The NRC's Arctic and Northern Challenge program first call for proposals

 

1. High-level program details

The National Research Council of Canada (NRC), under its Arctic and Northern Challenge program, is proud to launch a call for research proposals in support of key themes connected to housing, water, food and health care for Indigenous and Arctic and Northern peoples and communities. This call will provide up to $5 million over 3 years to eligible recipients.

The program aims to address pressing issues impacting the quality of life of Northern peoples. The program is committed to prioritizing Northern‑led research projects that have a strong focus on Northern capacity building. By providing both research funding and scientific expertise from the NRC, the program aims to support strong and sustainable Northern communities through applied technology and innovation.

The design and delivery of the program is responsive to the unique realities of Canada's Arctic and Northern region. This includes acknowledging the history of colonialist practices in the region and Indigenous peoples' right to self‑determination—particularly in the research process. It also includes recognition of the socio‑economic and capacity gaps that exist between those living in the North and the South and other key challenges that come with operating in the North. The program is also designed to be adaptive to the distinct needs and assets of Indigenous nations.

Projects supported by this call will include effective representation from multiple disciplines of research, including environmental, social, cultural, health, design, construction and engineering. It is expected that the majority of research conducted by projects will take place within Arctic and Northern territories, which can include Inuit Nunangat, Yukon and the Northwest Territories. If any research is conducted outside of these areas, it must demonstrate direct relevance to Arctic and Northern communities and lands.

All applications should be led by a principal investigator (PI) or project administrator from Northern Canada. The PI or project administrator should be an Indigenous person or a representative from an Arctic and Northern organization or an Arctic and Northern community. If not, the project must include a funded partner who is Indigenous or a representative of an Indigenous organization.

A letter of intent (LOI) will be required to assess eligibility and relevance to the call. Those research teams who meet all of the LOI requirements will be invited to submit a full proposal. The LOI and full proposal will be submitted directly to the NRC.

The NRC's Collaborative Science, Technology and Innovation Program (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 the program will 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. The NRC's participation in the program's projects is provided in kind and therefore does not form a part of the recipient project costs. The NRC cannot benefit directly from CSTIP funding.

2. Background and context

Arctic and Northern peoples disproportionately experience a range of challenges in the areas of housing, health, food and water. With regard to housing, many communities across Canada's Arctic and Northern region are in crisis due to inadequate, unsuitable and/or unaffordable housing stock and an overall acute shortage of housing units.

Access to clean water is an ongoing Northern issue, despite the fact that 37% of Canada's fresh water is in the 3 territories. There are also significant supply‑related limitations, barriers preventing equitable access, issues related to diminishing water quality as well as impacts associated with colonial policies and actions, climate change, population growth and development that are reducing the availability of freshwater supply. Water infrastructure is lacking or weak in many communities, leading to frequent issues related to the collection or distribution of water, and contamination is increasingly prevalent in Northern freshwater systems.

Moreover, food security continues to be a significant issue across Canada's Arctic and Northern communities. The challenges related to access, availability and quality of food in Canada's Arctic and Northern region are well documented and are rooted in socio‑economic inequalities and a legacy of colonial policies.

Where health is concerned, Northern and Arctic peoples face great challenges. Limitations related to health care accessibility, comprehensiveness and appropriateness across the North have led to disproportionate impacts to the overall health of Northerners and, in particular, Indigenous peoples.

Many of these challenges are long‑standing and highly detrimental. Developing collaborative solutions that account for local knowledge and expertise is key to solving these ongoing challenges for Arctic and Northern peoples and critical for ensuring the dignity, health and prosperity of new generations.

The NRC's vision is for a better Canada and world through excellence in research and innovation. It aims 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 through its values of integrity, excellence, respect and creativity.

3. Objectives of the call

The program aims to advance applied research and development projects that will improve the daily lives of Northerners through the advancement of technology and innovation and build and increase Northern R&D capacity in order to solve pressing issues confronting Northerners.

This will be accomplished through participation of Arctic and Northern peoples in the design, governance, delivery and dissemination of applied research to address challenges that they identify.

