Cybersecurity R&D Challenge

A. Program Overview
B. Program Objectives
C. How Funding Works
D. Eligibility
E. Evaluation and Assessment
F. Reporting Requirements
G. How to Apply
H. FAQ
I. Downloads


OCE held a Cybersecurity R&D Challenge webinar to provide information about the program. The webinar slides are available for download.  

A. Program Overview

Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), PROMPT and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) are partnering to support industry-academic collaborative research and development projects through OCE’s Voucher for Industry Association R&D Challenge Program.  The program will support joint industry-academic partnerships in Ontario and Quebec, which address cybersecurity technology challenges leading to economic benefit for both provinces.

Interested researchers from academic institutions in Ontario and Quebec are invited to submit Expressions of Interest (EOIs), in partnership with for-profit businesses in the two provinces. Eligible projects involve research and development in the Information and Communication Technologies sector related to cybersecurity.

Projects may be up to two years in duration and require a minimum of:

  • one academic research partner in Ontario
  • one academic research partner in Quebec
  • one industry partner in Ontario
  • one (different) industry partner in Quebec

Potential applicants may contact OCE for assistance in identifying partners in Ontario, and Prompt for assistance in identifying partners in Quebec, as required. Companies requiring research partners are also encouraged to list their challenges and R&D partner needs, to enable OCE and PROMPT to facilitate the partnering process.

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B. Program Objectives

The Cybersecurity R&D Challenge is a $3 million program that supports the cybersecurity technology sector in Ontario and Quebec, and develops partnerships between the provinces. The program encourages for-profit businesses with innovative cybersecurity related technologies to collaborate with academic research institutions, to foster innovation and drive commercialization. It is intended to develop and accelerate solutions to address Canada's cybersecurity strategy, which seeks to secure government systems and to protect citizens, companies and key infrastructure underlying our economy.

Benefits

For-profit Businesses:

  • Develop relationships with researchers to extend company R&D 
  • Address company innovation needs and challenges, and develop new products, processes or services
  • Increase productivity and revenue
  • Gain access to new talent and established academic researchers
  • Gain access to unique facilities and research equipment available in academic institutions 
  • Gain access to OCE and PROMPT's academic networks and exposure to other OCE and PROMPT programs

Academia:

  • Gain access to exciting innovation challenges and conduct cutting-edge research
  • Increase visibility of research teams in both academic and industry research environments
  • Create intellectual property
  • Establish relationships with industry
  • Develop skills of graduate students and other Highly Qualified Personnel (HQP)

Students:

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

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C. How Funding Works

  • OCE and PROMPT will each contribute up to $80,000 in direct costs per project. OCE funds flow to the Ontario academic research partner, and PROMPT funds flow to the Quebec academic research partner to support R&D project activities.
  • For this maximum funding request to be met, the industry partners (combined) must provide a match to the academic institutions of at least $100,000 in cash plus $100,000 of in-kind support (plus institutional overhead; see below*).
  • The industry partners’ contributions should be at least $50,000 in cash plus $50,000 of in-kind in each province.
    • In Ontario, the industry partner(s) must provide $50,000 cash plus $50,000 in-kind to the academic research partner.
    • In Quebec, the industry partner(s) must provide $50,000 cash plus $50,000 in-kind to the academic research partner. 
    • Potential partnership scenarios and budgets should be discussed with your OCE Business Development Manager or with PROMPT. 
  • For lower funding requests to OCE and PROMPT, matching cash and in-kind contributions from the industry partners may be scaled accordingly. This should be discussed as part of your application process with your OCE Business Development Manager or with PROMPT.
  • Through a CRD or ARD grant, NSERC will further 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 if the in-kind contribution is at least equal to the net industry cash. See Table 2 below for an example calculation of the NSERC leverage. The NSERC funds will flow to the institution of the applicant (CRD or ARD Principal Investigator (PI) who is applying on behalf of the research team, including the co-applicant and industrial partners). This lead institution will transfer funds to the co-applicant institution(s).
  • Overall, this program provides industry partners with a maximum 1:1.8 total leverage on their contributions (cash and in-kind).

*Institutional overhead is ineligible as a project expense and should not be included on either the OCE, PROMPT or industry funded portions of the project budget. The overhead that is to be attributed as part of the OCE contribution will be calculated directly by OCE and paid separately on an annual basis to Ontario academic institutions, to a maximum of 20 per cent of direct costs of OCE-funded research. The overhead that is to be attributed as part of the PROMPT contribution will be calculated directly by PROMPT, and remitted to Quebec academic institutions when project funds are released. The overhead on the industry funded portion of the project must be discussed with the research administration office at both academic institutions at the time of application to ensure it is correctly accounted for.

