Investigator Initiated Research Program: Frequently Asked Questions

Questions

  1. How does CIHR support Investigator Initiated Research?
  2. How many funding opportunities are offered each year under the Foundation Grant and Project Grant programs?
  3. How many researchers are supported through the Project Grant and Foundation Grant programs?
  4. What is the budget available for the Foundation Grant and Project Grant programs?
  5. Where does training fit within the Foundation Grant and the Project Grant programs?
  6. How does integrated knowledge translation fit within the Foundation Grant and Project Grant programs, and is it mandatory?
  7. What kind of support is available for early career investigators?
  8. Is there a maximum budget a researcher can request in the Foundation Grant and Project Grant Competitions?

1. How does CIHR support Investigator Initiated Research?

CIHR offers two open funding programs that support two different approaches to funding health research:

  • The Foundation Grant program is designed to contribute to a sustainable foundation of health research leaders by providing long-term support for the pursuit of innovative, high-impact programs of research.
  • The Project Grant program is designed to capture ideas with the greatest potential for important advances in fundamental or applied health-related knowledge, the health care system, and/or health outcomes, by supporting projects with a specific purpose and a defined endpoint.

These two distinct funding programs provide applicants with the flexibility to choose the most appropriate mechanism to support their research irrespective of research domain and/or research pillar.

2. How many funding opportunities are offered each year under the Foundation Grant and Project Grant programs?

There is one Foundation Grant competition per year and two Project Grant competitions per year. 

3. How many researchers are supported through the Project Grant and Foundation Grant programs?

Every year, CIHR funds approximately 13,000 researchers and trainees through both investigator initiated research programs (Foundation Grant and Project Grant) and priority driven research programs. This includes a mix of nominated principal investigators, principal investigators and co-applicants.

CIHR's investigator initiated research programs support approximately 2,600 nominated principal investigators every year, taking into consideration natural fluctuation throughout the years.

4. What is the budget available for the Foundation Grant and Project Grant programs?

CIHR's annual budget for both competitions represents approximately 50% of CIHR's total budget.

This budget must account for both previously approved grants (up to 7 years in duration) and new multi-year grants approved. CIHR's approach to budget management aims to minimize major fluctuations in the number of grants awarded from year to year.

Distribution of CIHR's annual budget
Investigator initiated research 54%
Priority driven research 23%
Tri-council programs 18%
Operating expenditures 5%

5. Where does training fit within the Foundation Grant and the Project Grant programs?

Both the Foundation Grant and Project Grant programs support the training and mentoring of promising trainees.

Applications to the Foundation Grant program are required to include a comprehensive mentoring and training plan. The mentoring and training plan is evaluated against a specific peer review criterion intended to assess its quality.

The Project Grant competition has no formal requirements for integrating trainees. As has always been the case, it is anticipated that many principal investigators will integrate undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral trainees into their research through these grants.

Additionally, specific training award programs continue to be offered.

6. How does integrated knowledge translation fit within the Foundation Grant and Project Grant programs, and is it mandatory?

Applicants are encouraged to include knowledge translation in their applications to the Project Grant and Foundation Grant programs, as both programs are designed to accommodate this type of work. An iKT approach to research is not mandatory in either of the programs.

7. What kind of support is available for early career investigators?

CIHR defines an early career investigator as someone who, at a given competition deadline (or as described in the Funding Opportunity), has held a full-time appointment as an independent researcher (e.g., faculty appointment providing eligibility to apply for grants and/or supervise trainees) for a period of 0 to 60 months.

The Project Grant program includes specific support for early career investigators which includes a dedicated funding envelope.

8. Is there a maximum budget a researcher can request in the Foundation Grant and Project Grant Competitions?

While there is no limit to the amount of money a researcher can request in the Foundation Grant competition, requests must be commensurate with need, which is expected to vary by research field, research approach, and scope of program activities.

The intent of the Foundation Grant program is to continue to fund the most highly competitive Canadian researchers at similar levels to what they would have historically received through CIHR's Open funding programs. CIHR Foundation Grants are not meant to fund an investigator's entire program but rather provide financial support for a core component of the program.

For existing CIHR grantees, the budget requested in a Foundation Grant application should be consistent with the applicant's previous CIHR Open Funding history as a Nominated Principal Investigator. CIHR will provide all Stage 1 applicants who are selected to submit a Stage 2 application with a calculated CIHR budget baseline before the Stage 2 application deadline.

Applicants must provide robust justification for requests that are significantly higher than their historical grant levels.

The Project Grant program is designed to capture ideas with the greatest potential to advance health-related fundamental or applied knowledge, health research, health care, health systems, and/or health outcomes. It supports projects with a specific purpose and a defined endpoint. The best ideas may stem from new, incremental, innovative, and/or high-risk lines of inquiry or knowledge translation approaches Project grant funding levels will be commensurate with need, which is expected to vary by research field, research approach, and scope of project activities.

In the Project Grant competition, CIHR will limit the number of large grants awarded. Limiting the number of large Project grants will help ensure a stable number of researchers are supported. To do so, up to $12.5M will be awarded to the successful applications in the top 2% of average annual grant size.

Effectively, this means that applicants cannot request a Project Grant totaling more than $12.5M.

In the example below, the first 3 grants which are within the top 2% of average annual grant size would be funded from within the $12.5M envelope. The fourth grant, while highly ranked in the peer review process, would not be funded.

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5 Total grant value Cumulative total cost
Rank #1 $1.1M $1.3M $1.1M $1.5M $0 $5.0M $5.0M
Rank #2 $0.7M $0.7M $0.7M $0.7M $0.7M $3.5M $8.5M
Rank #3 $0.5M $1.0M $1.0M $1.0M $0.5M $4.0M $12.5M
Rank #4 $2.0M $2.0M $1.0M $0 $0 $5.0M $17.5M
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