Agri-Based Industrial Bioproducts R&D Challenge

The call for Expressions of Interest to this program is now closed.

Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), the Agricultural Adaptation Council (AAC) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) are partnering to support collaborative research and development projects through OCE’s Voucher for Industry Association R&D Challenge Program.

The Agri-Based Industrial Bioproducts (ABIB) R&D Challenge is a $3-million program that supports Ontario’s developing industrial bioproducts sector. The program encourages for-profit businesses with innovative industrial bioproduct ideas (any commercial product derived from agricultural sources) to collaborate with academic research institutions to foster innovation and drive commercialization. It is intended to provide significant economic benefits to Ontario (jobs, revenues etc.) by supporting the development of the next generation of agri-based industrial bioproducts.

Interested researchers from Ontario academic institutions are invited to submit Expressions of Interest (EOIs), in partnership with for-profit businesses, for the development of collaborative research projects for this ABIB R&D Challenge. 

How Funding Works

The Agri-Based Industrial Bioproducts (ABIB) R&D Challenge Program partners will review and select approximately 10 qualified projects up to two years in length, to be funded by OCE, AAC, NSERC and the industry partners. Projects funded will complete research and development activities that support the advancement of the industrial bioproducts sector and demonstrate an economic benefit to Ontario.

Types of eligible projects include, but are not limited to, the following focus areas:

  • Development of biocomposite materials from plant fibres (e.g. miscanthus) to replace fiberglass and petrochemical-derived plastics
  • Use of plant and vegetable oils (e.g. soybean and canola oils) to create bio-based polymers such as coatings, films, adhesives, plastics and resins
  • Development of corn-, bean- and soybean-based protein plastics as an alternative to petroleum-based plastics
  • Development of bioplastics from sugar/starch crops (e.g. sugarbeet, and sweet stalk sorghum) to replace conventional chemicals and plastics

Direct contributions from OCE, AAC and NSERC may total up to $160,000 per project. The industry partner must provide a minimum 1:1 matching contribution for the OCE and AAC contributions; for the maximum funding request this equals a minimum industry match of $80,000 (cash and in-kind). Overall, this program provides industry partners with a maximum 1:2 total leverage on their contribution (cash and in-kind). For details on OCE, AAC and NSERC leverage calculations, please see examples below. 

Funding Per Project:

Partner  Maximum cash contribution per project ($) In-kind contribution per project ($) 
OCE  40,000   
AAC  40,000  
Industry  40,000*  40,000* 
NSERC  80,000**   
Total  200,000  40,000 

*Minimum required match
**See section below for more details on NSERC matching contributions

OCE and AAC Funding:

OCE and AAC will each provide funding of up to $40,000 per project for direct project costs (combined OCE/AAC contribution of up to $80,000). OCE and AAC funds support the academic partner(s) who must be located at an Ontario accredited public academic institution (university or college).

To qualify for funding, applicants must provide a minimum 1:1 match (cash plus in-kind) from industry for the OCE/AAC funding. At least 50 per cent of the matching contribution must be cash; i.e. if OCE and AAC contribute $80,000 per project (combined), the industry contribution must be a minimum of $40,000 cash (for direct project costs) plus $40,000 in-kind.

Institutional overhead is not an eligible project expense and should not be included on either the OCE, AAC or industry funded portions of the project budget. The overhead that is to be attributed as part of the OCE and AAC contribution will be calculated directly by OCE and paid separately on an annual basis to academic institutions to a maximum of 20 per cent of direct costs of OCE- and AAC-funded research. The overhead on the industry funded portion of the project must be discussed with your institution’s research administration office at the time of application to ensure it is correctly accounted for.

NSERC Funding: 

Industry contributions to the project are further leveraged by NSERC CRD and ARD programs. 

NSERC CRD or ARD grant will match the industry cash contribution to the direct costs of research (excluding institutional overhead, i.e. the Net Contribution), up to twice the net industry cash as long as the in-kind contribution is at least the same as the net industry cash. 