Table 1: Funding Per Project*

  Ontario Quebec     Total Project   
OCE     80,000         80,000
PROMPT
   80,000    80,000
Company Cash    50,000       50,000**        100,000 
Company In-kind       50,000          50,000     100,000
NSERC     100,000        100,000     200,000
Total     280,000        280,000     560,000

*The above contributions are for direct project costs only and do not include overhead. Additional institutional overhead on the industry partner contributions must be discussed with the academic institution’s research office.

Table 2: Sample calculation showing additional NSERC CRD leverage on the Industry Contributions:

 
Net Industry Contribution
($)

NSERC CRD Matching Contribution ($)*
Industry Cash    50,000    50,000
Industry In-kind    60,000    50,000
Total    110,000    100,000

*NSERC will match the industry cash contribution to the direct costs of research up to twice the net industry cash, if the in-kind contribution is at least equal to the net industry cash. 

Flow of Funds:

OCE funds will flow directly from OCE to the Ontario academic institution. Upon execution of the OCE Funding Agreement, OCE will release payments as follows:

  • An initial payment of 45 per cent of the OCE contribution will be released when the Agreement has been fully executed. A subsequent interim payment (45 per cent of the OCE contribution) will be released upon receipt of interim progress and financial reports at one half of the project duration.
  • 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. 

Funds from PROMPT will flow directly to the Quebec academic institution, following the schedule of payment of the Quebec industry partners’ cash to the Quebec institution. The Quebec applicant must complete a request for funding, and submit to PROMPT along with proof of industry partner payment to the academic institution, in order to release the funding tranches. Ten per cent of the PROMPT funding will be held back and released upon project completion and receipt of final progress and financial reports.

Funds from NSERC will flow to the academic institutions following NSERC CRD/ARD terms and conditions, based on project length and value, as stipulated at the time of the NSERC award.

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D. Eligibility

  • Projects must be in the cybersecurity sector and demonstrate benefit to the industry leading to novel, newly adapted or adopted processes, products, or services.
  • Projects must involve research and development in the Information and Communications Technologies sector.
  • Projects may be up to two years in duration.
  • Projects must include one applicant who is a researcher at an accredited academic institution in Ontario (university or college), and one applicant who is a researcher at an accredited academic institution in Quebec (university or college). Projects must have one industry partner in each province as described in the section How Funding Works above.
  • The industry partners must have a research and development (R&D) presence and/or manufacturing operations in Ontario and Quebec, and must be expected to commercialize the R&D results of the project for the benefit of both provinces.
  • Industry partners must have a minimum of two full-time employees and have been in operation for at least two years. Industry partners that are at pre-revenue stages are required to complete an additional eligibility assessment for the NSERC CRD/ARD programs, prior to submission of an EOI.
  • Academic and industry partners must have an arms-length relationship as defined by NSERC guidelines for organizations participating in research partnerships.
  • All projects and partners must meet the eligibility criteria for NSERC CRD or ARD programs. In particular, projects must contain sufficient research activities to qualify for these programs. Please refer to NSERC CRD and ARD contribution and eligibility requirements online.
  • R&D projects must leverage the unique capabilities of the academic environment and academic teams and be non-competitive with Ontario and Quebec private sector capabilities.
  • Intellectual Property (IP) arising from a project will be managed by the project participants, as OCE and PROMPT 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, PROMPT and NSERC.

Typical Activities:

Projects can be at any point in the research and development (R&D) spectrum in the domain of cybersecurity technology that is consistent with the university’s research, training, and technology transfer mandate. Activities could include:

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

Eligible Costs:

  • Salaries and benefits for technicians, support staff, post-doctoral fellows, research assistants and students involved exclusively in eligible project activities (Principal Investigators’ salaries are not supported by this award, with the exception of a college faculty teaching release of up to $9,000/course/semester)
  • Research equipment purchase (prorated to project duration) or equipment usage of up to 20 per cent of the OCE/PROMPT/NSERC funding contribution
  • Materials and supplies
  • Travel (refer to last point for out-of-province travel)
  • Project management or other direct project administration costs of 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
  • OCE-funded expenses must be for activities or operations performed within Ontario, unless prior written approval has been obtained from OCE. PROMPT-funded expenses must be for activities or operations performed within Quebec, unless prior written approval has been obtained from Prompt.

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.*

*Expenses to be funded by PROMPT should be discussed with PROMPT in advance of submission in order to confirm eligibility.

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E. Evaluation and Assessment

Application is a two-step process. Applicants may work with an OCE Business Development Manager and PROMPT throughout the application process. The funding process is competitive.

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

All submitted EOIs will undergo an initial internal review by OCE for application completeness and financial compliance. Subsequently, an EOI review committee comprised of representatives of OCE, PROMPT, NSERC and industry experts will review and select approximately five to eight top-ranked EOIs to move forward, with applicants submitting a full application to NSERC’s Collaborative Research and Development (CRD) or Applied Research and Development (ARD) program. 