4. Eligible projects

Projects must have direct relevance to Arctic and Northern peoples. It is expected that the majority of research projects will take place within Arctic and Northern lands and territories, which can include Inuit Nunangat, Yukon and the Northwest Territories, and will consider a pan‑Arctic perspective. If research is to be conducted outside of this area, it must demonstrate direct relevance to Arctic and Northern peoples.

Selected after extensive engagement sessions across Northern Canada, at least 1 of the program's 4 themes must be addressed in the project. The projects must also address Northern capacity building/training and braiding of Traditional Knowledge and Western science.

Theme 1 – Arctic and Northern housing

A household is considered to be in "core housing need" if 1 or more of the following 3 pillars are not met: adequacy (i.e., housing conditions do not require any major repairs), suitability (i.e., there are enough bedrooms for the size and makeup of resident households) and affordability (i.e., less than 30% of before‑tax income is being spent on housing costs).

To that end, under this theme, applied research is conducted and/or technology developed and applied to improve the adequacy, suitability, and affordability of Northern homes, such as:

  • adequacy: research into quality construction and robust infrastructure
  • suitability: research to support buildings that meet the functional and cultural needs of Northern communities
  • affordability: research in construction, maintenance, materials, energy efficiency, transportation and other means to support affordable housing

Theme 2 – Arctic and Northern water

Clean, fresh water is fundamental to the survival and prosperity of communities and ecosystems in Canada's North. The social, economic, cultural and spiritual well‑being of Arctic and Northern communities is dependent upon water security. Water security is defined by the United Nations (UN) as:

"…the capacity of a population to safeguard sustainable access to adequate quantities of acceptable quality water for sustaining livelihoods, human well‑being, and socio‑economic development, for ensuring protection against water‑borne pollution and water‑related disasters, and for preserving ecosystems in a climate of peace and political stability.Footnote 1

Water availability, accessibility and quality are key factors to ensuring water security in the North.

Under this theme, applied research is conducted and/or technologies developed and applied to improve the availability, accessibility and quality of Arctic and Northern water resources, such as:

  • availability: research to address climate change, population growth and other factors impacting the ability to source water
  • accessibility: research that addresses infrastructure, operations and maintenance to support water and wastewater management and water distribution
  • quality: research that examines contaminants within wastewater or quality of fresh water, and the treatment or monitoring of those, point‑source pollution or other impacts on water quality

Theme 3 – Arctic and Northern food

Food security exists when individuals have adequate economic and physical access to food and consistent availability of quality foods that are safe and nutritious, at all times. Food sovereignty is defined as an extension of food security that allows for production, distribution and consumption of food in a way that is consistent with one's culture and supports self‑sufficiency.

In an Arctic and Northern context, this includes access to traditional or country foods, which remain an important source of nutrition and energy intake for Northern communities, especially for Indigenous populations. Self‑determination is vital to both food sovereignty and food security because it presupposes local and community agency for decision making around food.

Under this theme, applied research is conducted and/or technologies developed and applied to improve the accessibility, availability and quality of Arctic and Northern food resources, such as:

  • accessibility: research addressing access to traditional food sources and food system infrastructure deficits
  • availability: research examining impacts of climate change, shipping reliability and other considerations on the availability of food
  • quality: research studying food safety, processing, storage, preservation and labour requirements

Theme 4 – Arctic and Northern health

A holistic view of health encompasses the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of health. In a Northern and Indigenous context, this definition is deeply connected to one's culture, and such a holistic view of health is dependent on a system focused on person‑centred care that is accessible, comprehensive and appropriate. Cultural safety, which refers to both an environment free of racism and discrimination, where people feel safe while receiving health care, as well as rate of human error (e.g., due to mismanagement of information) is an important factor that underpins this definition of health.

Under this theme, applied research is conducted and/or technologies developed and applied to improve the accessibility, comprehensiveness and appropriateness of Arctic and Northern health resources, such as:

  • accessibility: research examining remote, rapid and local care
  • comprehensiveness: research supporting detection, management and treatments for health and wellness, and its data, locally
  • appropriateness: research into culturally appropriate care and communication

Capacity building/training and Traditional Knowledge

Projects must also address the 2 cross‑cutting aspects of Northern capacity building/training and braiding of Traditional Knowledge and Western science.

