & Innovation Office will be hosting two information sessions on the current competition. We encourage all groups who are interested in applying for this competition to attend one of these sessions. Details are available at:

The SPARC (Support Programs to Advance Research Capacity) office will host a workshop, Test Your Cluster, where panel members will meet with applicants to provide constructive feedback in advance of the application deadline. The workshop is available to all applicants, but registration priority will be given to new clusters and those that were unsuccessful in previous competitions. Details are available at:

For further information on the GCRC funding competition, contact Helen Burt in the VP Research & Innovation Office.



Mid-June, 2018

Competition Launch

July 16, 2018

9:30 – 11:00am

(Optional) GCRC Competition Information Session

August 29 & 30, 2018

9:30am– 3:30pm

(Optional) SPARC Test Your Cluster Workshop

September 17, 2018


Deadline for submitting a notice of intent

September 25, 2018

9:30 – 11:00am

(Optional) GCRC Competition Information Session

November 13th, 2018


Applications due to VPRI

December 12th, 2018

8:30 – 10:30am

Pre-award cluster workshop

January 15, 2019

Distribute funds




Past Competitions