Sample calculation showing additional NSERC CRD leverage on the Industry Contributions:

Net Industry Contribution
NSERC CRD Matching Contribution ($)
Industry Cash 40,000 40,000
Industry In-kind 50,000 40,000
Total Industry 90,000 80,000

Please refer to NSERC CRD and ARD contribution and eligibility requirements online: 

Typical Activities:

  • Experimental design
  • Lab testing
  • Pilot projects
  • Experiments and data collection
  • Workshops and meetings
  • Cross-disciplinary exploratory meetings
  • Highly qualified personnel (HQP) skills development
  • Intellectual Property development

Eligible Costs: 

  • Salaries and benefits not paid by public institutions, including, but not limited to students (undergraduate and graduate), post-doctoral fellows, technologists. (Principal investigators’ salaries are not supported by this award)
  • Small equipment purchase (prorated to project duration) or equipment usage
  • Materials and supplies
  • Travel
  • Project management or other direct project administration costs up to a maximum of 10 per cent of the direct project costs
  • Intellectual Property protection costs are the responsibility of the applicant/partner(s) and are not an eligible project expense
  • Institutional overhead is not an eligible project expense. Overhead will be paid separately as described in the How Funding Works section above
  • Expenses must be for activities or operations performed within Ontario, unless prior written approval has been obtained from OCE and AAC

A full list of eligible expenses can be viewed on NSERC's website.

Additional detail on partner contributions can be viewed on NSERC's website. 



For-profit Businesses

  • Access new talent and established academic researchers
  • Identify innovative marketable solutions to current industry challenges
  • Gain affordable short-term skilled labour
  • Increase productivity and revenue
  • Gain exposure for company and brand 


  • Access exciting innovation challenges and conduct cutting-edge research
  • Increase visibility of your team in both academic and industry research environments
  • Create intellectual property
  • Establish relationships with industry firms
  • Highly qualified personnel (HQP) skills development


  • Gain real-world experience
  • Enhance skills through R&TD training and development
  • Connect with established companies
  • Use knowledge and fresh ideas to solve industry and sector-wide problems

Eligibility Criteria

  • Projects must include at least one researcher at an academic institution in Ontario (applicant) and one investing for-profit Ontario industry partner.
  • Industry partner(s) must have a research and development (R&D) presence and/or manufacturing facility in Ontario, and the operations in Ontario must be expected to commercialize the R&D results of the project.
  • 1:1 matching (cash and in-kind) is required from the industry partner(s); e.g. If OCE and AAC (combined) invest $80,000, the industry partner must contribute a minimum of $40,000 cash plus $40,000 in-kind towards direct project costs.
  • R&D projects must leverage the unique capabilities of the academic environment and academic team and be non-competitive with Ontario private sector capabilities.
  • Projects must be in the agri-based products sector with a demonstrated immediate benefit to the industry leading to novel, newly adapted or adopted processes, products, or services.
  • Intellectual Property (IP) arising from the project will be managed by the project participants, as OCE and AAC do not claim or manage IP rights.
  • Participants must co-operate in providing project and outcomes metrics, annually at a minimum.
  • Applicants must be in good financial and reporting standing with OCE, AAC and NSERC.
  • Please note that companies that have over $100,000 in active OCE projects must complete those projects (including all final reporting) prior to OCE considering other applications for funding. This excludes TalentEdge internships and fellowships.  

How to Apply

Application is a two-step process:

  1. Expressions of Interest (EOI): OCE and AAC have issued this Call for Expressions of Interest (EOI) for industry-academic R&D projects that address opportunities/challenges in the agri-based product industry.
  2. NSERC application – Invitation only: Approximately 10 selected applicants will be invited to submit a full application for NSERC CRD or ARD grants.