Research projects must:

  • demonstrate how they will aim to increase Northern and Indigenous R&D capacity (individual, organizational and community), to address pressing issues confronting Northerners
  • show how they will braid Traditional Knowledge with the study design, data collection, project implementation, training and/or technology advancement, with at least 1 Traditional Knowledge holder involved in the project

5. Funding and support

CSTIP provides non‑repayable grants and contributions for eligible project activities in support of the Artic and Northern Challenge program objectives.

The program is making available up to $5 million over 3 years to support projects under this funding call. The NRC expects to fund between 6 and 15 projects, requesting between $50,000 and $150,000 per year. Each project may receive up to 3 years in grant or contribution funding from the NRC for research, knowledge mobilization equipment and/or community engagement. Projects with a shorter duration will also be considered.

The program will generally support up to 100% of a recipient's total project costs unless there will be commercial benefit to the recipient as a result of the project, in which case the program will support up to 75% of a recipient's total project costs.

Stacking of funding (i.e. total government support for a project) cannot exceed 100% of project costs.

The program aspires to balance funding across a number of factors including geography and Indigenous communities (i.e., Inuit, Métis and First Nations), and these equity assessments will be made during project review. This will allow the NRC to prioritize the best collaborative projects and then work to ensure an equitable distribution of resources.

6. Eligibility

6.1 Research team eligibility

The criteria defining principal investigators (PIs), project administrators, co‑investigators and collaborators are found in the research funding terms and conditions (see Appendix B).

  • Each research team must be composed of a PI or project administrator eligible to receive funding (see section 6.2).
  • The PI or project administrator should be an Indigenous person or a representative from an Arctic or Northern organization or an Arctic and Northern community. If not, the project must include a funded partner who is Indigenous or a representative of an Indigenous organization or community.
  • Individuals identified as PIs can submit a maximum of 1 project to this call as a PI and be part of a maximum of 1 other project as a co‑investigator.
  • Research team members who are Indigenous, or a representative from an Arctic or Northern organization or an Arctic and Northern community, are not subject to maximum participation limits.
  • A Traditional Knowledge holder must be part of the research team.
  • The research team must include an NRC collaborator.
  • The research team may also include other collaborators.

Eligibility of research team members will be determined on the basis of the submitted information and documents and as assessed by the NRC.

6.2 Eligible funding recipients

Eligible funding recipients include:

  1.  Legal entities validly incorporated or registered in Canada, including:
    • non‑profit organizations
    • small and medium‑sized for‑profit enterprises up to 500 employees
    • Indigenous governments, representative organizations / community groups
    • research institutions
    • academic institutions
  2.  Provincial, territorial, regional and municipal governments and their departments and agencies where applicable.
  3.  International recipients meeting the criteria of 1) and 2) above may be considered when there is a benefit to Canada.

7. Partner matching

To facilitate collaboration between the NRC and interested applicants, a partner‑linkage tool has been developed to link interested applicants during the development of letters of intent. 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 letter of intent application deadline. Upon registration, applicants will be provided with information on how to access the partner‑linkage tool. Applicants and NRC researchers are both able to access this partner‑matching tool.

8. Application process and timelines

8.1 Key dates and steps

  • LOI submission deadline: June 17, 2022
  • LOI notification: June 30, 2022
  • Full proposal submission deadline: October 21, 2022
  • Notification of final results: December 2, 2022
  • Earliest funding start: March 3, 2023

The following outlines the funding steps:

  • Step 1 Submit an expression of interest for the Arctic and Northern Challenge program to receive the program guide, letter of intent template, ethics guideline and example research topics by theme.
  • Step 2 Attend NRC‑led networking events for partner and NRC collaborator matching opportunities. This is encouraged but not mandatory.
  • Step 3 The research team collaboratively develops a letter of intent (LOI).
  • Step 4 The PI or project administrator submits the LOI to the NRC on behalf of the research team.
  • Step 5 NRC LOI committee reviews LOIs.
  • Step 6 The NRC sends a notice of outcome to the research team.
  • Step 7 The NRC sends full proposal templates to selected research teams.
  • Step 8 Research team collaboratively develops full proposal.
  • Step 9 The PI or project administrator submits full proposal to the NRC on behalf of the research team.
  • Step 10 External peer‑review committee reviews full proposals.
  • Step 11 The NRC sends a notice of outcome to the research team.
  • Step 12 NRC due diligence process.
  • Step 13 Funding agreement signed with successful applicants.
  • Step 14 Funds flow and project starts.

