How it Works

A. How the Program Works
B. How Funding Works
C. Eligibility
D. Timelines
E. How to Apply
F. Evaluation
G. Flow of Funds and Reporting
H. Contacts

A. How the Program Works

The Alberta-Ontario Innovation Program (AOP) supports cross-provincial collaborations between industry and academia to solve key industry challenges in both provinces. Industry-academic projects that fall within NSERC’s (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council) mandate can also leverage existing NSERC programs. Other programs may also be considered as federal contributions to the Program on a case-by-case basis.

Jointly managed by Alberta Innovates (AI) and the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), the Alberta Ontario Innovation Program focuses on solving industry challenges that can be addressed with research and development activities and have economic benefits for both provinces (e.g., job retention and creation, increased productivity and competitiveness, knowledge transfer, industry revenue growth, etc.). Companies may use research results to their own advantage or for the benefit of their supply chains.  
AI and OCE will match industry and research teams within and across the provinces to maximize potential for the development of innovative solutions.

The AOP prioritizes projects that creatively address industrial challenges in the following industry sectors, identified as high-potential areas for Alberta and Ontario:

  1. Advanced materials and manufacturing
  2. Energy and environment (including water)
  3. Nanotechnology
  4. Agriculture, forestry
  5. Advanced health technologies
  6. Life sciences, biotechnology
  7. Information, communications technologies, digital media
  8. Aerospace and Defense

The AOP involves a two-step, competitive process requiring submission of an Expression of Interest (EOI). Proponents of selected EOIs will be invited to submit a full NSERC application. NSERC will leverage industry contributions from both Ontario and Alberta when the researchers are from academic institutions. In some cases, IRAP, Genome Canada or other federal sources of funding may be leveraged instead of NSERC. Such cases must be discussed with AI and OCE during the development of the EOI.

Funding Contributions:

The Alberta Ontario Innovation Program will fund approved projects as follows:

  • AI can contribute a minimum of $100,000 and a maximum of $250,000 CAD over two years 
  • OCE can contribute a minimum of $100,000 and a maximum of $250,000 CAD over two years

Industry partners match:

  • Industry partner(s) are required to match 1:1 the AI and OCE contributions with a combination of cash (minimum 50%) and in-kind (minimum 50%) contributions. (e.g., if OCE and AI each contribute $100,000, the industry partner(s) in Ontario are required to contribute a minimum of $50,000 cash and $50,000 in-kind, as are the Alberta industry partners). The industry contribution in Alberta and Ontario from all partners would be $100,000 in cash and $100,000 in-kind to the overall project.

NSERC match:

  • For NSERC eligible industry-university projects, an NSERC CRD grant can match the cash contribution from industry, minus institutional overhead, up to twice the net industry cash contribution if the in-kind contribution is at least the same as the net industry cash. Institutional overhead rate is applied to the industry contribution to the direct costs of research (i.e., the Net Contribution).  
  • For NSERC eligible industry-college projects, an NSERC ARD grant will match industry’s total cash and/or in-kind contributions.
  • Other sources of federal funding, besides NSERC, will be considered on a case-by-case basis and must be discussed with AI and OCE at the EOI development stage.


B. How Funding Works

(Minimum contribution example - see below)
  • CRD grants support well-defined research and development projects in natural sciences and engineering undertaken by university researchers and their private-sector partners. Refer to the NSERC website for more information on CRD requirements
  • ARD grants support well-defined applied research and development projects undertaken by college and polytechnic researchers along with their private-sector partners. Refer to the NSERC website for more information on ARD requirements
  • OCE funds flow to the Ontario-based academic partner.
  • AI funds may flow to AI’s Applied Research Centers (ARC), CFER researchers, NINT researchers, ACAMP researchers, or academic partners. Internal R&D company expenses may be considered and must be discussed with AI during the EOI development stage.
  • Institutional overhead is not an eligible project expense and should not be included on either the OCE or industry funded portions of the budget. The overhead that is to be attributed as part of the OCE contribution will be calculated directly by OCE and paid annually to academic institutions to a maximum of 20% of direct costs of OCE-funded research. The overhead on the industry funded portion of the project must be discussed with your institution’s research administration office at the time of application to ensure it is correctly accounted for.
  • AI will allow overhead to the Alberta academic partner of up to 20% of the AI contribution.

