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Letter From the Chair
Calvin R. Stiller - Chair, Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund Board


June 2003

An Open Letter
from the Chair of the Board

The Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund Board has reviewed project applications from thirteen competitive rounds.

As the Fund gets ready for future rounds of competition, I want to take this opportunity to share with you some of the Board's thoughts about the Fund, and about the Board's expectations for future rounds.

These thoughts, which the Board considers its "Hitch-hiker's Guide" should form the basis for applications received in future rounds.

The Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund is designed to build excellent research capacity at an internationally competitive level in Ontario's research institutions (post-secondary institutions, hospitals, medical research institutes), and to find ways to have the greatest economic impact emanating from those programs of excellence.

The ORDCF is also designed to support partnerships between research institutions and business. In order to evaluate the true level of partnership in any proposal submitted to the Fund, it is important for the ORDCF to learn how the proposal fits within the vision of the business partner, and how the proposal will impact on the business partner.

The ORDCF Board would like to see applications, although submitted by the institutions, developed through the partnership.

We wish to see clearly the following characteristics:

  • VISION
  • EXCELLENCE
  • IMPACT

The Vision should be clear and ambitious. It should speak to incrementality - to building, improving and enhancing your research excellence and research capacity.

If your present researcher complement (faculty) and resources are adequate, you shouldn't be applying to the ORDCF. We therefore expect your goals to include a vision of what your research could be if you could recruit and support the best researchers found anywhere. If your vision does not exceed the complement of researchers and their excellent track records already in place, and if the investment by the ORDCF and your partners doesn't vault your institution into a pre-eminent position in their area, then you probably haven't got an opportunity whose vision encompasses the potential for high levels of excellence and impact.

In assessing submissions to the ORDCF, the Board focuses on the excellence of the faculty and research proposed, and on the capacity building potential, or impact of the proposal.

In assessing excellence, we include the level, quality and achievement in the education and "track record" of young recruited faculty, and the scientific publications, citations and competed-for grant awards of established researchers. The Fund is designed to support only the excellent; the likelihood of a proposal being funded is diminished by including mediocre research.

In assessing the capacity building potential, we look for the ability of the proposal to establish an internationally competitive program of research, a program which will attract the best researchers, the best students and the greatest private sector interest.

In assessing proposals, we look for commitment from the institutions and from the business partners. We welcome submissions from multi-institutional partners which serve to complement the individual loci of excellence across the province, and which maximize the impact of research excellence through collaboration. Excellence has no address; the aim of the Challenge Fund is not to support individual institutional needs, but to invest in making "Ontario" the address for the best in institutional research and development.

In assessing submissions the Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund Board also looks at the potential impact of the proposal. Impact refers to the economic activity and high value job creation that comes as a result of the successful financing of this proposal. A hard measure of impact is the intellectual property that has come from, and will come from, the University or Institute based research, and the development of new products, devices or processes that will be manufactured and sold, or services provided, as a result of that intellectual property. The direct measurements of that are profits and job creation.

In assessing submissions, the Board looks at the applicant's mechanisms for capturing the intellectual property resulting from the research, and reaping the maximum benefit from it -both for the applicant, for the private sector partners and for industry has a whole.

In describing proposals, applicants should address the research to be carried out -its strengths, its excellence and its impact. The applicant should describe the capacity that will be retained, and the new and incremental capacity that will be created to ensure excellence in research. Where there are deficits, the applicant should be candid about this, identify that as a need, and indicate how ORDCF investment can be used to overcome these deficits.

The Board wants the applicant institution to address the following key elements within the application:

Vision

  • What vision does the applicant (university, college, hospital, research institution) have with respect to the proposal that is being submitted in terms of the capacity and competitiveness of the program? Why is the applicant investing in this program, and why should the ORDCF be an investor? The applicant should reflect in its vision, the potential impact of this proposal internal and external to the institution itself.

Basis for the Proposal

  • What evidence does the institution have that the building blocks of this program are reflective of actual competitive past performance?
  • What is the level of excellence -on a nationally and internationally competitive basis? What has the productivity of the scientists or departments been?
  • In light of the vision, what are the deficits in the current program and how will this proposal if funded address those deficits? (A current program without deficits requires no investment.)
  • What criteria will be used in recruiting new scientists to the University or Institute?