8.2 Letter of intent

The first stage of the call requires the submission of a concise letter of intent (LOI), which will serve to assess eligibility of the research team and project relevance. The LOI will be completed and submitted by the PI or project administrator. Upon registration, the PI or project administrator will be provided with the LOI template to fill out. The evaluation of the LOI will be based on the information contained in the LOI template.

After receipt of the LOI, the NRC will conduct an eligibility check (see Appendix A – Letter of intent). This will include an eligibility check of the research team according to CSTIP criteria as referenced in the program's Eligibility Guideline. Eligibility of research team members and project relevance must be maintained throughout the application process and throughout the duration of the funding award. Eligibility for funding under the program will also be assessed on project relevance to 1 or more of the research themes and to ensure capacity building and Traditional Knowledge requirements are met.

LOIs that have been assessed positively for eligibility and project relevance will be invited to submit a full proposal and discuss their project with specific NRC collaborators, if they have not already done so. Applicants that have submitted an ineligible LOI will receive a brief summary of the reasons for the rejection of their application. Decisions regarding the eligibility of LOIs are final and cannot be appealed.

LOI forms are to be submitted by the PI or project administrator to the Arctic and Northern Challenge program mailbox, no later than 23:59 EDT June 17, 2022, to NRC.Arctic&Northern-Arctique&Nord.CNRC@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca. Subject line: Arctic and Northern Challenge program LOI submission.

It will not be possible to update the LOI after the submission deadline. Any submittals received past the deadline will not be accepted. After the deadline, the NRC will validate that submittals are complete with respect to the requirements set out in the Program Guide. Incomplete submittals or submittals that do not meet the requirements will not proceed to further assessment. Missing information or documents will not be requested by the NRC, and those received after submission deadline will not be considered.

8.3 Full proposals

Following the LOI, the next stage of the call is the submission of a full proposal. Applicants (PI or project administrator) that are invited to the full proposal stage will receive notification of the required templates and information to be completed. The PI or project administrator must provide all mandatory documents on behalf of all members of the research team in order to be considered for funding. The evaluation of the full proposal will be based on the information and documents submitted to the NRC.

The scientific evaluation (see Appendix A – Full proposal) of proposed projects will be carried out by a peer review committee, which will be formed of subject experts that are representatives from Arctic or Northern organizations or communities and members of the scientific community.

A minimum of 50% of points must be achieved in each of the 4 categories as shown in Appendix A – Full proposal in order for a project score to be considered. In addition, the overall summation of points must be greater than or equal to 70% for a proposed project score to be considered. The recommendations made by the peer review committee will allow full proposals to be ranked. Distribution of funding will follow a balanced portfolio approach across regions and thematic areas. Decisions regarding the award of funding are final and cannot be appealed.

8.4 NRC due diligence process

Upon conclusion of the evaluation process, the NRC will conduct a diligence examination of the project, to examine the proposed benefits, conduct a risk assessment and validate the composition of the proposed budget.

8.5 Announcement of results and funding award

The NRC will send an announcement of results by email to PIs and project administrators, informing them of the full proposal results. Funding is conditional to the establishment of a funding agreement between the NRC and the recipient(s). Funding cannot be awarded before a Funding Agreement is signed by both the NRC and Recipient(s). The NRC shall disburse funds to successful recipient(s) in accordance with the NRC's funding terms and conditions associated with the award. Upon completion of contracting, the list of grant recipients will be published on the NRC's funded collaborative R&D programs and initiatives page.

8.6 Monitoring and reporting

The NRC has requirements for the scientific and financial monitoring and reporting of funded projects. These requirements will be specified in the terms and conditions specific to the award and included in the funding agreement between the NRC and the recipient(s). The NRC will request that PIs provide a progress report, summarizing the overall progress and achievements of each funded project. An annual event will be convened for research teams to gather to discuss their results to date.

