Grants for Catalyzing Research Clusters

Fostering collaboration is a central priority in UBC’s strategic plan (Shaping UBC’s Next Century).

The Grants for Catalyzing Research Clusters (GCRC) program 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.

A research excellence cluster is defined as a network of researchers spanning multiple disciplines at UBC that supports the formation and maturation of interdisciplinary teams that foster partnerships and collaborations, develop new research questions, directions and themes in research creation, addressing key societal and cultural problems that transcend traditional boundaries, offering training opportunities for postdoctoral fellows and graduate students, and implementing equity, diversity and inclusion in their activities.

These grants are specifically targeted to catalyze activities that facilitate the advancement of research, thereby enabling clusters to produce a greater impact. They are intended to leverage external funding opportunities, facilitate partnerships, and to enhance research training. Researchers from all disciplines are invited to apply for funding.

GCRC competitions are open to clusters led by researchers at our Vancouver campus and affiliated hospital sites. 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 winter for 2024/25 GCRC. New clusters and eligible clusters funded by previous GCRC competitions are invited to apply.

New for this year’s competition

Following recommendations from the GCRC external program review, and in consultation with the broader UBC research community, a number of revisions to the GCRC program have been made. Please read the following program changes carefully:

  • Clusters will no longer be divided into emerging and established categories; a cluster will be designated as either new (i.e., never received GCRC funding) or as returning (i.e., previously funded through GCRC funds)
    • New clusters will receive up to $100,000; returning clusters will receive up to $200,000; grant terms for both cluster categories are for either one or two years.
    • New cluster applications will be adjudicated in a separate pool from returning clusters, and will be assessed relative to the maturity of their collaboration.
  • Clusters are now limited to three cycles of funding, i.e. have received GCRC funding through three competitions, regardless of cluster category.
    Important: Clusters that have previously received three or more cycles of GCRC funding, whether they are currently or not currently funded, are no longer eligible to apply for future GCRC funding.
  • There will be greater emphasis on the funding goals clusters will work towards to enable their future sustainability. Furthermore, once funding goals have been achieved, GCRC funding will conclude, to make opportunities open to others.
  • In addition to our standard review panels (STEM, health, and social sciences, humanities, and creative and performing arts), we will pilot the introduction of a fourth panel for interdisciplinary clusters that span two or more of these domains.



online application PROCESS

To apply to the GCRC competition, the cluster lead must log in to VPRI’s online application system UBC Research + Innovation Apply using their campus wide login (CWL), and follow the instructions provided. Once the full application has been initiated, the cluster lead may invite co-applicants with a CWL to contribute using the “add collaborator” button located in the left side block. Applications can be saved and completed at a later date before final submission, and can be downloaded as a PDF at any time. Each section must be marked as complete before the lead applicant can submit the application. Note that only the cluster lead will be able to submit the NOI and full application.

A completed and signed Research Project Information Form (RPIF) must be uploaded as part of the application.

Researchers are invited to submit an application that demonstrates how the requested funding will be used to create and/or advance a research excellence cluster. Clusters should seek to generate new opportunities for collaborative research, scholarship and/or artistic creation. The outcomes achieved with GCRC funds may vary among applications (e.g., new partnerships, international collaborations, community engagement, etc.), but a strong case should be made for the value of those outcomes to the proposed research cluster and demonstrate how GCRC funding will be used to achieve them. Clusters must also provide detail on their pursuit of extramural funding opportunities that will enable their future sustainability.

Applications include the following components:

  • Notice of Intent (NOI) due Nov 1, 2023
    • An administrative NOI is required to enable the recruitment of reviewers and coordinate potentially overlapping applications. It is not adjudicated. Once the cluster lead submits the NOI, the full application will become available, and is due 11:59 pm Jan 10, 2024. Details of the full application are below.
  • Cluster Lead Applicant Information
  • Proposal Narrative
    • Describe the research themes, new directions for research, scholarship and/or artistic creation that form the basis for the proposed cluster (800 words max).
    • Complete the table of confirmed team members, collaborators, and partners (min 5 people, max 15 people).
    • Describe the role confirmed team members, collaborators and partners will have in the cluster, including objective measures of the team’s excellence in research, scholarship and/or artistic creation (1000 words max).
    • Describe the cluster's commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion as it applies to cluster membership, proposed activities and research themes (400 words max; please refer to our updated GCRC EDI Guide for Applicants).
    • Articulate the cluster's goals and expected outcomes, including funding goals for future sustainability and a project timeline (800 words max).
    • Describe the cluster’s knowledge exchange activities, including the change or impact desired resulting from the cluster’s research, and identify target audiences and potential collaborators (400 words max; for additional knowledge exchange resources please see the knowledge exchange resource guide).
    • 1 page max for references and 1 page max for figures and tables uploaded as PDFs (both are optional and have strict formatting instructions that must be adhered to or they will not be reviewed).
  • Budget Justification (800 words max)
  • Trainee Stipend (optional, 500 words max)
    • To enhance training as part of cluster activities, new clusters may apply to use up to $30,000 of their cluster grant for trainee stipends. Returning clusters may apply to use up to $60,000 of their cluster grant for trainee stipends. These training activities must support research projects that advance the cluster’s goals and outcomes.
    • Applicants must provide a brief description of 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); and
    • Provide a brief description of the access the trainee(s) will have to research training support, mentorship, and career development.
  • Outcomes Report (required for all previously funded clusters for their most recent GCRC)
  • Completed and signed Research Project Information Form uploaded as a PDF


The lead applicant 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 can only be the nominated lead on one application per competition. 