Leadership & Management

  • Who are the key individuals responsible for implementing this proposal if funded, and what is their authority?
  • What measures will be used to monitor the program? In particular, what are the agreed-upon milestones?, and
  • What potential obstacles are anticipated, and what are the mechanisms by which those obstacles will be addressed and resolved?

Impact

  • What will the impact of this proposal, if funded, have on the applicant with respect to its specific endeavours, e.g., the number of new faculty/primary investigators recruited, the number of postdoctoral graduate and under graduate students trained, and the competitiveness of the applicant with regard to external grants?
  • If successful in gaining ORDCF investment, what plans does the applicant have to compete for some funds outside of the ORDCF, and what is the anticipated success?
  • What is the anticipated impact of this program on the external community?
  • What is the anticipated intellectual property obtained? What is the vehicle or mechanisms that have been, or will be, created to capture new knowledge to create economic benefit?
  • Who are the partners in this vehicle, and what is their track record in working with the applicant?
  • Why did you choose them?
  • What spin off companies, if any, are projected? What research contracts with industry are projected?
  • If this proposal is funded, what new partners external to the applicant will the program be competitive for, that it is not competitive for now?
  • Are there other partners you would welcome, wish to have, or anticipate involving? Other institutions? Other private sector partners?
  • What is the potential long-term financial return to the applicant as a result of this partnership?

The ORDCF Board's view of Challenge Fund support is that of a public investment in the excellence of Ontario's research and research capacity.

As of January 2002, the definition of eligible business contributors was expanded to include, at the discretion of the ORDCF Board, contributors from the private sector, institutions, charities and foundations, municipalities, private philanthropy and other sources. Notwithstanding this policy change, the ORDCF continues to encourage all applicants to identify private sector partners and secure their commitments for one-third of the total project value. The Board will consider, on a case-by-case basis, other eligible contributors provided the applicant can document that the proposal is relevant to business and industry and that the potential for acceptable economic impact continues to exist.

To help the Board make its investment recommendation, it wants to hear from the private partners why they invested, and will want them to provide the following information within the application to the Fund:

Vision

  • What is your vision of your program, and why does it merit your investment?
  • How will this make your corporation and your partner, the applicant, more likely to achieve the goals embodied within your vision?
  • Will this make you globally competitive in the areas described, and what evidence do you have for that?

Current Program

  • What is your assessment of the excellence of the current group that has been identified within your program at the applicant institution?
  • What are your measures of that excellence?
  • Where are the gaps, and how do you believe this program, if funded, will address those gaps?
  • Why did you choose this institution to partner with in this program?
  • What measures of excellence will you use in assessing whether your institutional partner is addressing the issues of weakness and implementing the proposal?

Impact

  • What are the measures that you and your institutional partner have agreed upon to be measures of the impact of this proposal on your company, and the institution?
  • What are the anticipated number of new jobs, including researchers and students within the applicant institution(s), within your company, a new company to be formed or your industry, resulting from the research outlined in the proposal?
  • What will be your limitations to growth, how do you anticipate addressing those limitations and obstacles, and how will ORDCF investment in the proposal assist you?

Management

  • From your perspective, what are the key milestones in the proposal, and what are the obstacles to achieving those milestones?
  • What is the management structure that you and the University/Institution have agreed to in giving leadership to this proposal, monitoring its progress, and assuring yourselves that there is a high likelihood of achieving milestones?
  • How do you intend to share on a fair basis with the University/Institution the value and wealth created as a result of this proposal?
  • In your mind, what are the potential long-term lasting benefits for Ontario from this proposal?

As you start preparing your new proposals for future application rounds of the Challenge Fund, or perhaps re-crafting submissions that were not successful in earlier competitions, I would ask you to keep these questions in mind. They represent the kind of information the Board is looking for, and they should form the basis for the submission you make.

Vision.... Research Excellence.... Capacity..... Private Sector Investment..... Impact.... These elements form the core on which the Challenge Fund Board makes its recommendations for investment. These elements, and evidence of them, enhance the potential for a successful submission.

Good luck to all!

Calvin R. Stiller
Chair, Ontario Research and Development
Challenge Fund Board


English


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