The NRC's Aging in Place Challenge program and CIHR Institute of Aging joint funding call

 

Technological solutions to assist older adults with mental health conditions or social isolation to live well in the community

1. Summary

This call for proposals is a joint endeavour between the National Research Council of Canada's (NRC) Aging in Place Challenge program and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research - Institute of Aging (CIHR-IA). The focus of this call is to seek technological solutions to assist older adults with mental health conditions and/or those who experience social isolation so they can live well in the community. For the purpose of this call, technological solutions are defined as devices or interventions that are enabled or enhanced by technology. This call is open to development of novel technologies, or research investigating novel application of existing technologies.

Approximately 15% of older adults are living with some form of mental health condition, and mental health accounts for 6.6% of disability-adjusted life years for adults over 65Footnote 1. Left untreated, these mental health conditions can seriously affect well-being, and have long-lasting physical and social consequences. As the population ages, more older adults with mental health conditions will require care and support from an already stretched mental health / primary care system. In addition, dementia is commonly associated with mood disorders and behavioural and psychological symptoms; both of which are predictors of institutionalization as caregivers report challenges with managing care in the home setting.

Caregiver burnout is a key cause of institutionalization for those they care for. Research has demonstrated that access to psychotherapies and other mental health supports can decrease caregiver burden and increase self-reported resilience. Supporting caregivers is therefore an effective intervention to reduce or delay transition to long-term care facilities.

In addition, loneliness and social isolation in older adults both contribute to, and cause, poor mental health. Connectedness, defined as "a feeling of similarity or affinity with another person or group, a sense of belonging,Footnote 2" has been shown to directly and significantly relate to the mental and physical health of older adults. In fact, both loneliness and social isolation have been linked to higher all-cause mortality in older adults.Footnote 3 Supporting older adults to maintain social connection and good mental health is an essential component of enabling them to age in place successfully.

There is an urgent need for innovative approaches to support the mental health of older adults and reduce social isolation to enable older adults to live well and age in place successfully.

2. Background and context

The NRC is Canada's largest federal research and development organization. Our mission is to have an impact by advancing knowledge, applying leading-edge technologies, and working with other innovators to find creative, relevant and sustainable solutions to Canada's current and future economic, social and environmental challenges.

The challenge statement for the Aging in Place Challenge program is a 20% increase in the number of older adults who are living in homes and communities of their choice by the year 2031. The program intends to address this challenge by developing innovations in science and technology that enable safe, respectful, healthy and socially connected living. Projects are organized into 4 core pillars: safety, health, connection, standards.

The CIHR-IA mission is to support research, capacity building and knowledge mobilization to maintain and improve the health, resiliency and quality of life of older Canadians. This includes addressing the complex health challenges that can be more prevalent in older individuals. The CIHR-IA promotes the use of a lifecycle approach to support advances in prevention, diagnosis, treatment, care delivery and social determinants of health.

The CIHR-IA is a national leader in addressing health research priorities for older adults. Institute initiatives not only link and support researchers located in universities and hospitals across the country, but also bring together different levels of government, practitioners, voluntary health organizations and older adults themselves.

3. Available funding

Total funding available in this collaborative funding opportunity is $1,350,000 from the NRC and $300,000 from the CIHR-IA to fund 3 projects, for a maximum of 3 years each. The nominated principal applicant (NPA) will be eligible to receive up to $450,000 over a maximum of 3 years in grant funding from the NRC to support their portion of the project. The NPA will also be eligible to receive up to $100,000 over a maximum of 3 years from CIHR-IA to support knowledge mobilization and/or community engagement. Projects with a shorter duration will be considered.

NRC grant funding is administered by the NRC's National Program Office. CIHR-IA funds are administered by CIHR.

3.1 Funding guidelines

NRC support

NRC funding will be provided through the Collaborative Science, Technology and Innovation Program (CSTIP) terms and conditions.

CSTIP is intended to position the NRC as a collaborative platform that uses science excellence to tackle Canada's most pressing challenges. As such, projects supported under this initiative benefit from NRC assets in place (special-purpose research facilities, scientific expertise and networks) and financial assistance in the form of non-repayable grants or contributions. Financial assistance will go to the nominated principal applicant. For more information on available funding please consult the frequently asked questions about grant and contribution funding for collaborators.