Clusters led by faculty members at the Okanagan campus must apply for cluster funding through the Eminence Program.

Currently and previously funded clusters whose project term lengths have ended or will end by March 2024, and have received less than three GCRCs in their lifetime are eligible to apply.    

All clusters must apply as either a new or returning 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 an awarded 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 2025/26 GCRC competition.

Clusters that have achieved their stated funding goal(s) and have been awarded major external funding grants (e.g. SSHRC Partnership grants, NSERC CREATE grants, NFRF Transformation grants, CFREF) are no longer eligible to apply for GCRC funding. 

If you are unsure about your eligibility, please contact Stacey Herzer ( to discuss it.

Direct costs of research are ineligible. Clusters may choose to use a portion of their funding to support trainees by completing the trainee stipend section of the application.


Lead applicants from all disciplines are invited to apply. Applicants will be asked to identify their proposed cluster as either new or returning for adjudication. Proposals for new clusters will be adjudicated separately from returning ones.

General characteristics and potential catalytic activities for clusters are presented here for illustrative purposes:

General characteristics

Examples of catalytic activities

  • Key faculty members are leaders in their respective fields
  • Demonstration of a productive collaborative history with other key members
  • Demonstration of ongoing knowledge exchange activities
  • Research outcomes have the potential for, or have produced societal and/or cultural impacts
  • Evidence of a strategy for collaborative group funding and concrete funding goals for future sustainability
  • Develop group funding proposals and/or engage in activities to enhance cluster funding
  • Develop or expand research collaborations and/or partnerships
  • Partner across sectors to enhance multidisciplinary approach
  • Initiate or enhance community engagement opportunities
  • Engage in collaborative activities and/or events with other members
  • Develop an innovation plan to increase the uptake of research outputs by research users


New clusters may request grants up to $100,000 per proposal. Returning clusters may apply for grants up to $200,000. Applications must include a strong budget justification that aligns specific activities with goals and expected outcomes. The GCRC review committees will carefully consider each budget item and have the option to recommend funding of only partial budgets, if required.

All applicants will be notified of the competition results by the end of February 2024, and grants will commence in April 2024. Funding must be spent within one year of 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. Successful applicants are required to submit an outcomes report no later than 60 days after the end of the grant. No extensions will be permitted.

The Vice-President, Research & Innovation (VPRI) Office will provide successful clusters with free website support (provision of a web template, website development support, and hosting costs) and access to specialists in knowledge exchange, innovation and commercialization. Applications that request funding for these activities must specify why additional support in these areas is required.

Note: VPRI website support will be offered for up to two years after the GCRC grant end date. Afterwards, clusters will be responsible for the cost and maintenance of their website should they choose to keep it active.    

Successful clusters will be expected to attend cluster events facilitated by the VPRI Office.   


Applicants are required to select one of four interdisciplinary review panels (STEM, Health, Social Sciences, Humanities and Performing & Creative Arts, or Interdisciplinary). We recognize that clusters may include members and activities that work across more than one 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. Cluster research that spans more than one research domain equally are encouraged to select the Interdisciplinary review panel. If you are uncertain as to which panel you should apply, please contact the Manager, Internal Research Competitions: Stacey Herzer ( in advance of submission to discuss.

Peer-review 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. Assessment criteria for both new and returning clusters include:

  • Proposed research addresses one or more complex and important questions facing society, and funding the cluster has the potential for transformative impact
  • Proposed collaboration involves multiple disciplines, partners, and/or sectors
  • Research team demonstrates evidence for excellence in research and/or artistic creation
  • A commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion reflected in cluster membership and proposed activities through the following:
    • The creation of diverse teams that plan to 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 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.
  • Proposal explains the funding goals of the cluster that will enable its future sustainability and leverages GCRC funding to attract further external funding opportunities  
  • Proposed knowledge exchange activities support the stated societal or cultural impacts, and meet the needs of, and involve the targeted stakeholders

Additional criteria for returning clusters include:

  • Demonstrated track record of teamwork (e.g., co-publications, co-supervised students, team grants, etc.) and how this enables proposed research goals.
  • Evidence of previous knowledge exchange accomplishments and a solid plan for future activities (e.g., community engagement, policy impact, commercialization, etc.)
  • The extent to which the outcomes of the previous grant 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

Additional criteria for the optional Trainee Stipend include:

  • Proposal describes the research project(s) and role(s) that the trainee(s) will play in support of cluster goals and proposed outcomes, and how this will mutually benefit both the cluster and the trainee(s)
  • Proposal describes what the trainee(s) will receive with respect to research training support, mentorship, and career development


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.

information sessions

Information sessions were held on October 16 from 10-11:30 am, and October 17, 10-11:30 am.

A help session on specific cluster elements, such as EDI, knowledge exchange and partnerships, was held on November 9 for those who submitted an NOI. 


Sept 27, 2023

Competition Launch

Oct 16, 2023

10:00 – 11:30 am

(Optional) GCRC Competition Information Session

Oct 17, 2023

10:00 – 11:30 am

(Optional) GCRC Competition Information Session

Nov 1, 2023

11:59 pm

Deadline for submitting a notice of intent

Nov 9, 2023

10:00 – 11:30 am

(Optional) Help Session for GCRC applicants 

January 10, 2024

11:59 pm

Deadline for submitting applications

April 1, 2024

Funds distributed



Application Process and Format