Project Partners Scenarios:

With contributions from both provinces and NSERC, or other federal programs, the leverage on industry contributions is significant. AI and OCE will provide specific advice to applicants. Some partnership examples include:

  • Industry partner with operations in both Alberta and Ontario collaborates with Ontario academics and any of Alberta eligible R&D partners. Company develops new products/services that create economic benefits in both provinces.
  • Industry partner with operations in Ontario interested in collaborating with an industry partner in Alberta (with strong market influence on a relevant market) to demonstrate its technology. 
  • Ontario company collaborates with Ontario academics and Alberta company collaborates with any R&D eligible partners. Both industry partners move technology to market and create economic benefits for both provinces.
  • Industry partner with operations in Ontario has similar technical challenge to industry partners in Alberta. Ontario industry partner collaborates with Ontario academics and Alberta industry partner collaborates with any of the eligible R&D partners. Both companies benefit from the innovation and create benefit for both provinces.

Typical Activities:

  • Applied research and development that transitions innovations to market or sector-wide adoption
  • Activities leveraging Highly Qualified Personnel (students, researchers, postdoctoral fellows, research assistants and technicians) and resources in both provinces leading to product or process development, product design and validation, demonstration, and pilot trials that demonstrate feasibility to customers and/or investors
  • Activities that confirm the market potential, customer demand and commercialization plan for the innovation
  • Use of unique facilities and equipment available in academic institutions

The diagram below shows the collaborative framework. 



C. Eligibility

The following minimum criteria must be met for any project to be considered eligible for funding:

Project Composition Eligibility:

  • At least one industry partner(s): a) industry partner with operations both in Alberta and Ontario, b) multiple industry partners (one with operations in Ontario, the other one with operations in Alberta).
  • One research partner from an Ontario-accredited public academic institution (university, college). 
  • One research partner from an Alberta-accredited public academic institution (university, polytechnic, or college), AI’s Applied Research Centers (ARC), CFER, NINT, or ACAMP, OR an Alberta corporate entity with ability to conduct in-house R&D. Suitability for the program must be discussed with AI prior to developing the EOI.
  • Project duration does not exceed 24 months.

Industry Partner Eligibility:

  • All projects must involve at least one eligible industrial partner in each of Alberta and Ontario that is in a position to apply and benefit from the results of the project. It can be a company with operations in both provinces.
  • Must exist as a provincially or federally registered corporation, partnership that has legal status to operate in either Alberta or Ontario and retains a significant physical presence in either Alberta or Ontario.
  • Must comply with NSERC requirements if applying for NSERC funding.
  • Must be in operation for at least two years or have a minimum of two full-time employees.
  • Must be for-profit.
  • Must be an innovation-driven business developing products or services addressing industry challenges.
  • One of the companies can play the role of demonstrating the product or services to be commercialized in either province.
  • Must be in good financial standing with OCE and AI.
  • Must be a company with a sound business plan and secure financial backing. If a start-up company is involved, the company must comply with NSERC requirements.

Researcher Eligibility:

  • Academic researcher must be employed as a full-time Principal Investigator at an accredited public academic institution (university, polytechnic, or college in Alberta or Ontario).
  • AI’s Applied Research Centers (ARC), CFER researchers, NINT researchers, and ACAMP researchers are eligible. (Note: they are not eligible for NSERC funding). Other research institutions may also be considered on a case-by-case basis with AI. Internal R&D company expenses may be considered and must be discussed with AI during the EOI development stage.

Project Expenses: 

Defined as expenses directly related to the proposed project. Listed are those that can be included as part of the company contribution or paid for through the Alberta-Ontario Innovation Program. 

