Broad science community to be consulted on shaping new Tri-Council Research Fund

Mark Henderson
July 12, 2018

The Canada Research Coordinating Committee (CRCC) is taking the new Tri-Council Research Fund (TCRF) on the road to consult on how best to use $275 million over five years to boost international, interdisciplinary and high-risk research activities. The largest tri-council fund of its kind, the TCRF was announced in the 2018 Budget as part of a $1.2 billion injection of new money into the fundamental research supported by granting councils representing an unprecedented 25% increase in their collective budgets over current levels.

The concept for the TCRF was first raised by the highly influential Fundamental Science Review panel, chaired by Dr David Naylor

TCRF funding begins this FY at $35 million and increases to $45 million in FY19-20 before hitting a steady state of $65 million thereafter. To be managed by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) – whose president also chairs the recently formed CRCC – the TCRF represents a bold approach to incentivizing research in four thematic areas:

  • Inter-disciplinary and inter-sectoral research;
  • International research partnerships;
  • Fast-breaking issues requiring a rapid research response; and,
  • Higher risk research.

“I’ve never seen a fund this large seek to address these objectives,” says Dr Ted Hewitt, SSHRC president and chair of the CRCC, adding that it could lead to more programs and an even larger pot of funding. “Let’s see what the (research) community does with it.”

With a draft funding model in hand, the CRCC will lead consultations with members of the academic research community, government scientists, public policymakers and community leaders. The focus will be on the four areas the fund is targeting with the expectation that discussions will result in a suite of large and small programs of short-term and long-term duration.

“We will ask a range of questions to get at the specific elements of the fund,” says Hewitt. “We’re looking for different. This is not business as usual.”

For example, Hewitt says that there’s a large need - and lack of dedicated funding - for interdisciplinary research that can be scaled internationally. This could involve Canadian researchers joining international research teams with funding from the TCRF, as well as Canadian-based research projects that can attract international interest and accompanying funding. That funding external to the granting councils could come from various sources such as the EU’s Horizon 2020.

TCRF projects could also attract funding from other Canadian sources such as federal agencies and departments like the National Research Council (NRC) and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada or provincial agencies such as Quebec’s Fonds de recherche du Québec. In this respect, Hewitt says Dr Mona Nemer, Canada’s chief science advisor and a participant in the CRCC, can play a key role in bridging the gaps between academic and government science, adding that changes at the NRC to return to support for targeted fundamental research also bodes well for greater collaboration.

To accelerate Canada’s transition to a more modern approach to research, Budget 2018 also proposes to create a new tri-council fund to support research that is international, interdisciplinary, fast-breaking and higher-risk. The Government proposes to provide $275 million over five years, starting in 2018–19, and $65 million per year ongoing, for this innovative approach, which will be administered by SSHRC on behalf of the granting councils.” – Budget 2018

With funding slated to flow this year, time is of the essence, placing pressure on the CRCC to undertake consultations as quickly as possible.

“We’ll have to hustle to get money out this year … We hope to have the first call for proposals and get money in the hands of researchers by the end of this fiscal year,” says Hewitt. “There is huge interest from international funding agencies in the US, EU, Brazil and others.”

Although TCRF funding is focused on fundamental research, Hewitt says the work it supports could have economic and social benefits down the line or have relevance to other federally supported programs such as the $950-million Innovation Superclusters Initiative.

“This should take us to a whole new level,” he says. “The government has a keen sense of the link between fundamental science and innovation. This fund is geared towards fundamental science but could have relevance to the larger innovation agenda.”

Hewitt notes that the TCRF is only one component of granting council funding and operations overseen by the CRCC. He points to the November/17 letter from Science minister Kirsty Duncan and Health minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor that stresses the need for “greater harmonization, collaboration and coordination” among the granting councils and the Canada Foundation for Innovation. He adds that the CRCC’s role to encourage equity, diversity and inclusion, support for early-career researchers and increasing the research capacity of Indigenous communities will also be incorporated into the TCRF’s metrics for gauging its impact.

“This is exciting, new and different … There’s a whole lot more coming,” says Hewitt. “(The tri-agencies) have a long, illustrious history of managing funds … We recognize that things are being done that we may not have thought possible in the past (such as) rapid response. This should take us to a whole new level.”


Other News

Events For Leaders in
Science, Tech, Innovation, and Policy

Discuss and learn from those in the know at our virtual and in-person events.

See Upcoming Events

You have 1 free article remaining.
Don't miss out - start your free trial today.

Start your FREE trial    Already a member? Log in


By using this website, you agree to our use of cookies. We use cookies to provide you with a great experience and to help our website run effectively in accordance with our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.