8.7 Ethics and the responsible conduct of research

Any individual or organization that receives funding must demonstrate the highest standards of research ethics and scientific integrity. This includes a declaration by the PI or project administrator, on behalf of the research team and their organizations, that there are no real or apparent conflicts of interest that could influence the application and evaluation processes. This also includes the commitment to comply with any other ethics and integrity rules that may be applicable given the location where the research will be conducted, including those specific to research within Arctic and Northern regions or provided by specific Arctic and Northern communities. Each research team member must respect the ethical rules and responsible conduct of research policies of the NRC, as outlined in the Ethics Guideline.

8.8 Intellectual property

The research team and recipients must abide by principles supporting Indigenous self‑determination and adopt principles of ethical conduct of research. In particular, Indigenous ownership, access and control over data and information must be respected and ensured. The research team and the NRC also agree to ensure—via funding agreements, research funding terms and conditions or otherwise—that any peer‑reviewed publication that presents the results of the research funded by the program will be made available in open access no later than 12 months after it is published (subject to the discretion of the particular publication and its republishing permissions). Moreover, it is agreed that this program will not fund research whose results must remain secret. Research funded under the program cannot be subject to a confidentiality agreement that would preclude the dissemination of the results.

9. Contact information

For all general questions about the call process or eligibility, please contact NRC.Arctic&Northern-Arctique&Nord.CNRC@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca. Common questions and their answers will be anonymized and shared with registrants of the program via email.

10. Registration

To begin the application process, you must register for this opportunity by submitting your expression of interest.

Appendix A: Evaluation criteria

Letter of intent

To progress in the future LOI evaluation process, each section must meet the criteria with a 'yes' answer.

Sections Description of the required information Is the information complete? (Yes or No)
Team composition

Does the research team have named members for each of the following:

  • A nominated principal investigator or project administrator from an NRC‑eligible organization.
  • A principal investigator or Project administrator who is Indigenous or a representative from an Arctic or Northern organization or an Arctic and Northern community and is eligible to receive funding from the NRC. Or, if not, does the project have a funded co‑investigator who is Indigenous or a representative from an Arctic or Northern organization or an Arctic and Northern community and is eligible to receive funding from the NRC.
  • Are the co‑investigator organizations identified eligible to receive funding from the NRC?
Yes/No
Alignment Does the project description align with the Arctic and Northern Challenge program objectives? Yes/No
Does the project description align with 1 or more thematic areas of the call? Yes/No
Does the project description signal that it will successfully incorporate the 2 cross‑cutting aspects of the call? Yes/No
Will the research take place within Arctic and Northern territories, which can include Inuit Nunangat, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories? If research is conducted outside of these areas, does it demonstrate direct relevance to Arctic and Northern communities and lands? Yes/No
NRC collaborationTable note * Does the application have a collaborator from the NRC? Yes/No

Full proposal

The peer review committee will assess the scientific quality of full proposals based on the following criteria (100 points total).

Research quality (48 points):

  • Demonstrates mobilization of, and alignment with, Canada's Arctic and Northern Policy Framework in key priority areas such as:
    • supporting science, knowledge and research that is meaningful for communities and for decision‑making
    • fostering innovation and creating and growing sustainable, diversified and inclusive Arctic and Northern economies
    • nurturing healthy families and communities
    • enabling communities to face the effects of climate change and support healthy ecosystems
    • strengthening and developing resilient and reliable infrastructure
    • restoring Canada's place as an international Arctic leader
    • ensuring that Canada and our Northern and Arctic residents are safe and secure
    • advancing reconciliation and improving relationships between Indigenous and non‑Indigenous peoples
  • Demonstrates coherence and clarity of the overall vision and objectives of the project in alignment with themes 1 to 4 of the funding opportunity
  • Uses current research methodologies that are feasible according to the timelines and objectives of the funding opportunity and are responsible and appropriate for use in Arctic and Northern communities
  • Demonstrates originality, innovation, with potentially transformative concepts, lines of inquiry and advancement of knowledge, including through support of Indigenous self‑determination in research
  • 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

