Transition planning considerations for Foundation Grant holders

As noted in the President’s message on April 15, 2019, CIHR is committed to working with Foundation Grant holders to prepare for their transitions back into the Project Grant program. CIHR will consider individual needs along with impacts on the system as a whole, and this document has been designed to outline the guiding concepts underpinning this balance.

For each topic covered below, CIHR has provided key points that individuals may wish to take into consideration as they plan for their own transition. The expectation is that Foundation Grant holders will be able to use these guiding concepts (and the limitations or restrictions noted therein) to shape their transition based on the current state of their research and their plans for the future. Additional background information has also been provided for context.

The topics include:

  • 1. Staggering grants over time (applying for Project Grants)

    For many Foundation Grant holders, the end of their Foundation Grant represents a funding end date that is the equivalent of two, three, or even more individual grants expiring at the same time. One of the main goals of transition planning is to address this challenge as individuals re-establish their research funding through Project Grants.


    CIHR will provide the opportunity for individuals to re-stagger their grants by allowing them to apply to the Project Grant program in the role of Nominated Principal Applicant up to three Project Grant competitions (or approximately 18 months)Footnote 1 before their Foundation Grant expires.


    • Recognizing that it is difficult to move from a research program that potentially combined multiple grants into one (“from N to 1”) back into a multi-grant approach (“from 1 to N”), Foundation Grant holders are encouraged to read the adjudication criteria for the Project Grant program as they consider their application strategy.
    • Foundation Grant holders will be subject to the same application maximums/restrictions as all other applicants in a given Project Grant competition when they become eligible to apply. CIHR will not be able to offer exceptions to this limitation.
    • The funding profile of a Foundation Grant will not have an impact on an individual’s earliest eligibility date to apply for Project Grants (i.e., smaller amounts in the payment schedule for the final years of the grant will not warrant an exception to submitting a Project Grant application 18-months prior the Foundation Grant end date).
    • There will be no penalty for Foundation Grant holders if they apply for a Project Grant and are unsuccessful in the competition (i.e., the rest of their Foundation Grant will continue as planned).
  • 2. No-cost extensions (Authority to Use Funds (ATUF) extensions)

    CIHR Foundation Grants have an Authority to Use Funds (ATUF) date that allows the grant holders to continue to spend the grant funds beyond the expiry date. Each Foundation Grant has an end date (see table below) as well as an ATUF date that falls on March 31 of the next full fiscal year following the grant expiry date.

    An overview of the existing (automatic) ATUF dates by competition cohort is provided below:

    Competition (year) Grant start date Grant expiry date Existing ATUF date COVID-19 ATUF Automatic Extension date*
    2014 July 1, 2015 June 30, 2022 March 31, 2024 March 31, 2025
    2015 July 1, 2016 June 30, 2023 March 31, 2025 March 31, 2026
    2016-17 July 1, 2017 June 30, 2024 March 31, 2026 March 31, 2027
    2017-18 July 1, 2018 June 30, 2025 March 31, 2027 March 31, 2028
    2018-19 July 1, 2019 June 30, 2026 March 31, 2028 March 31, 2029

    Grantees in all competitions are expected to work with their host institutions to budget their spending over the course of the grant period, and many individuals extend their ATUF date in order to maintain momentum and spend residual funds.

    *Due to the disruption caused by COVID-19, CIHR provided an automatic one-year extension to the ATUF date for all active grants as a measure to support the researchers.


    CIHR will extend the “Authority to Use Funds” date for any Foundation Grant holder who wishes to do so. Please note that interested Foundation Grant holders must contact CIHR to formally request the extension at least 6 months before their existing ATUF date.


    • ATUF extensions allow grantees to continue their research activities over a longer period of time, but grantees will also need to work with their host institutions to budget their remaining resources accordingly.
    • No bridge funding will be provided with an ATUF extension.
    • ATUF extensions will not have any impact on a Foundation Grant holder’s earliest eligibility to apply for Project Grants (i.e., an individual can request an ATUF extension for their Foundation Grant and still apply for a Project Grant up to 18 months before the expiry date—not the ATUF date—of their Foundation Grant).
  • 3. Funding overlap (end of Foundation Grant and new Project Grant)

    The eligibility timelines for Foundation Grant holders to apply for Project Grants could lead to funding overlap for the final year of their Foundation Grant and the first year of the new Project Grant(s).