Step 1:

Eligible applicants (researchers at Ontario academic institutions) must submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) describing the specific challenge or opportunity along with an industry partner letter of commitment which must include the following items:

  • Support for and agreement with the application
  • Reasons for being involved in the collaboration
  • Anticipated benefits from the project outcomes
  • Effort required to exploit the results in Ontario
  • Benefits to both the Ontario economy and agriculture industry, and the relevant time frame
  • Anticipated interaction of industry personnel with the university/college researchers
  • The contribution to the direct costs of the research (cash and in-kind)
  • In the case of a small company, it is recommended that a company profile be included

The Agri-Based Industrial Bioproducts VIA online EOI application module will be available shortly. Download the EOI questions to begin to prepare your application. Applications are only accepted through OCE’s online system where the EOI questions must be attached, and full submission requirements (including project contacts, summary for public release, classification, budget, milestones, team members) are listed. This section will be revised with instructions to initiate an online application once the application module is available.

Applicants are recommended to engage with an OCE Business Development Manager to help in the preparation of the EOI. Applicants can also contact the Application Support Team ( who will assist in initiating your application. Please ensure that you have initiated your online application at least one week prior to the deadline.

EOIs must be submitted via the OCE Online Application System before noon on Monday, January 25, 2016.  Please ensure that you have initiated your online application at least one week prior to the deadline.

All submitted EOIs will undergo an initial technical review by the AAC and by external third party reviewers, and partners or advisors that are governed by confidentiality processes. Applicants will have an opportunity to respond to questions raised through this process. Subsequently, an EOI review committee comprised of representatives of OCE, AAC, NSERC and industry experts will review and select approximately 10 EOIs to move forward and submit a full application to NSERC’s Collaborative Research and Development (CRD) or Applied Research and Development (ARD) program. 

Step 2:

Applicants whose EOI was selected by the EOI Review committee will be invited to submit a full application to NSERC CRD or ARD grants (see forms at the links below):

The first draft of NSERC CRD/ARD application must include a completed application, budget information and letter(s) of support. The draft must be submitted to NSERC by Friday, May 13, 2016 before 5:00 p.m. NSERC will provide feedback on the draft application.

Final CRD/ARD applications must be submitted to NSERC by Monday, June 20, 2016 before 5:00 p.m.

Successful applicants and their industry partners must execute OCE’s non-negotiable funding agreement, including a completed Schedule D, Intellectual Property Term Sheet, within 60 days of notification of NSERC award. A copy of the Funding Agreement can be downloaded for your reference. Please do not fill out this form; a copy of the agreement will be generated through our online management system and sent to you upon approval of your project. 

Application Assessment

Applicants may work with an OCE Business Development Manager throughout the application process. The funding process is competitive. Expressions of Interest will be reviewed by a panel comprised of OCE, AAC, NSERC and industry experts.

The top ranked EOIs will be invited to submit full proposals through NSERC’s Collaborative Research & Development (CRD) or NSERC Applied Research & Development (ARD) programs.

Full applications will undergo arms-length peer review by NSERC.

Preference will be given to EOIs that:

  • Address an opportunity that is important to the ABIB sector, and present a significant market opportunity;
  • Demonstrate immediate benefit to the ABIB industry, leading to novel, newly adapted or adopted processes, products, or services;
  • Demonstrate innovation in the context of current technical and commercial developments;
  • Demonstrate appropriate skills, resources and methodology for completing research and development;
  • Demonstrate close industry-academic R&D collaboration;
  • Are highly likely to be commercialized/implemented and generate economic benefit for Ontario;
  • Anticipate tangible deliverables in the form of new technologies, new processes, significant skills transfer, job creation, or other benefits to society.

Flow of Funds and Reporting Requirements:

OCE and AAC funds will flow directly from OCE to the academic institution. Upon execution of the required Funding Agreements, OCE will release payments as follows:

  • OCE will release an initial payment of 45 per cent of the OCE/AAC contribution when all Agreements have been executed. A subsequent interim payment (45 per cent of the OCE/AAC contribution) will be released upon receipt of interim progress and financial reports.
  • A holdback of 10 per cent will be released upon project completion and receipt of the following: final progress and financial reports, outcomes and attestation from the institution regarding the use of funds. 