Eligible expenses include:

  • Costs of personnel (i.e., consultants, students, technicians and support staff) involved exclusively in eligible project activities
  • Costs of equipment, materials, and supplies used exclusively for the project
  • Travel undertaken exclusively for the project includes reasonable out-of-pocket expenses and must be claimed at the lowest rate available 

If a Principal Investigator from an academic institution is involved, ineligible expenses include: 

  • Wages of the academic professor
  • Design and production of advertising material
  • Sales and promotion activities
  • Costs associated with applying for government grants and programs
  • Basic professional services such as ongoing routine accounting, tax and legal business requirements and financing fees unless directly related to the project
  • Routine testing and maintenance
  • Entertainment expenses, gifts and alcoholic beverages

If the research project in Alberta involves AI’s Applied Research Centers (ARC), CFER researchers, NINT researchers, or ACAMP researchers, the fee for service is expected to be at a reasonable market rate.
Any expenses outside of those listed above must be pre-approved by AI and OCE prior to the actual expenditure.

View a list of Eligible Expenses 


D. Timelines

Date Application steps
From November 2015 on a rolling intake basis EOIs submitted to OCE Program Coordinator and forwarded by OCE to AI.
  • AI-OCE EOI application form
  • Industry letter(s) of support, confirming commitment for cash and in-kind contributions in each province.
  • NSERC 100 form or CV's for applicants and co-applicants
  • If the R&D partner in Alberta is not an academic institution, an AI application form may be required and should be submitted with the EOI (see How to Apply for details). If an applicant already has non-NSERC funding a full application to OCE/AIwill be required.
From November 2015 on a rolling intake basis  EOIs reviewed on a rolling basis by AI and OCE. OCE and AIconduct due diligence on applicant companies in Ontario and Alberta respectively as required. Decisions finalized by AI and OCE.
AI-OCE inform applicants about their EOI results on a rolling basis. 

Six weeks after EOI notification, proceed to draft of full application (NSERC, AI, AI-OCE)

Invited applicants send a draft application to the applicable funding parties, NSERC, AI and OCE for review-. Feedback to the applicants will be provided by the applicable funding parties NSERC, AI and OCE. 

Three weeks after draft review, submit  full application (NSERC, AI, AI-OCE)

Final application submission to NSERC, AI, AI-OCE. AI and OCE to be copied on NSERC submissions.

Approximately three to six months from submission to NSERC

Final NSERC decision, with notification to OCE and AI, OR final decision by AI-OCE.

Funding agreements must be signed with OCE or AI within  60 days after approval.

Projects start. 


E. How to Apply

Please note that the Alberta-Ontario Innovation Program will be highly competitive and consists of two stages, involving the submission of: 

  1. Expression of Interest ("EOI") - OPEN CALL FORMAT: completed applications will be accepted at any time and processed monthly on a rolling basis while funding is available.  The EOI application form can be obtained from the Application Support Team,  once NSERC eligibility has been established please contact Philippa King.
  2. Full application - INVITATION ONLY.

Step 1:

Eligible applicants may submit an EOI at any time while the program is open describing the opportunity along with a letter of commitment from the company(ies), which must include the following items:  

  • The nature of the company’s(ies’) specific problem
  • The reasons for being involved in the proposed collaboration
  • How the company(ies) expects to integrate the results into its operations and commercialize the project outcome
  • The benefits the anticipated outcomes will bring to the company(ies)
  • The benefits  the anticipated outcomes will bring to Canada, Alberta and Ontario
  • The anticipated interaction of the company’s(ies’) personnel with the researcher
  • The company's cash and in-kind contributions to the research project

Researchers in Alberta not eligible for NSERC funding may be required to submit an application to AIalong with the EOI submission. Applicants not from an academic institution who are developing an EOI should contact Alistair Hazewinkel at for further details and the application form. 

The first draft of the AI application must include:

  •  Completed application
  •  Budget information
  •  Letter of support from the industry partner. 

The draft can be submitted to AI at any time while the program is open. Applicants in Ontario with non-NSERC funding who are developing an EOI should contact Philippa King at for further details. 

