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2016-17 Research Opportunities Program Guidelines

Applications are now closed. Award recipients will be announced in summer 2017.


The Ministry of Labour strategically invests in research to:

  • improve health and safety in Ontario workplaces;
  • enhance delivery of effective occupational health and safety services and products; and
  • strengthen the occupational health and safety system in Ontario.

The Research Opportunities Program (ROP) provides strategic research investments through public calls for occupational health and safety (OHS) research projects that focus on identified OHS system priorities. The ROP makes investments through two streams:

  • Research for the Workplace (R4W)
  • Evidence for Practice (E4P)

Ministry of Labour’s Strategic Priorities

The Ministry’s vision is to foster safe, fair and healthy workplaces characterized by productive relationships and high performance that drive a vibrant, competitive economy and generate widespread benefits for all. The Ministry works towards this vision by developing, communicating and enforcing occupational health and safety laws that are designed to reduce or eliminate workplace injury or illness. The Ministry also works to prevent workplace illness and injury by implementing a number of priorities, which are outlined in its integrated occupational health and safety strategy and Minister’s mandate letter.

Applicants applying for a ROP grant should familiarize themselves with the Ministry’s agenda and priority initiatives as described below.

Occupational Health and Safety Strategy

In December 2013, the Ministry released its Healthy and Safe Ontario Workplaces – A Strategy for Transforming Occupational Health and Safety. This integrated 5-year strategy is the Ministry's blueprint for creating healthy and safe Ontario workplaces. The strategy establishes two goals for Ontario’s occupational health and safety system: targeting the areas of greatest need and enhancing service delivery.

The strategy also sets strategic priorities to guide system partners, workplace parties and other occupational health and safety organizations as they work together towards safer workplaces. It acts as a guide for the health and safety system in planning, coordinating and delivering integrated activities, programs and services. The strategy recognizes that to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses, all parties need to move forward together in a flexible and adaptable manner.

Minister's Mandate Letter

In September 2016, the Premier's office publicly released new mandate letters outlining the key priorities for all cabinet members and their ministries. The Minister of Labour's mandate letter provides the Ministry with instructions and guidance towards addressing specific priorities identified by the Premier.

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ROP Priority Areas

The Ministry has identified the following research priorities for 2016-17:

  1. highest hazards that result in occupational injuries, diseases or fatalities;
  2. occupational health and safety improvements in small businesses;
  3. occupational health and safety of vulnerable workers;
  4. violence in the workplace; and
  5. supporting workplace mental health.

These priorities have been selected based on:

  • the strategic priorities outlined in Healthy and Safe Ontario Workplaces: A Strategy for Transforming Occupational Health & Safety;
  • the Minister’s mandate letter;
  • a review of literature and an environmental scan of Canadian and international jurisdictions; and
  • input from occupational health and safety system partners.

Priorities for this call are also informed by:

  • the seriousness of a hazard or problem;
  • the number of workers at risk for a particular injury or illness; and
  • the chance that new data or approaches could have an impact.

A description of the strategic priorities and examples of research topics for each of these priorities is provided below.

1. Highest hazards that result in occupational injuries, illnesses or fatalities

This priority focuses on identification of the highest hazards – defined as the tasks leading to a greater frequency or severity of work-related injuries, illnesses and/or fatalities – as well as interventions to address the leading causes of injuries, illness and fatalities.

Sample topics include:

  • Development of workplace practices and interventions that reduce the frequency and / or severity of occupational hazards
  • Identification and investigation of the relationships between hazardous working conditions and associated occupational illnesses, injuries and fatalities
  • Identification of emerging workplace exposures, including sources of exposures and the hazardous health effects for Ontario workers
  • Role of technology in improving occupational health and safety outcomes in high hazard environments

2. Occupational health and safety improvements in small businesses

This priority focuses on small businesses (defined as those with fewer than 50 workers) and explores unique issues that can make it more difficult for them to develop effective workplace health and safety practices.

Sample topics include:

  • Effective occupational health and safety practices, processes and interventions in small businesses
  • Unique features that affect the approach to workplace health and safety among small businesses and approaches to improve occupational health and safety outcomes
  • Potential hazards which may be concentrated in small businesses and ways to address them

3. Occupational health and safety of vulnerable workers

This priority focuses on various aspects of worker vulnerability. A worker’s vulnerability depends on many individual and workplace factors that interact in complicated ways to increase risk of occupational injuries, illnesses or fatalities. Although individual factors are often the focus when defining vulnerability, workplace factors like hours of work, employment insecurity, and hazards in the workplace are also important.