Overhead on OCE and AAC contributions is calculated by OCE and paid annually to academic institutions. Overhead is calculated at a rate of 20 per cent x direct costs of OCE- and AAC-funded research.

NSERC funds will flow to the academic institution following NSERC CRD/ARD guidelines based on project length and value, as shown on NSERC's website: 

 The following project reports will be required by OCE and AAC:

Interim Progress Reports:

1.     Applicant(s) will be required to complete Interim reports (including progress and financials) at one half of the project duration. The reports must be approved by OCE and AAC for release of the second funding tranche.

Final Reports:

2.     After completion of the project, the Applicant(s) and Industry Partner(s) will be required to complete Final Project Reports (including progress, financials and metrics). Applicant and Partner reports must be received and approved by OCE and AAC within 30 days of project completion.

3.     When the Applicant and Partner final reports have been approved, the academic institution will be required to complete an attestation of the use of funds to close the project.

4.     All required final reports by all partners must be submitted within 30 days of project completion in order to release the holdback, and maintain good financial standing with OCE and AAC.

Project Metrics:

5.      If the project continues past a fiscal year end (March 31), the Applicant(s) and Industry Partner(s) will be required to complete annual OCE metrics surveys each April, for the part of the project that has been completed since the previous March 31. This annual report is mandatory for OCE to fulfil its contracts with its government funder. Required metrics reports from all partners must be submitted in order to maintain good financial standing with OCE.

Retrospective Survey:

6.     Two years after project completion, the Industry Partner will be sent a link to complete a retrospective survey to collect data on commercial outcomes from the project. This information is required by OCE for assessment of program impact and continuous improvement.

Reporting to NSERC will follow NSERC CRD reporting requirements based on project length and value as shown on NSERC's website:



Date Application steps
Monday, November 9, 2015 Call for EOIs
Monday, January 25, 2016 (noon)

EOI deadline for submission to OCE

EOI Submission Checklist:

  • Application Information
    • Project header information
    • Company profile for Industry Partner
  • Public Release Classification
    • Summary of Proposal for Public Release
    • Project Category
    • HQP Information
  • Project Contacts
    • Applicant(s) Contact Information
    • Project Partner(s) Contact Information
  • Application Form
  • Project Plan and Budget
    • Project Milestones/Activities
    • Project Finance/Budget sheet
  • Attachment Checklist: Supporting documents
    • NSERC Form 100/Form 103CV or equivalent of applicant(s) and resume/CV of key individuals connected to the project
    • Industry Partner Commitment letter

Please ensure that you have initiated your online application, either through an OCE BD or Application Support, at least one week prior to the deadline.

Friday, March 18, 2016

A panel reviews the EOIs and informs applicants about their submission status 

Friday, May 13, 2016

First draft of NSERC CRD/ARD application is due for invited candidates  

Monday, June 20, 2016 Final application submission to NSERC CRD/ARD
September to November 2016  Funding agreements executed and approved projects start 

To apply, please contact your OCE Business Development Manager or the Application Support Team ( who will assist in initiating an Expression of Interest in the OCE online application system.

For more information on the Agri-Products R&D Challenge, please contact:

For general inquiries about the program: eligibility, funding, timelines, application process:

OCE Application Support
(416) 861 1092 x2400

Bettina Klenkler, PhD
Director, Programs, OCE
(416) 861 1092 x1066

Carolyn Kozak
Program Coordinator, AAC
(519) 822 7554 x664

For OCE Business Development assistance with preparation of EOIs and CRD/ARD applications:

Richard Worsfold
Director, Business Development
(416) 861-1092 x3252

Tim Gibbins
Manager, Business Development
(416) 861 1092 x6003