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 research excellence clusters.
For the purposes of this funding competition, a research excellence cluster 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 led by researchers at our Okanagan campus can apply for funding through the Eminence program.
The 2021/22 Competition is now closed.
Changes for the 2021/22 Competition
- To enhance training as part of cluster activities, emerging clusters may apply to use up to $30,000 of their cluster award for trainee stipends. Established clusters may apply to use up to $60,000 of their cluster award for trainee stipends. These training activities must support research projects that advance the cluster’s goals and outcomes;
- Proposal narrative may now be a maximum of 5 pages and must now include a knowledge exchange plan.
Information sessions were held via Zoom on October 15 (11am-12:30pm) and October 26 (9:30-11am).
An optional Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion/ Knowledge Exchange Session will be held on November 16 (11am - 12:30pm) for those who submitted an NOI. Please register here.
Researchers are invited to submit a proposal that demonstrates how the requested funding will be used to create and/or advance a research excellence cluster. Applications should seek to generate new directions for research, scholarship 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 GCRC funds may vary among proposals (e.g., new partnerships, pursuit of increased extramural funding opportunities, international collaborations), and 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
- 5 pages free-form narrative (minimum 12-point font, single spaced, 2 cm margins on all sides)
- 1-page budget justification form
- 1-page trainee stipend form (optional)
- GCRC outcomes report (new form required for all previously funded clusters)
The 5-page free-form narrative should:
1. Describe research themes, new directions for research, scholarship 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 updated GCRC EDI Guide for Applicants)
4. Provide objective measures of excellence in research, scholarship and/or artistic creation (appropriate measures of excellence may vary among clusters)
5. Include a knowledge exchange plan that describes the change or impact that you wish to create with your research, target audiences, and potential collaborators (partner organizations)
6. Articulate goals and expected outcomes of the GCRC award
Applications should also include the following templates:
7. (optional) using the trainee stipend form provided to explain how the proposed trainee project(s) will contribute to the cluster’s research goals and benefit the development of the trainee
8. Using the budget justification form provided to detail how funds will be used to achieve the expected outcomes (i.e., justification of proposed activities). Applicants are strongly encouraged to consider the potential challenges that COVID-19 restrictions may impose on travel and large meetings when planning cluster activities
9. All previously-funded clusters must also submit a GCRC outcomes report form for their most recent GCRC award.
The lead PI must be a UBC Vancouver faculty member eligible to hold Tri-agency funding. Clusters may include non-faculty researchers, and we encourage clusters to include researchers from both UBC campuses and affiliated hospital sites as appropriate. Researchers may be members of more than one cluster, but may only be the nominated lead on one application per competition.
Clusters led by faculty members at the Okanagan campus can apply for cluster funding through the Eminence Program.
All clusters must apply as either an Emerging or Established cluster, and must choose a one- or two-year project term. The two-year term is designed to allow more flexibility for planning and spending your budget. 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 2022 GCRC competition.
Direct costs of research are ineligible. Clusters may choose to use a portion of their award to support trainees by applying with the trainee stipend form as part of the GCRC application process. Stipends cannot be applied for following the awarding of GCRC funds.
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 is 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
(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
Joint or collaborative events
(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 $3.5M is available for this competition. Emerging clusters may request an award up to $100,000 per proposal. Established clusters may apply for awards up to $200,000. 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 February 2021, and awards will start in April 2021. 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 Vice-President, Research & Innovation (VPRI) Office will provide successful clusters with website development (provision of a web template plus development support) and access to specialists in knowledge exchange, innovation, commercialization, funding development and community engagement. Applications that request funding for these activities must specify why additional support in these areas is required.
Successful clusters will be required to attend a pre-award cluster workshop facilitated by the VPRI Office on February 26, 2021 from 9:00 -11:00 am. Please hold this date and time in your calendars when submitting an application.
SUBMISSION AND SELECTION PROCESSES
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 11:59 pm on November 2, 2020. The NOI is non-competitive and will be used internally to plan review panels. Additionally, if we receive multiple NOIs for a similar research theme, we will alert the teams shortly after the NOI deadline to enable potential coordination of proposals before the submission deadline.
Applications will open on November 3, 2020 following the NOI submission deadline. Applications for this funding call must be submitted as a single PDF document to the VPRI electronic portal by 11:59 pm on January 13, 2021. 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). We recognize that clusters will include members and activities that work across these stated research areas. Applicants are asked to try their best to assign their application to the review panel that best represents the primary research theme and activities of the cluster. If you are uncertain as to which panel you should apply, please contact the Manager, Internal Research Competitions: Stacey Herzer (email@example.com) in advance of submission to discuss.
Interdisciplinary panels will review applications and make decisions based on merit and the ability to best 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, scholarship and/or artistic creation
- Plan for knowledge exchange activities (e.g., community engagement, policy impact, commercialization, etc.)
- A commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion reflected in cluster membership and proposed activities through the following:
- The creation of diverse teams that include a range of gender and sexual identities, career stages, and groups traditionally underrepresented in higher education
- A commitment to the equitable development and support of all team members
- The design of cluster activities that ensure that team members, collaborators and partners have equal opportunities and access to resources, feel they belong, and are adequately supported and integrated into the team
For additional resources, see the GCRC EDI Guide for Applicants, the EDI Best Practices Guide (developed for the SSHRC New Frontiers in Research Fund competition), and the Support of Researchers – Equity, Diversity and Inclusion webpage on the VPRI website.
Additional criteria for Established clusters include:
- Demonstrated track record of teamwork (e.g., co-publications, co-supervised students, team grants, etc.)
