Exploration Stream

The objective of the Exploration stream is to generate opportunities for researchers to conduct high-risk, high-reward and interdisciplinary research not easily supported through funding opportunities currently offered by the Tri-agencies. It seeks to inspire highly innovative projects that defy current research paradigms, propose a unique scientific direction, bring disciplines together beyond the traditional disciplinary approaches, and/or use different perspectives to solve existing problems.

2020 Competition

The 2020 Exploration Competition of the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) has launched.  Fulll details are available on the NFRF website.  Applicants must apply through the Convergence Portal

Applicant Eligibility
Subject Matter Eligibility
Application Process

Review Process
Selection Criteria
Criteria Weightings

Applicant Eligibility:

Applications must be submitted by research teams composed of at least two individuals. In addition to the nominated principal investigator (NPI), a team must include either a co-principal investigator or a co-applicant. Team mays include up to one co-principal investigator and any number of co-applicants, and/or collaborators. Researchers at all career stages are invited to apply. 

Individuals may participate as NPIs, co-principal applicant or co-applicant, in only one Exploration stream application or active grant at one time. These restrictions do not apply to collaborators.

Subject Matter Eligibility:

To meet the minimum requirements to be considered interdisciplinary, proposed projects must include elements from at least two different disciplines, as defined by a group-level classificatio boased on the Canadian Research and Development Classification.

Applicants for projects that are the same or similar, in whole or in part, to ones that have been funded by other tri-agency programs should not be submitted to the NFRF program.  

Value: Projects may range in value and duration, up to $250,000 over two years ($125,000 per year, including 25% to cover indirect costs) and can be at any point in the research and development spectrum. Eligible projects include those with specific short- to medium-term objectives, as well as discrete phases in a program of longer-range research.

Application Process:

Applications at each stage will be submitted by the UBC Office of Research Services. Please adhere to internal deadlines.

What follows is provided as an overview.  Please consult full submission guidelines for details. 

NOI Content

  1. Completed profiles for the research team (NPI, co-principal investigator and/or co-applicants)
  2. Application Title
  3. Language of the Application
  4. Indigenous Research (indicate whether or not your project involves Indigenous research)
  5. Keyword (list 5-10)
  6. Up to five fields of research from the CRDC codes. At least two different disiplines must be included as primary fields of research.
  7. Summary of the proposal (max 2,500 characters)
  8. List of Collaborators (collaborators do not need to create an account in the Convergence Portal)
  9. Suggested Reviewers (min. 5) and Reviewer Exclusions (if applicable)

Note: the NOI is locked and cannot be edited at the Full Application stage.

Full Application Content (all relevant information from the NOI will be pre-populated):

  1. Budget Table
  2. Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+)
  3. Certifications, licences and permits
  4. Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (multi-section form)
  5. Research Proposal (max. four pages)
  6. Biographical information about the research team (max. two pages)

  7. Budget Justification (max one page)
  8. Literature references (max. five pages)

Review Process

NOIs will be used for administrative purposes (identifying external reviewers and composing the multidisciplinary review panel).

Full applications will be reviewed by external reviewers through a double-blind process, and by the multidisciplinary review panel, taking into account the external reviewers’ input. Please see the NFRF evaluation matrices.

Indigenous Research: SSHRC's Indigenous Rearch Statement of Principles and Guidelines for the Merit Review of Indigenous Research should be used as reference for applicable projects. 

Gender-based analysis plust (GBA+): Applicants should refer to the Status of Women Canada's information on GBA+ as well as the Sex- and Gender-Based Analysis (SGBA) section of the CIHR website for definitions for sex, gender, SGBA and GBA+, as well as information on applying GBA+ and SGMA to the development and assesment of research proposals. 

Selection Criteria

Interdisciplinarity:  Adjudicated on a Pass/Fail basis at the full application stage. Applications must clearly demonstrate that the proposal integrates approaches from at least two disciplines that do not traditionally collaborate together, or combines them in a novel way. The application must also explain why an interdisciplinary approach is required, and/or the added value this approach brings to the research problem.

Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI): Adjudicated on a pass/fail basis at the full application stage. EDI is a core element of the NFRF program. Applicants must clearly demonstrate their commitment to EDI in their research teams, including among students, postdoctoral fellows, co-PIs, co-applicants and/or collaborators, as applicable. They must explain what actions they will take, the outcomes expected, and the assessment planned for each of the following three key areas: team composition and recruitment processes; training and development opportunities; and inclusion. Actions taken are expected to remove barriers and provide opportunities for the meaningful integration of individuals from all groups, including the four designated groups (women, Indigenous peoples, members of visible minorities and persons with disabilities). An application must not include any personal information about members of the research team in the EDI section; the focus is on the team’s commitment to EDI, not its EDI profile. For more information, see NFRF’s Best Practices in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Research.

High-risk: (40% at the full application stage) defined by elements such as (but not limited to):

  • proposing unique directions

  • challenging current research paradigms

  • enhancing understanding of complex and challenging issues

  • bringing new disciplines together with different perspectives, to use novel approaches for solving existing problems; and/or

  • developing or adapting frameworks, methods and techniques

High-reward: (40% at the full application stage) defined by elements such as (but not limited to):

  • having an economic, scientific, artistic, cultural, technological or health impact

  • impacting and/or affecting large communities, or unique communities or subpopulations with the potential to provide lessons for other contexts

  • transforming and/or disrupting conventional thinking

  • resolving a longstanding issue or debate; and/or

  • significantly advancing current knowledge, methods and/or technologies

Feasibility: (20% at the full application stage) the application must address elements such as:

  • research problem being addressed;

  • knowledge, expertise and capacity of the research team;

  • current research in the field;

  • workplan and timeline;

  • proposed approach, including GBA+/SGBA where appropriate;

  • project’s engagement and reciprocity with First Nations, Inuit and/or Métis peoples (for Indigenous research), where appropriate; and
    suitability of the research environment.

Criteria Weightings

Criterion Weighting at full application stage
Interdisiplinarity pass/fail
Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) pass/fail
High risk 40%
High reward 40%
Feasibility 20%


SPARC Support Services and Resources

Notice of Intent (NOI) Review

SPARC is available to review research summaries (2,500 characters). Please submit in word document format no later than Monday, August 10, 2020, to Sharon Marsh 

Full Application Support

SPARC support details for the full application will be posted August, 2020

Sample Grants

Samples of successful grants from 2018 and 2019 are available (Note: the 2020 competition has a different format from the previous competitions).