Sample topics include:

  • Occupational health and safety of migrant workers, temporary foreign workers, and other vulnerable groups
  • Occupational health and safety of young workers or those just starting work
  • Innovative strategies and best practices to engage vulnerable workers in health and safety issues

4. Violence in the workplace

This priority focuses on the development of programs and strategies to prevent workplace violence and to assess and control the risks associated with workplace violence. Initiatives to prevent and address workplace harassment may also be captured within this priority.

Sample topics include:

  • Organizational characteristics and factors that may create a heightened risk of workplace violence or workplace harassment
  • Organizational supports for victims of workplace violence

5. Supporting workplace mental health

This priority focuses on the promotion of good psychological health and safety in the workplace, and increasing employers’ capacity to promote workers’ psychological well-being and prevent harm to their psychological health.

Sample topics include:

  • Prevention approaches for sectors and / or occupations (e.g. first responders) where on-the-job traumatic mental stress / post-traumatic stress disorder can be prevalent
  • Response strategies to help individuals who have experienced traumatic mental stress or show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Building an organizational culture that promotes psychological health, and supports workers dealing with mental health issues

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Funding Streams

Applicants may choose either of the Research for the Workplace (R4W) or Evidence for Practice (E4P) streams.

R4W proposals

  • may be for 12-24 months in duration, maximum of $150,000 annually (up to $300,000 per proposal)
  • are intended for research proposals that:
    • have clearly specified innovative research question(s) and detailed methodology;
    • have identified a research team and the measurement tools the team proposes to use;
    • have secured such access to information and workplaces as will be required;
    • have the support of all relevant parties; and
    • demonstrate a commitment to collaboration with occupational health and safety system partners, knowledge users and relevant stakeholders

E4P proposals

  • may be for up to 18 months in duration, maximum of $60,000 per proposal
  • are intended for projects that:
    • build innovative partnerships among workplaces, researchers and prevention organizations to directly address specific well-defined workplace needs. The workplace need, research question, and research design must be identified and developed through collaboration with workplaces, prevention organizations, and researchers; and
    • support the development of existing research findings into practical applications and / or solutions, while creating partnerships among workplaces, researchers and prevention organizations
  • should enhance the capacity of:
    • researchers to collaborate with workplaces and involve them in research;
    • workplace parties to express needs that could give rise to research questions and projects;
    • prevention organizations to work with researchers; and
    • researchers and prevention organizations to deliver useful products to workplaces

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Eligibility

Eligible Institutions

Funding opportunities are open on a competitive basis to individuals and teams that are based at eligible organizations.

Funds contributed by the ROP for approved projects will be disbursed to one eligible lead research institution per award. All projects supported by ROP funds must be conducted in Ontario and led by an eligible organization.

The following are eligible organizations:

  • Ontario publicly funded universities;
  • Ontario colleges of applied arts and technology;
  • Ontario hospital / academic health science centre-based research institutes;
  • Ontario not-for-profit research institutions, excluding those funded primarily by business or industry;
  • consortia of the above, with one institution as lead applicant assuming responsibility and accountability for the consortium; and
  • other Ontario not-for-profit / charitable organizations at the Ministry’s discretion.

A not-for-profit organization seeking ROP funding must demonstrate its ability and capacity to conduct research.

For-profit organizations and agencies of for-profit entities do not qualify for ROP funding as lead institutions. However, such entities may collaborate on research and knowledge dissemination projects where eligible institutions are the designated lead.

Out-of-province organizations also do not qualify as lead institutions, but may similarly collaborate with eligible institutions.

If there is doubt about an institution's eligibility to apply for ROP funding, the institution should first request and receive confirmation of eligibility from the Ministry's Transfer Partner and Research Funding Unit. Otherwise, the application could be deemed ineligible.

It is important for project leads submitting an application to the ROP to be aware that their sponsor (university, affiliated teaching hospital or officially associated research institute) will play an important role throughout the term of any award. The sponsor assumes responsibility for the accounting and payment of the award.

Ineligible Research Projects

The ROP will not support proposals seeking funding for:

  • biomedical research;
  • clinical research, including clinical trials;
  • research focused on evaluation of existing programs / initiatives and / or products;
  • proprietary research;
  • drug / technology efficacy research; and,
  • high performance computing platforms.