CIHR-Institute of Aging support

The CIHR-IA funding for this initiative is reserved exclusively for knowledge mobilization and/or community engagement activities and actions. Some examples of knowledge mobilization activities that could be supported through this initiative include:

  • knowledge user engagement / community engagement / partnership building
  • adaptation and/or sustainability of intervention/technology
  • scale and/or spread of innovation
  • impact evaluation

Applicants will be required to provide a detailed knowledge-mobilization plan with budget requirements as part of their full application if invited. The knowledge-mobilization plan should outline how key results will be shared with target audiences and the mechanism(s) used to mobilize findings including government stakeholders, senior health executives and allied health care providers in the community, key partners and health-care organizations, researchers and the general population, including patients, families and caregivers as appropriate.

Applicants should review the relevant policies and guidelines on the CIHR Funding Policies page to ensure understanding of their responsibilities and expectations. Applicants should also review the Use of Grant Funds section of the Tri-Agency Guide on Financial Administration for requirements regarding allowable costs and activities.

4. Objectives

The objectives of this collaborative call are:

  • to fund research that uses technology-based solutions that help older adults with mental health conditions to live well in the community
  • to fund research that uses technology-based solutions to reduce social isolation of older adults living in the community
  • to fund research that uses technology-based solutions that support caregivers in assisting older adults to live well in the community

As indicated in the evaluation criteria (see appendices A and B), emphasis is given to projects with the greatest potential to deliver innovations and approaches that can be rapidly implemented to address currently unmet needs in the community.

4.1 Partner matching

To facilitate collaboration between the NRC and the academic community, a Partner Linkage Tool has been developed to link interested applicants during the development of project outline applications. It is not mandatory that applicants use this tool. Information is provided on a voluntary basis and use does not confer any advantages in the evaluation and funding of applications. The Partner Linkage Tool will be updated on a regular basis, until the project outline application deadline. To be identified in the tool, go to the Partner Linkage Tool. The information you provide will appear on a public CIHR web page. Applicants from the broader academic community and NRC scientists are both able to propose project ideas using this partner matching tool.

4.2 Call theme and specific focus areas

The core theme of this funding call is technological solutions to assist older adults with mental health conditions or social isolation to live well in the community. Within that theme, there are 3 areas of focus.

Focus area 1: Community-based, technology-enabled or enhanced approaches to support aging in place for older adults with dementia, depression, anxiety, bi-polar, schizophrenia, psychosis and other mental health conditions.

Focus area 2: Community-based, technology-enabled or enhanced approaches to reduce social isolation of older adults living in the community by facilitating community connections and addressing loneliness.

Focus area 3: Community-based, technology-enabled or enhanced approaches to support caregivers of older adults with mental health conditions including dementia.

4.3 Commitment to EDI and GBA+

Project teams must clearly demonstrate their commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) in their research applications, including composition of their project teams, research methods, analysis and knowledge-mobilization plans. Consideration of EDI and inclusion of a plan for GBA+ analysis will form part of the proposal scoring criteria. Undertaking GBA+ and critically considering factors related to EDI adds valuable dimensions in research, improving the quality, social relevance and impact of the research and may take the research in a new direction. EDI and GBA+ considerations should influence all stages of research or development processes, from establishing priorities and building theory to formulating questions, designing methodologies, and interpreting data. Applicants are invited to consult the Best Practices in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Research guide.

5. Application process

Step 1. Partner matching (and registration to request project outline (either party can propose ideas or register to request project outline)).

Step 2. The NRC principal investigator (PI), NPA and knowledge user (the project team) will register their interest on this page and will receive the project outline template.

Step 3. The project team collaboratively develop project outline.

Step 4. The NRC PI submits project outline to the NRC on behalf of the project team.

Step 5. Relevance committee reviews project outlines.

Step 6. The NRC sends a notice of outcome to the project team.

Step 7. The NRC sends full proposal form to selected project teams.

Step 8. Project team collaboratively develops full proposal.

Step 9. The NPA submits full proposal to the NRC on behalf of the project team.

Step 10. Peer-review committee reviews full proposals.

Step 11. The NRC sends a notice of outcome to the project team.

Step 12. Funding agreement signed with successful applicants.

Step 13. Funds flow and project starts.

5.1 Overview

The NRC and CIHR-IA are committed to a consistent, fair and transparent project-selection process in order to identify, select and approve the allocation of funding to projects that best fit the objectives of the collaborative call.

