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 form and nurture interdisciplinary teams that foster partnerships and collaborations, develop new research questions/directions/themes in research creation, address key societal and cultural problems, and work together to solve challenges that transcend traditional boundaries.  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. Additional support is available to humanities scholars.

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 2019 GCRC awards.  New clusters and clusters funded by previous GCRC competitions are eligible to apply.

Full applications are now being accepted for the 2019 Grants for Catalyzing Research Clusters competition. The deadline for applications is 11:59pm on November 12, 2019. (Research teams needed to submit a short Notice of Intent (NOI) to apply by  September 23rd, 2019.)  




In response to the feedback received following broad consultation, the following changes have been made to the 2019 GCRC competition:

  • Option to select 1 or 2 year grant term. Applicants may select a period of either one or two years in which to spend the award. Those selecting two years will be required to spend at least 30% of awarded funds by the end of the first year, and will not be eligible to apply to a potential 2020 GCRC competition;
  • Option to apply for a trainee stipend supplement ($15k emerging, $30k established) to support research projects that advance the cluster’s goals and outcomes;
  • Funds will flow in April 1, 2020 to align with UBC’s fiscal year.  Currently funded clusters that are successful in the 2019 GCRC competition will be eligible to apply for 2 months of bridge funding to cover any shortfalls caused by fiscal year alignment.

Researchers are invited to submit a proposal that demonstrates how the requested seed funding will be used to create and/or advance a cluster of research excellence.  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.  The outcomes 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 outcomes to the proposed research cluster and demonstrate how the funding will be used to achieve them.

Applications include the following components:

Applications should clearly:

  1. describe research themes, new directions for research and/or artistic creation
  2. identify confirmed team members, collaborators & partners
  3. describe the cluster's commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion as it applies to cluster  membership, proposed activities and research themes (Please refer to our GCRC EDI Guide for Applicants, and to the EDI Best Practices Guide developed for the New Frontiers in Research Fund competitions);
  4. provide objective measures of excellence in research and/or artistic creation (appropriate measures of excellence vary among clusters);
  5. articulate goals and expected outcomes of the GCRC award;
  6. (optional) explain how the proposed trainee project(s) will contribute to the cluster’s research goals; and
  7. detail how funds will be used to achieve the expected outcomes (i.e., justification of proposed activities).

All previously funded clusters must also submit the new GCRC outcomes report form for their most recent GCRC award.

Please note: Direct costs of research are ineligible. An optional trainee stipend is available ($15k maximum for emerging clusters, $30k maximum for established clusters) and must be applied for using the 1-page trainee stipend supplement form as part of the GCRC application process. Stipends cannot be applied for following the awarding of GCRC funds.


Clusters can include non-faculty researchers and we encourage clusters to include researchers from both UBC campuses. 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, may apply as either an Emerging or Established cluster, and may choose a one or two year project term. The two year term is designed to allow more flexibility for planning and spending your budget, as requested following broad consultation.  Please note that there is no budget increase if a two-year term is chosen. Applicants selecting a two-year budget term will not be eligible to apply to a potential 2020 GCRC 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 on the application 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 exchange activities

Defined pathways to outcomes/impact

Strong academic impact

Secure group grants

Demonstrate group collaboration

Initiate and develop partnerships

Community engagement

Joint or collaborative events


Established clusters

 (up to $200k)

Recognized internationally as leaders

Sustained knowledge exchange activities

Potential for socio-economic impact

Securing self-sustaining funding

Expand international partnerships

Deepen community engagement

Partner across sectors

Development of an innovation plan


A total funding envelope of $4M is available for this competition.  Emerging clusters may request an award up to $100,000 per proposal (and up to $15k trainee supplement).  Established clusters may apply for awards up to $200,000 (and up to $30k trainee supplement).  Applications must include a strong budget justification that aligns 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 December 2019 and awards will start in April 2020. Funding must be spent within 1 year of award receipt, or if a two-year term is chosen, clusters must spend at least 30% of their budget by the end of the first year.  No extensions will be permitted.

The VP Research & Innovation Office will provide successful clusters with website 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 activities must specify why additional support in these categories is required.

Successful clusters will be required to attend a pre-award cluster workshop with the VPRI Office on January 13, 2020 from 8:30 -10:30 am.  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, research teams must submit a short Notice of Intent (NOI) to apply by 5:00pm on September 23rd, 2019.  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 enable potential coordination of proposals before the submission deadline. 

Application Submission

Applications will open on September 24, following the NOI submission deadline. Applications for this funding call must be submitted to the VP Research & Innovation electronic portal by 11:59 pm on November 12th.  Please note that during submission, you will be required to select one of two award levels (Established vs. Emerging), a one or two year project duration, and one of three interdisciplinary review panels (STEM, Health, or SSH and Performing & Creative Arts). If you are uncertain to which panel you should apply, please contact the Manager, Internal Research Competitions: Stacey Herzer ( 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 both 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; for additional resources see the EDI resource guide).

Additional criterion for the optional Trainee Stipend Supplement:

  • The proposal provides a clear description of the project(s) including rationale and benefits to both the trainee(s) and the cluster.

Additional criteria for Established clusters include:

  • Demonstrated track record of teamwork (e.g., co-publications, co-supervised students, team grants, etc.);
  • Evidence of knowledge exchange activities (e.g., community engagement, policy impact, commercialization); and
  • Plan for achieving a sustained funding model.

Additional criterion for previously funded clusters:

  • The extent to which the outcomes of the previous award have been met or exceeded. If proposed cluster goals have not been met, deviations from expected outcomes and progress towards completing goals are well justified.


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

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



Mid-July, 2019

Competition Launch

August 16, 2019

9:30 – 11:00am

(Optional) GCRC Competition Information Session

September 17, 2019

9:30am-11:00 am

(Optional) GCRC Competition Information Session

September 19, 2019

11:00am-12:30 pm 

(Optional) Addressing equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in your GCRC application: a workshop in the Michael Smith Labs Theatre Room 

September 23, 2019


Deadline for submitting a notice of intent

September 24, 2019  Full application submission portal will open

October 1, 2019

9:30 – 11:00am

(Optional) GCRC Competition Information Session

November 12th, 2019


Applications due to VPRI

January 13th, 2020

8:30 – 10:30am

Pre-award cluster workshop

April 1, 2020

Funds distributed


Scope and Format