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Application Details

The purpose of the ROP is to improve OHS outcomes in Ontario workplaces, with the ultimate goal of ensuring that the results of research are transformed into policies, practices, procedures, products and services. To achieve these goals, all applicants are required to provide detailed information on the following key areas:

Alignment with Strategic Priorities

The ROP awards focus on workplace relevance. All applications must also detail how an investment in their research project will address the OHS strategic priority area(s). Projects that have inter-sectoral application / impact will be given preference.

Relevance

The applicants must clearly demonstrate outcomes of the proposed research and outline practical applications for workplaces in Ontario.

Knowledge Dissemination

To increase the probability that research will produce positive outcomes within the OHS system and workplaces in Ontario, each application must include at least one knowledge user who will have the responsibility of helping the team identify the conditions and knowledge dissemination strategies necessary for system and workplace-level impact.

In addition, to optimize workplace-centred approaches as well as stakeholder involvement, each proposal will be expected to describe how the knowledge will be disseminated to maximize the program’s impact outside the research community.

Project lead(s) must describe any in-kind and financial contributions that partners will bring to their research. They are required to describe how they will set up a structure that will ensure the full engagement of team members and partners throughout the project.

All team members must have the support of their organization to participate in the project. All team members must have an active, meaningful role in the planning and implementation of the research project.

A minimum of two letters of support are required. At least one letter must be from a knowledge user who will benefit from the research being proposed.

Letters of support:

  • should reference the project’s title and principal investigator;
  • should not originate from any individual employed by the principal investigator’s or co-lead's host institution;
  • must be individualized (not form letters signed by multiple individuals);
  • must articulate the supporter’s knowledge of the project, and if applicable, confirm the commitment in-kind or other resources
  • if provided from Health and Safety Associations (HSAs), shall include detail on how the HSA will disseminate the research to workplace parties.

Collaborations

Collaborations between OHS organizations, workplace parties and researchers will foster new knowledge, tools and methods to develop the best strategies for diverse aspects of intervention, action research, program delivery and policy development that will be appropriate for our rapidly changing times. OHS organizations represent major sources of expertise and innovation that are based on front-line experience. For their part, researchers offer breadth and depth of knowledge and skills in the field of OHS, which shed light on the rapidly changing workplaces as well as new and emerging health and safety issues, and thereby offer new approaches to problem-solving.

It is expected that collaborators will contribute in a number of areas, which include but are not limited to:

  • helping formulate the research plan(s) and the research questions;
  • providing input into the development of research projects;
  • advising on the need for the synthesis and dissemination of the research findings;
  • influencing the application of the research findings to inform policies, programs and/or practices;
  • funding a portion of the knowledge dissemination activities; and
  • supporting the conduct of the research.

Researchers are strongly encouraged to:

  • submit applications jointly with one or more Ontario OHS organizations to collaboratively develop and implement research activities. The project participants jointly define research activities as well as the participatory arrangements under which individual researchers and research teams will carry out those activities.
  • where possible, collaborate with OHS organizations without research capacity and ensure that collaborators have an active and meaningful role in the planning and implementation of the research project.
  • secure a commitment from workplace parties (e.g. workers, employers). This should include demonstrating workplace party engagement in the research design/methodology, and including letters of support that provide detail on how the research will be applicable and relevant to the workplace party. Applicants are encouraged to seek the support of more than one employer in order to enhance the impact of the research and the uptake of research evidence.

Expected Outcomes and Potential Impact

Applicants must clearly articulate the significance of the project in terms of potential impact of project outcomes on the OHS system, including relevance to workers and employers (including Joint Health and Safety Committee members and health and safety representatives), decision makers, service providers, and other OHS system partners (the project knowledge users).

Occupational Health and Safety Research Innovations

Researchers are encouraged to explore innovative solutions to address complex issues within the occupational health and safety system as well as issues at the workplace level. The ROP encourages applicants to demonstrate how well the innovation opportunity enhances the understanding, and accelerates the resolution, of the occupational health and safety question, problem or issue identified in the research proposed.

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Budget

All applicants are required to provide a zero-based budget that details all revenue sources that will support the operating needs of the proposed research project, including:

  • Institutional contributions (e.g. contributions from non-profit / charitable organizations, foundations, private donors / philanthropists, as well as from municipal, provincial, or federal governments); and
  • ROP funds.