The application process comprises 2 stages. The first stage requires the submission of a project outline, which will serve to assess eligibility of the project team, project alignment with objectives, benefit and impact. The project outline will be completed by the project team and submitted by the NRC principal investigator on behalf of the project team.

The top 9 scoring outlines will be invited to submit a full proposal that will be assessed according to the evaluation criteria presented in section 5.4 Full Proposal Evaluation of this guide. The full proposal form will be made available to the project team after invitation.

5.2 Project outline stage

The project outline will be provided by the NRC once the applicant registers their interest on this page.

Key elements of the outline:

  • Alignment: Description of how the proposed project aligns with the objective of the Aging in Place Challenge program. Which focus area (as defined in section 4.2) of the call does it align with? What problem/challenge is being addressed?
  • Innovation: Description of why this technology solution is the best approach to meeting the challenge. What advantages does it have over competing approaches or solutions?
  • Benefits: Description of the target user of the technology. How will benefits be realized?
  • Work plan: Synopsis of objectives, key activities and timelines.
  • Milestones and deliverables: Description of the specific technical and strategic outcomes that will result from the project, when they will be achieved and how they will be measured so that progress may be tracked.
  • Partners: Key contributors, their contribution, and their role in meeting the project deliverables.

In addition to the project outline, project teams must submit:

  • An abridged curriculum vitae (CV) for the NPA, the NRC PI, and the knowledge user. The project team must also include CVs for any other key members of the team. The CVs must be a maximum of 4 pages (letter size 8"1/2 x 11"). The abridged CV must clearly indicate the individual's current affiliated organization and their status within that organization. The knowledge user may choose to submit a standard CV or may submit a short paragraph (250 to 300 word) explaining their relevant personal and professional experience.
    • All CVs must be saved together and submitted in a single PDF.
  • The NRC PI must provide evidence of research centre support for the submission by means of a letter or a PDF copy of an electronic communication (email) from their corresponding director of research and development.

Completed project outlines are to be submitted to the Aging in Place Challenge program director, no later than 5 pm EST December 22, 2021 to NRC.AgingInPlace-VieillirChezSoi.CNRC@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca. Subject line: Mental Health and Social Isolation Project Proposal.

An applicant may withdraw their outline at any stage of the evaluation process by notifying the Aging in Place Challenge program in writing via email at NRC.AgingInPlace-VieillirChezSoi.CNRC@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca.

5.3 Project outline review

The evaluation of the project outline will be based solely on the information and documents submitted.

The NRC and CIHR will assess the eligibility and relevance of the project outlines using the matrix provided in Appendix A. An outline review committee that will consist of 2 nominees from the NRC's Aging in Place Challenge program, 2 nominees suggested by CIHR-IA, one representative from the NRC's National Program Office and an older adult will review the outline using a predefined scoring matrix to calculate total score for each project outline submitted.

For details on evaluation criteria, please see Appendix A: Evaluation criteria - Project outline stage.

5.4 Full proposal stage

As noted above, the top 9 scoring projects from the project outline stage will be invited to submit a full proposal which will be evaluated by an external peer-review committee.

The full proposal form (up to 20 pages when complete) will be made available to the selected project team.

Key elements of the full proposal include:

Project rationale

  • Describe the issue/problem/need or challenges that the project proposes to address, why it exists, and how it is currently being addressed (or not), along with limits of current practice.

Project description

  • Describe the project's overall scope, objectives, key activities and anticipated outcomes.

Knowledge mobilization and engagement

  • Describe the knowledge-mobilization and engagement plan.

Project team

  • Explain how the knowledge, experience and achievements of the individuals within your project team provide the expertise needed to accomplish the project objectives. Please ensure you include the contributions of all members of the project team.

Project budget

  • Detailed total project budget (including in-kind).
  • Rationale for financial assistance.
  • Budget for knowledge mobilization plan.

Risks and mitigation

  • Describe the primary benefits and risks that could inhibit the attainment of project objectives and explain related risk-mitigation strategies.

Statement of work

  • Project activities and milestones.

Project impact

  • Intended benefit to end user(s).

Intellectual property (IP) management

  • Describe potential IP arising from the project and the agreed upon approach to IP management.

EDI and GBA+

  • Provide detail on how EDI and GBA+ have been considered within the project.