A joint AI-OCE review panel will assess all the EOIs and select qualified EOIs to proceed to full application.

Step 2:

Applicants whose EOI is approved by the review committee will be invited to submit a full application to NSERC, if applicable. Please note that the full application to the Alberta-Ontario Innovation Program will be accepted by invitation only.

The full application (including Ontario component of the project, and Alberta component if eligible for NSERC) should be submitted through:

NSERC CRD grants (for university researchers) or
NSERC ARD grants (for college researchers, polytechnic researchers)

The first draft of NSERC CRD/ARD applications must include:

  • Completed application
  • Budget information 
  • Letter(s) of support
  • Completed Form 183 (information from the Industry Partners).

The draft must be submitted to AI, OCE and NSERC by the date noted in the notification recommending EOI proceed to NSERC.

Final applications must be submitted to AI, OCE and NSERC by the date noted in notification recommending EOI proceed to NSERC.

If proponents are not applying to NSERC, they will be asked to complete the appropriate AI and OCE application forms. Such cases must be discussed with AI or OCE.  

A PDF of the EOI is available for download. It is strongly recommended that applicants speak to Alistair Hazewinkel (AI), Philippa King (OCE), or a member of OCE’s Business Development Team to obtain guidance on the EOI process.

To obtain a fillable EOI form, please contact the OCE Application Support Team at or 1-866-759-6014 ext. 2400. The Application Support Team will release a fillable EOI and access to OCE’s MIS database system where applicants will attach the EOI and submit it for review.


F. Evaluation

EOI Evaluation Criteria, Key Areas for Assessment and Decision-Making Process:

  • Company partners (team, capacity/commitment to commercialize)
  • Project overview, novelty of the innovation, quality of proposed research, commercialization potential, commercialization plan
  • AB/ON economic impact (consumer benefit, sector impact, meeting industry or government priority areas)
  • Skills development, HQP training

A joint AI-OCE review panel will assess all EOIs and select qualified EOIs to proceed to a full application. 

Legal Agreements, Flow of Funds and Reporting Requirements:


Projects that receive funding from NSERC CRD must follow reporting guidelines provided on NSERC's website:


AI Legal:

A copy of the AI Funding Agreement can be downloaded for your reference. Please do not fill out this form; a copy of the agreement will be sent to you upon approval of your project.

AI Flow of Funds and Reporting:

Flow of funds and reporting requirements are contained in the AI Funding Agreement and will be governed by terms related to continued disclosure and reporting obligations including the submission of a term report outlining the project progress and a final report at project completion. The templates to be used are appended to the Agreement and should be provided to AI when completed.


OCE Legal:

Successful applicants and their industry partners 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. 


G. OCE Flow of Funds and Reporting Requirements

Once an OCE Funding Agreement is executed, OCE will release payments to an Ontario academic institution as follows:

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

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

The following project reports will be required by OCE:

Interim Progress Reports:

1. Applicant(s) are required to complete Interim reports (including progress and financials) at one half of the project duration. OCE must approve reports prior to release of second funding tranche.

Final Reports:

2. At completion of the project, the Applicant(s) and Industry Partner(s) are required to complete Final Project Reports (including progress, financials and metrics). OCE must receive and approve Applicant and Partner reports within 30 days of project completion.

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

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

Project Metrics:

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

Retrospective Survey:

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


H. Contacts

For more information on the Alberta-Ontario Program, please contact:

Dr. Philippa King
Senior Business Development Manager
Ontario Centres of Excellence
(613) 726-3430 x4225

Sandra Czuj
Director Global Partnerships
Alberta Innovates
(780) 450-5334

Alistair Hazewinkel
Senior Business Partner
Investments - Funding Solutions
Alberta Innovates
(780) 450-5334

Bettina Klenkler
Director, Programs
Ontario Centres of Excellence
(416) 861-1092 x91066

Application Support Team
Ontario Centres of Excellence
(416) 861-1092 x2400