A detailed justification of each budget line item must be provided to allow reviewers to assess all costs and whether the requested resources are appropriate for the execution of the project. The final determination of an item's eligibility rests with the Ministry.

Accurate multi-year and in-year budget forecasts are vital for the success of the project. Applicants must demonstrate that they will be able to provide accurate forecasts and timely requests for payment on an accruals basis.

Note: For details regarding eligible and ineligible costs, please see the ROP Budget Guidelines in Appendix A.

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Application Review Process

Application Review

The ROP features a four-step review process. The review process helps ensure that the assessment of scientific / technical merit is separate from the funding decision.

Step 1: Administrative Requirements Review

This is conducted by the Transfer Partner and Research Funding Unit (TPRFU) of the Ministry’s Strategy and Integration Branch. The purpose is to determine whether applications meet requirements outlined in the call for proposals.

Step 2

Every application that is deemed to be eligible based on the administrative review will proceed to Step 2A and 2B, which are carried out concurrently.

  • Step 2A: Ministry of Labour Strategic Review - Applications will be reviewed by senior Ministry staff who will assess the degree to which the application aligns with strategic research priorities, as well as the proposal’s relevance to Ontario’s occupational health and safety system.
  • Step 2B: External Peer Review - In this step, external peer reviewers will review proposals to assess the scientific merit and quality of the research.

Step 3: Occupational Health and Safety Research Advisory Panel (OHSRAP) Review

This step of the review process is conducted by OHSRAP, and will focus on the overall value of the proposed research project with respect to its potential to enhance occupational health and safety outcomes in Ontario workplaces. OHSRAP will recommend proposals for funding to the Chief Prevention Officer (CPO).

Step 4: Chief Prevention Officer’s Approval

The CPO will make the final decision about the research funding allocations, which concludes the application review process.

Award Decisions

Funding decisions will be communicated to the institution’s executive authority responsible for research, the principal investigator, and the co-lead (where applicable).

The ROP is a discretionary, non-entitlement program and all funding decisions are final. There is no appeal process. External peer review feedback will be provided to all applicants.

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Funding Approval

Final funding decisions are at the sole discretion of the CPO.

The award notification provides detailed terms and timelines for the award, which must be agreed to before any payment can be made. During the award period, payments will be transferred electronically to a prearranged account at the sponsoring institution.

When funding for a full application is approved, the sponsoring institution will sign a transfer payment agreement (i.e., a contract) with the Ministry. The agreement will address terms and conditions for the disbursement of the grant that include, but are not limited to:

  • milestones, deliverables and performance measures, including both research and knowledge dissemination activities;
  • project budget;
  • project management;
  • mode and schedule of payments;
  • accountability framework;
  • communications strategies;
  • contract termination clauses; and
  • monitoring and reporting requirements, including progress reporting, financial audits and other reports as stipulated.

The Ministry will monitor the project in relation to:

  • timely submission of progress reports, including success stories;
  • milestones, deliverables and performance measures;
  • cash flow and accuracy of cash flow forecasting;
  • financial reporting and audits; and
  • other requirements as set out in the agreement.

Please note that the Ministry reserves the right to undertake periodic reviews of funded projects.

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Open Access to Research Products

The Ministry considers that greater access to research publications and data will promote the ability of researchers and knowledge users to use and build on the knowledge needed to address significant occupational health and safety issues and challenges. Open access will promote accessibility to Ministry-funded research. The ROP grant recipients must make every effort to ensure that research papers and data / information generated from ROP funding are freely accessible online and other appropriate formats. The Ministry will also publicly post the final report of all completed research projects.

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Performance Measurement

The Ministry is committed to collecting and disseminating information on the outputs and impacts of the research it funds. This information is an important part of the Ministry’s funding accountability within the Government of Ontario.

ROP award recipients are required to submit a final report to the Ministry, as well as progress reports summarizing the outcomes to date and describing how the grant funds were used. In future years, following receipt of the final report, recipients may be contacted and asked to provide updates on how the research has been implemented.

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Application Deadlines and Submission Information

The ROP timelines are as follows:

Release of call for proposals: September 9, 2016

Information session: September 28, 2016

Application closing date: December 5, 2016

Questions can be directed to the Transfer Partner and Research Funding Unit at researchgrants@ontario.ca.

Information sessions will be held by teleconference on September 28, 2016 in both English and French. If you wish to attend the September 28th information teleconference, please send an email to researchgrants@ontario.ca, identifying your language preference, no later than 5:00 pm, September 21, 2016. The Prevention Office will provide you with the teleconferencing details and time upon confirmation.