    For example, an individual from the 2014 cohort can apply to the Spring 2021 Project Grant competition (three competitions/18 months in advance of the end date of their Foundation Grant). This individual’s Foundation Grant would have a funding end date of June 2022—but if they are successful in the Spring 2021 Project Grant competition, their new Project Grant would have a funding start date of October 1, 2021. This creates a funding overlap of nine months (October 2021 to June 2022).

    An overview of the anticipated schedule for future Project Grant competitions is outlined below:

    PJT Competition Application Deadline Funding Start Date
    Spring 2021 March 2021 October 2021
    Fall 2021 September 2021 April 2022
    Spring 2022 March 2022 October 2022
    Fall 2022 September 2022 April 2023
    Spring 2023 March 2023 October 2023
    Fall 2023 September 2023 April 2024
    Spring 2024 March 2024 October 2024
    Fall 2024 September 2024 April 2025
    Spring 2025 March 2025 October 2025

    Since the funding start dates for Project Grants do not align with the funding end dates for Foundation Grants, there is potential for overlap in funding—or a potential gap, depending on when (which competition) the Foundation Grant holder is successfully awarded Project Grant funding.


    CIHR has committed to manage the funding overlap as part of the transition process. For all mid-career and senior Foundation Grant holders, newly awarded Project Grant budgets will therefore be reduced by a pro-rated calculation of the total funding overlap amount and then re-averaged to minimize the disruption to the first year of new funding.

    To continue the example noted above:

    • If the individual from the 2014 cohort is successful in the Spring 2021 Project Grant competition, there will be a 9-month overlap between the start of the Project Grant and the end of their Foundation Grant.
    • Assume that this individual’s Project Grant was awarded for $800,000 over 4 years—or a yearly average of $200,000.
    • To calculate the overlap amount, CIHR will pro-rate the average yearly budget of the new Project Grant ($200,000 / 12 months x 9 months = $150,000).
    • Instead of reducing the budget for the first year of the Project Grant by $150,000, CIHR will spread the reduction across the life of the grant ($150,000 over 4 years = a reduction of approximately $37,500 per year, on average).
    • The new average yearly budget for the Project Grant therefore becomes $162,500, for a total of $650,000. (The actual payment schedule may differ slightly.)

    Please note that all Project Grants awarded with a funding start date that falls before the end of the Foundation Grant will be subject to this approach (with the sole exception of a deferred grant; see Section 4: New grant deferral).


    • If an individual is successful with multiple Project Grant applications with funding start dates that fall before the end of their Foundation Grant, then the additional grants will be awarded in the same manner as the first (with pro-rated budget reductions for the overlap period/amount).
    • The budget reduction for a newly awarded Project Grant will not have an impact on the funding start date (which will remain April 1 or October 1, depending on the competition), thereby allowing an individual to get the project started before the end date of their Foundation Grant.
    • No bridge funding will be provided for any gap periods between the end of a Foundation Grant and the start of a new Project Grant.
    • Any Project Grants awarded with funding start dates that fall after the end date of the Foundation Grant will be awarded in full with no pro-rated deductions.
  • 4. New grant deferral (one new Project Grant)

    Recognizing that many Foundation Grant holders will wish to start a new, full Project Grant when their Foundation Grant expires, CIHR is prepared to allow those who are successful in the Project Grant program to hold one Project Grant in abeyance, thereby delaying its start date to align with the end date of the Foundation Grant.


    If an individual is awarded a Project Grant that overlaps with the remainder of their Foundation Grant (i.e., the funding start date of the Project Grant falls before the end date of the Foundation Grant, creating a funding overlap period; see Section 3: Funding overlap), then the Foundation Grant holder may choose to delay the start date of the newly awarded Project Grant to July 1 (instead of April 1 or October 1) in order to eliminate the funding overlap period.Footnote 2

    This request must be made in writing. Specific instructions regarding how to request a deferral will be available in the coming months.


