Transformation Stream

NFRF has delayed the 2020 Transformation LOI deadline to July 15, 2020.


The NFRF Transformation stream is designed to support large-scale, Canadian-led interdisciplinary research projects that address a major challenge with potential to realize real and lasting change. The challenge may be fundamental, leading to a scientific breakthrough, or applied, with a social, economic, environmental or health impact. Projects are expected to be world-leading, drawing on global research expertise, when relevant.

Project Team Eligibility: Proposals must be submitted by teams. Teams must include a nominated principal investigator (NPI) and may include co-principal investigators, co-applicants and/or collaborators. Individuals who are not academic researchers are eligible for all roles except NPI. At the Notice of Intent to Apply (NOI) stage, a minimum of 5 confirmed members (NPI, co-principal investigators and co-applicants but not collaborators) is required. The NPI and team members can be from any discipline(s) and from any sector. The focus should be on assembling a coherent team of experts to execute the project rather than on establishing a network. National, international and cross-sector (private, public or other) collaborations are encouraged, as needed. To support these collaborations, Transformation funds can be transferred to any organization within Canada or internationally except for-profit companies or federal, provincial or municipal governments. Early career researchers (ECRs) must be included as confirmed members in all teams. Award holders may serve as an NPI or co-principal investigator on only one Transformation grant. An individual’s status as an applicant or grantee of other NFRF competitions (Exploration or International) does not affect their eligibility for the Transformation stream.

Subject Matter Eligibility: To meet the minimum requirement to be considered interdisciplinary, the proposed research project must include elements from at least two different disciplines (as defined by a group-level classification based on the Canadian Research and Development Classification codes. Projects that fall under the mandate of only one federal research funding agency are not eligible.

Value: Between $2 and $4 million per year (including indirect costs), for up to six years. The competition budgt is $144M over 6 years, which equates to 6 national awards if all receive the full $4M/year amount.

Application Process: There are 3 competition stages:

  1. NOI (currently available on the Convergence Portal);
  2. Letter of Intent to Apply (LOI; opens Tuesday, February 25 on the portal); and
  3. Application (by invitation only; instruction guide to be made available before the NOI deadline, with link accessible by scrolling to the "How to apply" row in the competition Overview table; opens Monday, June 29 on the portal).

Additional details are available on NFRF's "Frequently Asked Questions: 2020 Transformation Competition" webpage.

Full submission timelines, instructions and updates are available on UBC ORS's "Agency Application Requirements & Procedures" webpage

Adjudication Process:

  1. NOIs will be used only for administrative purposes to help the NFRF program team identify external reviewers and review panel composition. Any applications that do not meet the program's eligibility requirements and application guidelines will be withdrawn from the competition.
  2. LOIs will be evaluated against all 5 criteria by the multidisciplinary/multisectoral review panel, which will be composed of national and international members with broad expertise.
  3. Full Applications will be reviewed by external expert reviewers with relevant subject matter expertise according to 4 of the 5 criteria (excluding EDI) and then evaluated by the multidisciplinary/multisectoral review panel against all 5 criteria, taking into account the feedback provided by the external reviewers. The highest ranked applications will proceed to review by a jury, composed of individuals from all sectors (academic, public, private, not-for-profit, government), to select the top-rated applications to recommend for funding, based on their assessment according to the high reward and feasibility criteria.

Selection Criteria: The 5 NFRF selection criteria are specifically weighted and applied to reflect the unique objectives of the Transforation program. Note that these criteria are assessed at the LOI and Full Application stages and that the weighting of criteria changes between stages. The elements considered under each criterion are outlined in more detail in the evaluation matrices.

  LOI Stage Full Application Stage
Interdisciplinarity Pass/Fail Confirm LOI Pass
EDI Pass/Fail Confirm LOI Pass
High Risk 20% 25%
High Reward 60% 25%
Feasibility 20% 50%


SPARC Support Services

  • Information Session: SPARC will host an information session on February 20, providing details on the LOI and Full Application stages of the competition. Topics of conversation will include the application instructions and selection criteria, as well as critical success factors for a competitive project and team. 
  • Test Your Concept Panels: SPARC will organize Test Your Concept (TYC) sessions on February 24, 25 and 28 in support of UBC-led Transformation teams. The panels, composed of interdisciplinary faculty, will meet with applicants to provide feedback on research concepts and competition fit. 
  • SPARC-hosted NFRF LOI Webinar: Because there are a limited number of webinar spots available, SPARC will host a viewing and discussion of the February 26 LOI webinar. 
  • Peer Editing Workshops: SPARC will offer peer editing workshops focused on the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) section of the LOI for UBC-led projects. These in-person sessions will be held on March 10 and 11, and will include a large-group presentation and small-group discussion. For more information and to register, please visit the EDI peer editing workshops announcement.
  • Application Reviews: SPARC will provide detailed reviews of UBC-led LOIs. For full details, please visit the LOI reviews announcement.

SPARC Resources (please contact Christy McTait to receive copies)

  • SPARC Preparatory Resource
  • SPARC slides, discussion summary and Q&A content grouped by topic from Jan. 21 NFRF NOI webinar
  • SPARC-annotated NFRF Best Practices in Equity, Diverity & Inclusion in Research