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 cybersecurity sector, and present a significant market opportunity
  • Demonstrate broad applicability and benefit to the cybersecurity 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
  • Demonstrate opportunity for training of highly qualified personnel (HQP) including graduate students
  • Are highly likely to be commercialized/implemented and generate economic benefit for Ontario and Quebec
  • Anticipate tangible deliverables in the form of new technologies, new processes, significant skills transfer, job creation, or other benefits to society.

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F. Reporting Requirements

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

Interim Progress Reports:

  1. Applicants 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 PROMPT for release of the second OCE funding tranche. PROMPT will continue to release funds according to the Quebec industry partner payment schedule provided the Interim report is approved by OCE and PROMPT.

Final Reports:

  1. After completion of the project, the Applicants and Industry Partners 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 PROMPT within 30 days of project completion.
  2. When the Applicant and Partner Final reports have been approved, the Ontario academic institution will be required to complete an attestation of the use of funds to close the project.
  3. 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 PROMPT.

Project Metrics:

  1. If the project continues past a fiscal year end (March 31), the Ontario Applicant and Industry Partner 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:

  1. Two years after project completion, the Industry Partners 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:

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G. How to Apply

Step 1:

Eligible applicants must submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) describing the specific challenge or opportunity along with a letter of commitment from each industry partner, 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 and/or Quebec
  • Benefits to both the Ontario and Quebec economy and cybersecurity industry, and the relevant time frame
  • Anticipated interaction of industry personnel with the university/college researchers
  • Contribution to the direct costs of the research (cash and in-kind)
  • Company profile (recommended in the case of a small company)
  • The Cybersecurity VIA online EOI application module is available through OCE's online system (AccessOCE). You may 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. 

It is recommended that applicants engage with an OCE Business Development Manager or PROMPT (see contact information at the bottom of this page) for help in identifying partners and in the preparation of the EOI. Applicants can also contact the Application Support Team (application-support@oce.zendesk.com) who will assist in initiating your application.

EOIs must be submitted via the OCE Online Application System before noon on Tuesday, September 27, 2016.  Please ensure that you have initiated your online application at least one week prior to this deadline.

Step 2:

Applicants whose EOI are selected by the EOI Review committee will be invited to submit a full application to NSERC CRD or ARD grants.

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, January 13, 2017 before 5:00 p.m. NSERC will provide feedback on the draft application.

Final CRD/ARD applications must be submitted to NSERC through the NSERC online system by Friday, February 17, 2017 before 5:00 p.m.

NOTE: It is the applicants’ responsibility to factor in the time required by their respective institutions’ research grants office to review the draft and final applications prior to submission to NSERC by the above deadlines.

Upon approval by NSERC, the Ontario applicant and industry partner must execute OCE’s standard 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.

Timelines

Date Application steps
Wednesday, April 6, 2016 Partnering Forum, Call for EOIs
Tuesday, September 27, 2016 (noon)

EOI deadline for submission to OCE and PROMPT (using OCE’s AccessOCE online system)

EOI Submission Checklist:

  • Application Information
  • Team Information
  • Proposal
  • Use of Funds
  • Supporting Documents

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

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

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

Friday, January 13, 2017

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

Friday, February 17, 2017 Final application submission to NSERC CRD/ARD
May to July 2017 Funding agreements executed and approved projects start 

To apply, please contact your OCE Business Development Manager, PROMPT (see contact information below) or the Application Support Team (application-support@oce.zendesk.com) who will assist in initiating an Expression of Interest in the OCE online application system.

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H. FAQ

Please review OCE's Program FAQ

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I. Downloads

  • EOI proposal questions - this sample application template is for informational purposes only. Applications are only accepted through OCE’s online system where full application requirements are listed.
  • OCE Funding Agreement
  • NSERC CRD and ARD full application forms


For more information on the Cybersecurity R&D Challenge, please contact:

In Ontario:

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

OCE Application Support
(416) 861 1092 x2400
application-support@oce.zendesk.com

Bettina Klenkler, PhD
Director, Programs, OCE
(416) 861 1092 x1066
bettina.klenkler@oce-ontario.org

For Business Development assistance with identifying partners in Ontario, and preparation of EOIs and CRD/ARD applications:

Philippa King, PhD
Manager, Business Development, OCE
(613) 726-3430 x4225
philippa.king@oce-ontario.org

In Quebec:

For inquiries about the program eligibility, funding, timelines, application process; and assistance with identifying partners in Quebec and preparation of EOIs and CRD/ARD applications:

Francois Borrelli
Vice-président, stratégie et  développement des affaires 
(514) 575-0997
fborrelli@promptinc.org