Capacity building/training and Traditional Knowledge (20 points):

  • Clear and suitable plan for capacity building and training of Arctic and Northern community members
  • Potential for the project to contribute to community empowerment and to generate long‑term capacity‑building benefits past the end of the project
  • Project indicates how it will braid Traditional Knowledge with the study design, data collection, project implementation, training and/or technology advancement

Team composition (16 points):

  • Appropriate expertise, diversity and inclusiveness of the research team members for the proposed research, including a satisfactory history of producing quality work in a responsible manner, as described in the application
  • Demonstrated or potential for good working relationships with relevant Arctic and Northern communities
  • Equitable and meaningful role in leadership, co‑development, execution of the research for Arctic and/or Northern partners and team members
  • Strength of integration between members of the research team and potential for an ethical and impactful partnership

Impacts (16 points):

  • Appropriate plans for dissemination and visibility of research results and deliverables within relevant communities and across Arctic and Northern communities and Canada. This includes plans for communication with relevant communities during the project and for communication of results with the communities when research is completed
  • The collaboration plan, including ethical data and intellectual property management strategies, is consistent with the NRC ethics guidelines and Canada's Arctic and Northern Policy Framework and Indigenous data sovereignty principles
  • Potential impacts and benefits of the proposed research activities to Arctic and Northern peoples and communities (local environment, economy and well‑being of the community.)
  • Potential to create and sustain partnerships among the research team members beyond the term of this funding opportunity

Appendix B: Glossary of terms

For the purposes of this call, the following definitions apply

Applicant
An organization that submits a letter of intent (LOI) and a full proposal to the open call with the intent of signing a funding agreement with the NRC.
Recipient
An organization who has signed a funding agreement with the NRC, receives and manages the NRC funding for the execution of a project that was qualified within the Program.
Research team
Members of the project who participate in conducting the research and significantly contribute to its development.
Principal investigator (PI)
The principal investigator (PI) is the lead scientific researcher from each party assigned to the project, and identified in the letter of intent. The PI is responsible for the administrative and financial aspects of the funding on behalf of their organization. It is encouraged that the PI is Indigenous or a representative from an Arctic and Northern organization or Arctic and Northern community.
Project administrator
In the absence of an Indigenous PI, the project administrator is responsible for all project management and funding administration tasks, as identified in the letter of intent. The project administrator would be expected to be affiliated with a Northern Indigenous organization and be capable of supporting the administrative duties usual to a federally funded research project. It is encouraged that the project administrator is Indigenous or a representative from an Arctic and Northern organization or Arctic and Northern community.
Co-investigator
A project co‑investigator is a funded member of the research team who provides a significant contribution to the development of the research project. If an Indigenous person, or a representative from an Arctic and Northern organization or Arctic and Northern community, is not a principal investigator, one must be a co‑investigator.
Letter of intent (LOI)
A document which expresses the research team's interest to conduct research within 1 or more of the 4 themes: housing, health, food and water. The purpose of the letter of intent is to assess the eligibility. This assessment for eligibility includes the eligibility of the Applicant and the research team, the project relevance to Arctic and Northern peoples and the established research themes and cross‑cutting issues.
Full proposal
The full proposal presents, in detail, the research project that the research team intends to complete within 1 or more of the 4 research themes of housing, health, food and water, and the cross‑cutting issues. An application will be provided, to be completed by invitation only, by applicants who qualified through the letter of intent. Along with detailed information, it includes a detailed budget as well as supporting documents.
Collaborator
The collaborator is a non‑funded member of the research team who brings specific expertise to the project and whose contributions are in‑kind. Collaborators cannot receive funding from the program. All funded projects require an NRC collaborator.
Funding agreement
Contractual agreement between the NRC and the recipient organization describing the conditions for the award and disbursement of funding.
LOI committee
Committee composed of NRC representatives from the National Program Office and the program who will be summoned to carry out the LOI evaluation stage, which includes assessments for completeness of the file, eligibility of the applicant and research team and project relevance to the established research themes.
Peer review committee
A committee, including place‑based and scientific expert reviewers, who will be tasked to carry out the evaluation of the full proposals.