- Evidence of previous knowledge exchange accomplishments and a plan for future activities (e.g., community engagement, policy impact, commercialization, etc.)
- Plan for achieving a sustained funding model
Additional criteria for the optional Trainee Stipend include:
- Proposal adequately describes the research project(s) and role(s) that the trainee(s) will play in support of your cluster goals and proposed outcome, and how this will mutually benefit both the cluster and the trainee(s)
- Proposal adequately describes what the trainee(s) will receive with respect to research training support, mentorship, and career development
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 need to be well 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.
For further information on the GCRC funding competition, contact Stacey Herzer in the VP Research & Innovation Office.
October 15, 2020
11:00 am – 12:30 pm
(Optional) GCRC Competition Information Session
October 26, 2020
9:30 – 11:00 am
(Optional) GCRC Competition Information Session
November 2, 2020
|Deadline for submitting a notice of intent|
November 3, 2020
November 16, 2020
|(Optional) Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion/ Knowledge Exchange Session for GCRC applicants - Register here|
January 13, 2021
Applications due to VPRI
February 26, 2021
9:00 – 11:00 am
Pre-award cluster workshop
|April 1, 2021||
What is the format of proposal?
- The application should include a 5-page proposal, an optional 1-page trainee stipend form, and 1-page budget justification form. The 5-page proposal is free-form. While applicants can decide how best to structure the proposal content, we recommend that you use the space to adequately address each of the selection criteria. For previously or currently funded clusters, the application should also include the GCRC outcomes report from your most recent GCRC award. In all cases, the application should be submitted as a single PDF document.
Do I need to include references in my proposal?
- Because proposals are focused around the creation of a cluster and not on specific research activities, references are not required as part of the application. You are welcome to include references if needed, but they must be included within the 5 page limit.
Can I include CVs, references, and other additional material as appendices?
- No. Applications should include only the 5-page proposal, an optional 1-page trainee stipend supplement, 1-page budget justification page, and GCRC outcomes report (for previously funded clusters only). Additional pages will not be forwarded to reviewers. You are welcome to include links in your application to supplementary material, but review of that material will be at the discretion of the reviewers.
Do I need to submit an RPIF with the proposal?
- You are not required to submit a Research Project Information Form (RPIF) with your GCRC proposal. However, if you are successful in the competition, we will require an RPIF before distributing funds.
Can details of the cluster proposal (e.g., members, title, PI) change between submission of the NOI and full application?
What types of metrics should be presented as ‘Demonstrated evidence of excellence in research and/or artistic creation’?
- Appropriate metrics vary widely across areas of scholarly activity and should reflect the nature of the proposed cluster. Examples of research excellence could include attracted research funding, significant awards and honors, number of students/trainees in recent years, notable discoveries/impact, significant community partnerships, knowledge exchange activities with non-academic audiences, artistic exhibits, performances etc.
Who can be the lead PI on a cluster grant?
- Any Vancouver-based UBC Faculty member eligible to hold Tri-agency funding.
Can a researcher be involved in multiple clusters?
- We do not limit the involvement of researchers in multiple clusters. However, serving in a leadership role for a cluster is a significant time commitment and so faculty members proposing to hold leadership responsibilities in more than one cluster will need to justify their time commitments in both proposals.
Can a researcher apply as the lead (nominated principle investigator) for more than one cluster?
- No. Researchers can only apply as the nominated lead on one application per competition. They may be identified as cluster co-leads on more than one application if time commitments are clearly justified in each application.
Can clusters involve researchers from other organizations?
- Yes. Inter-institutional and inter-sectoral collaboration is encouraged, but the proposal should bring together talent within UBC as well.
Can potential collaborators and partners that are not yet secured be included in the proposal?
- Certainly, and strengthening/formalizing relationships may be part of the proposal, but potential collaborators and partners should be clearly differentiated in the proposal from those who are secured.
Can clusters that were unsuccessful in previous competitions re-apply?
Can clusters funded through previous competitions re-apply?
- Yes, clusters that received funding from previous competitions (in 2016, 2017, 2018, and/or 2019) are invited to reapply as long as they meet the eligibility criteria. They are required to submit the outcomes report from their most recent GCRC award as part of their new proposal and will be assessed on whether proposed outcomes were achieved in addition to the merit of the new proposal.
What can the funds be used for?
- Activities that are intended to solidify cluster formation or catalyze further development of a cluster. Common expenses include: the costs of cluster meetings, workshops, and/or conferences, salaries for a cluster administrator/coordinator, and community & stakeholder engagement. Direct costs of research are ineligible expenses.
- Applicants are strongly encouraged to consider the potential challenges that COVID-19 restrictions may impose on travel and large meetings when planning timelines and budgets.
Can I pay undergraduate students, grad students and/or postdocs with cluster funds?
- Up to $30,000 of the GCRC award for emerging clusters and up to $60,000 of the GCRC award for established clusters can be used to support students/trainees to conduct cluster-related research projects. This must be applied for using the Trainee Stipend form at the time of application. Trainees must be supervised or co-supervised by a UBC faculty member.
Can the funds be used for publication costs?
- Costs associated with publishing research outputs are considered direct costs of research, and s such are not eligible expenses for these funds. However, non-academic publications (e.g., a cluster annual report for stakeholders) are considered eligible expenses.
Will there be another competition?
- We cannot confirm future competitions at this time. However, enabling interdisciplinary clusters of research excellence is a strategy in the Shaping UBC’s Next Century strategic plan and so we do anticipate continuing to support clusters in some capacity