Important notes:

  • The full proposal must be consistent with the information provided in the project outline. Major changes from the outline to the full proposal could render the project team and project ineligible. No changes to focus area will be accepted at this stage, as full proposals are by invitation only.
  • Any changes to the nominated principal applicant (CIHR eligible) or the NRC principal investigator, from the outline to the full proposal, will require written notice provided to the NRC's Aging in Place Challenge program director; funding partners will review changes to ensure that eligibility of the project team is maintained.
  • It is the project team's responsibility to verify that the changes made to the project remain aligned with the chosen theme before submitting a full proposal, as inadmissible changes could render the project teams and projects ineligible.
  • Decisions regarding the eligibility of full proposals are final and cannot be appealed.

5.5 Peer review

A representative of the NRC's National Program Office will perform an administrative review of the full applications to validate that they are complete, and the proposed project team is still eligible for funding. Incomplete submissions or submissions that do not meet the requirements will not proceed to further assessment. Missing information or documents will not be requested, and applications received after the submission deadline will not be considered. Any additional documents submitted that are not required will be removed from the full proposal before sending to the peer review committee for assessment.

The evaluation of the full proposal will be solely based on the information and documents submitted.

  • The peer review committee will be formed of subject-matter experts who are members of the scientific community, older adults, and/or representatives from an organization which represents older adults.
  • The peer review committee shall assess the scientific and overall quality of full proposals based on the criteria found in Appendix B: Evaluation criteria - Full proposal in this guide.

5.6 Announcement of results and funding award

The NRC's National Program Office will send an announcement of results email to all nominated principal applicants. The list of grant recipients will be published on the CIHR Funding Decisions Database and the NRC website. Once the results are announced, each funding partner shall send its formal funding award letters to the nominated principal applicant of successful project teams. Funding is conditional on the signing of a funding agreement between the NRC and the funding recipient. Funding partners shall disburse funds to successful funding recipients in accordance with the funding partner's funding terms and conditions associated with the award.

6. Key dates and deadlines

November 8, 2021

Competition opens

December 22, 2021

Project outline submission deadline

February 8, 2022

Invitations for full application sent out by the NRC

March 22, 2022

Full proposal submission deadline

April 22, 2022

Announcement of final results

May 8, 2022

Earliest funding start date

7. Registration

To begin the application process, you must register for this opportunity by clicking the Register button.

This call is now closed. The deadline to apply was December 22, 2021. Contact the Aging in Place program at NRC.AgingInPlace-VieillirChezSoi.CNRC@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca if you have any questions.

Appendix A: Evaluation criteria - Project outline stage

Mandatory project criteria

To progress, each section must have a 'yes' answer.

Sections Description of the required information Is the information complete (Yes or No)
Project budget
  • Does the proposed project budget fit within the funding parameters set out in this funding call?
Yes/ No
Team composition Does the project team have named members for each of the following:
  • A nominated principal applicant from a CIHR-eligible institution
  • A principal investigator from the NRC
  • A knowledge user
Yes/ No
Alignment
  • Does the proposal align with the Aging in Place Challenge program objectives?
Yes/ No
  • Does the proposal align with the stated focus area of the call?
Yes/ No
  • Is the proposed solution technology-based?
Yes/ No
Research Centre support
  • Does the application supply evidence of research centre support for the application?
Yes/ No

Additional evaluation criteria

Total possible score for these elements is 95.

Sections Description of the required information Rating
Innovation Does the application clearly explain:
  • why is this technology solution the best approach to achieving the challenge objectives?
  • what approaches exist today and what advantage does this solution have over competing approaches or solutions?
/20
Project Team Does the application clearly indicate:
  • key contributors, their contributions and their role in meeting project deliverables?
  • key achievements of the proposed project team and their relevance to the subject?
/10
Work plan, methods, milestones and deliverable Does the application clearly provide:
  • a synopsis of objectives, key activities and timelines?
  • descriptions of the intended methods, specific technical and strategic outcomes that will be the result of the project and how they will be measured?
/15
Benefit and impact Does the application clearly provide:
  • a description of the intended end user, and how they will benefit from the technology?
/10
EDI and GBA+ Is there evidence of EDI and GBA+ considerations in the application, in particular:
  • inclusion of women and under-represented employment equity groups (i.e. visible minorities, Indigenous peoples, and persons with disabilities)
    • in the project team?
    • in the conduct of the research?
    • in the monitoring and evaluation plan?
/10
Involvement of older adults Is there evidence that older adults are engaged as members of the project team? In particular, is there a clear description of how older adults are involved in:
  • idea development?
  • conduct of the research?
  • evaluation of research activities?
  • knowledge mobilization?
/15
Knowledge mobilization and engagement plan Does the knowledge mobilization plan include:
  • a description of key stakeholders for knowledge mobilization?
  • a description of how key results will be shared with target audiences or how community engagement will take place?
/15