    • Once a Foundation Grant holder uses the deferral option to delay the start date of a newly awarded Project Grant, they cannot switch the delayed grant for another one at a later date (i.e., if they have chosen to delay the start date of the first Project Grant they were awarded, they cannot decide later to delay their second Project Grant instead).
    • Foundation Grant holders are allowed to defer one Project Grant, regardless of how many open grants were held prior to holding a Foundation Grant. Any additional Project Grants awarded with a funding overlap period will keep their scheduled funding start date and will be subject to the overlap calculations outlined in Section 3.
    • Foundation Grant holders should note that the new funding start date for their Project Grant will become July 1 (instead of April 1 or October 1), particularly as they plan to stagger the start/end dates of additional grants since the deferred grant will remain off-cycle from other Project Grants.
  • 5. Additional information

    Do the same options apply for Co-Leaders on a Foundation grant?

    For Foundation grants that have Co-Leaders, the same transition plan applies to each individual leader. Therefore, the Co-Leaders will be able to defer one application each and will both be subject to the overlap calculation for their successful Project Grant application during the time their Foundation grant is active.

    How will the transition be managed with the Project Grant peer review panels?

    Foundation Grant holders will have the option of using the Response to Previous Reviews section of the application to contextualize their new Project Grant application. CIHR will also provide all of the panels with an overview of the transition plan for Foundation Grant holders and their eligibility to apply for funding. Additional details will be available in the coming months.

    Multiple grants: How many open grants did Foundation grantees hold previously?

    The majority of Foundation Grant holders held zero, one, or two open grants (i.e., OOGP and/or Project Grants) at the time they were awarded a Foundation Grant.

    The figure below shows the numbers for mid-career and senior investigators from all Foundation Grant competitions up to 2017-18. It includes only those individuals identified as the Nominated Principal Investigator and does not include the final 2018-19 competition.

    Long description
    Number of Grants previously held 0 1 2 3 4 5 6
    Number of Foundation recipients 77 94 87 36 10 2 1

    The group of researchers that held zero open grants includes a number of international researchers who were new to Canada (and to CIHR) but had very successful track records elsewhere. One of the reasons that CIHR plans to work with Foundation Grant holders throughout their transition to the Project Grant program is to better understand and prepare for the needs of this applicant group.

    Eligibility: When will I be able to apply for Project Grants?

    The earliest that an individual will be eligible to apply for a Project Grant is three competitions before the end date of their Foundation Grant.Footnote 3 This eligibility guideline will stagger the re-entry of Foundation grantees into the system based on their competition cohort.

    Note: As announced in January 2019, the Foundation grantees originally funded as early career researchers (ECRs), regardless of cohort, are already eligible to apply to the Project Grant program.

    Foundation Program Summary

    (Number of grants issued & investigators funded)

    CompetitionFootnote 4 Grants awarded Investigators funded Active grants Number of Mid/Sr Foundation grantees with an active grantFootnote 5 First Project competition Mid/Sr researchers are eligible to applyFootnote 6
    ECRs Mid/Sr ECRs Mid/SrFootnote 5 ECRs Mid/Sr
    2014 23 127 23 133 11 124 130 Spring 2021
    2015 33 87 33 90 31 84 87 Spring 2022
    2016 13 63 13 63 13 63 63 Spring 2023
    2017 - 36 - 37 - 36 37 Spring 2024
    2018 - 28 - 28 - 27 27 Spring 2025

    CIHR expects that the significant majority of Foundation Grant holders will return to the Project Grant program at a funding level consistent with their current Foundation Grant amount. If you do not plan to apply for Project Grants when you become eligible (due to retirement, international job opportunities, or any other reason) or plan to apply at a different funding level, please let the CIHR Contact Centre know. This communication will not be binding, but it will help us plan for anticipated application pressures to specific Project Grant competitions.

The approaches outlined in this document (see Sections 2, 3, and 4) will help grantees determine the best timing for their applications based on their own needs, as Foundation Grant holders are not obligated to apply for Project Grants as soon as they become eligible.

CIHR will not be requesting a decision on the Foundation Grant holders’ preferred transition option at the time of the application deadline. Instead, this decision will be required at the time of the Notice of Decision through a Special Attention Letter if the applicant is successful in the Project Grant competition.

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