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 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

2021/22 Competition

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

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

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.

Currently- and previously -funded clusters whose project term lengths have ended or will end by March 2021 are eligible to apply.   

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

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 $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. 



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 ( 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.


Late-September, 2020

Competition Launch

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

11:59 pm

Deadline for submitting a notice of intent

November 3, 2020

 Full application submission portal will open

November 16, 2020

11:00am- 12:30pm

 (Optional) Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion/ Knowledge Exchange Session for GCRC applicants - Register here

January 13, 2021

11:59 pm

Applications due to VPRI

February 26, 2021

9:00 – 11:00 am

Pre-award cluster workshop

April 1, 2021

Funds distributed


Scope and Format