Appendix B: Evaluation criteria - Full proposal

Full proposal evaluation criteria (100 points total)

Research quality (55 points):

  • Demonstrates coherence and clarity of the overall vision and objectives of the project in alignment with the focus area of this call
  • Current research methodologies that are feasible according to the timelines and objectives of the funding opportunity, and are responsible and appropriate for use with older adults
  • Demonstrates originality, innovation with potentially transformative concepts, lines of inquiry, and advancement of knowledge
  • Significance of the expected impact of the research on the field of study, and influence on the direction of thought and activity in the field
  • Demonstrated efforts to create diverse, inclusive and equitable research

Team composition (15 points):

  • Appropriate expertise, diversity and inclusiveness of the project team members for the proposed research, including a satisfactory history of producing quality work in a responsible manner
  • Demonstrated or potential for good working relationships with older adults
  • Equitable and meaningful role in leadership, co-development, execution of the research for older adults and team members
  • Strength of integration between the NRC, CIHR and knowledge-user members of the project team and potential for an ethical and impactful partnership

Impacts (20 points):

  • Appropriate plans for assessment of knowledge mobilization (impact assessment). This includes the development of indicators to assess the success of the knowledge mobilization plan; presence, appropriateness and quality of knowledge-mobilization plan, considerations and methodology; potential impact - significance of the research for the knowledge-user community, anticipated impact and potential translation of research into benefits for the knowledge-user community; knowledge-user engagement - inclusion of knowledge users, degree of meaningful and significant involvement of knowledge users, appropriateness and strength of knowledge-user engagement mechanisms; and measured outcomes - appropriateness and relevance of measured outcomes to patients and other knowledge users
  • Appropriate plans for dissemination and visibility of research results and deliverables within relevant communities. This includes plans for communication and engagement with relevant communities during the project and for communication of results with communities when research is completed
  • Strength of collaboration plan, including ethical, data and intellectual property management strategies
  • Potential impacts and benefits of the proposed research activities to older adults and caregivers
  • Potential to create and sustain partnerships among the project-team members beyond the term of this funding opportunity
  • Potential for the project to contribute to community empowerment and to generate long-term capacity-building benefits

Budget and IP (10 points):

  • Budget is clearly articulated, and appropriate for stated activities
    • Budget for NRC-funded activities (research and development)
    • Budget for CIHR-IA-funded activities (knowledge mobilization)
  • Potential IP arising from the project is clearly defined, and an approach to IP management is articulated.

Glossary of terms

NPO

The NRC's National Program Office

Nominated principal applicant (NPA)

Member of the project team eligible to hold and manage CIHR funds (Please see link to CIHR eligibility)

Principal investigator (PI)

Member of the project team from the NRC

CIHR-IA

Canadian Institutes of Health Research Institute of Aging

Project team

Members of a research project who participate in conducting the research, and significantly contribute to its development. The research team must include a nominated principal applicant eligible to hold CIHR funds, and an NRC principal investigator. Project teams must also have at least one knowledge user (older adult, caregiver or member of a group who represents these stakeholders) as a named member of the project team

Project outline

A short application which expresses the project team's interest in conducting research within one of the themes identified in this applicant guide. The purpose of the project outline is to qualify project teams according to the eligibility requirements of each funding partner, to validate project relevance to the Aging in Place Challenge program, and assess alignment with the focus areas of the call

Full application

The comprehensive application which is made available to project teams who progress pass the project outline stage

Knowledge user

CIHR defines a knowledge user as an individual who is likely to be able to use research results to make informed decisions about health policies, programs and/or practices. A knowledge user's level of engagement in the research process may vary in intensity and complexity depending on the nature of the research and on his/her information needs. A knowledge user can be, but is not limited to, a practitioner, a policy maker, an educator, a decision maker, a health-care administrator, a community leader or an individual in a health charity, patient group, private sector organization or media outlet. For the purpose of this call, at least one knowledge user must be an older adult, caregiver, or member of a group who represents these stakeholders