Please send your completed application, along with all other required materials outlined in the application form to:

Research Opportunities Program
Transfer Partner and Research Funding Unit
Strategy and Integration Branch
Prevention Office
Ministry of Labour
10 Dundas Street East, 8th floor
Toronto, ON M7A 0B2

Completed applications must be received no later than 5:00p.m. December 5, 2016. Late submissions will be disqualified from further consideration.

Application Submission Instructions

  • Produce one original package comprising Sections 1-9 and Appendices A-C. Include three (3) double-sided copies of the original package.
  • Include a USB drive containing a complete electronic version of the application in a text-based PDF format (not a scanned, graphic format). The electronic file should be named using the following format: “Last Name of PI_First Initial_Host Institution_Stream (R4W or E4P)”. Please limit the number of files on the USB drive to three or fewer.
  • The original package, double-sided copies and USB drive must be sent by courier, registered mail or delivered in person to the address above.

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Program Contact Information and Service Standards

Questions related to the Research Opportunities Program should be directed to:

Transfer Partner and Research Funding Unit
Telephone: 416-212-6518
Email: researchgrants@ontario.ca

The TPRFU will respond to questions within two (2) business days, and will acknowledge receipt of all applications by e-mail. If you do not receive an acknowledgement by end of day on December 14, 2016, please contact researchgrants@ontario.ca.

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Notice of Collection, Use and Disclosure of Information

Pursuant to paragraph 5 of subsection 4.1(2) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), the Ministry is authorized to collect and use the information in this application package to evaluate your research proposal under the ROP. The Ministry may collect, use, and disclose any personal information in this application package under the authority of paragraph 5 of subsection 4.1(2) of the OHSA and subsection 38(2) and clauses 41(1)(b) and 42(1)(c) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

The Ministry may disclose this information to reviewers which includes Ministry of Labour staff and external experts.

The information is subject to the FIPPA and may, therefore, be disclosed by the Ministry under a freedom of information request made under Part II of the FIPPA.

If you have any questions regarding privacy matters, you may contact the Ministry’s Freedom of Information and Privacy Office at 416-326-7786.

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Appendix A: ROP Budget Guidelines

Eligible Costs

The ROP provides operating funds only (direct costs). Funding for indirect costs (defined under “Ineligible Costs”) will not be provided.

ROP funds can be used for the following types of direct costs:

Salaries and Benefits

These categories include salaries, stipends and related non-discretionary benefits of researchers, knowledge brokers, technical staff, and management and administrative staff directly involved in the program.

For assistantships for students directly involved in the program, the ROP will cover up to:

  • $20,000 per student, per year – for student research assistants (Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD students)
  • $50,000 per year – for postdoctoral fellows.

Institutions are free to top up the stipends extended to students and postdoctoral fellows assisting the program.

(Note: As part of the budget submission, please identify the students’ time – e.g. number of hours or days – that will be allocated to the project funded by the ROP.)

Salary requests must parallel those paid to similarly classified persons at the sponsoring organization. Personnel paid from the grant are not considered employees of the Ministry.

Personnel costs, reflective of actual salary and benefits, can only be claimed in proportion to the time spent working on the project. The Ministry may request supporting documentation to this effect, such as time sheets or certification by the faculty Dean.

Supplies

This category includes:

  • office supplies
  • computer supplies (e.g. printer paper and toner, storage media, cables)
  • certain computer hardware, provided it does not qualify as Equipment

Excluded are items such as postage, courier, freight, and communications services.

Services

This category includes:

  • costs for dissemination of research results (with the exception of travel, which should be captured under “Travel Costs”)
  • costs of Internet access / services
  • costs of holding a workshop or seminar
  • fees for consultants (see explanatory note below)
  • other costs, such as external audits of the finances of the project, as defined in the grant agreement

Fees for consultants – defined as individuals unrelated to any of the project participants and subcontracted to provide service or knowledge of a highly specialized nature for up to one quarter per fiscal year – must be essential to the research. Their fees must reflect reasonable market rates.

Excluded are costs for renovations and alterations of existing space and leased space, or institutional contributions of space when that space is newly developed, renovated, refurbished or leased.

Communications and Administrative Expenses

This category includes:

  • administrative needs such as postage, courier services, and freight
  • telecommunications services (such as phone or videoconferencing, but excluding Internet service)

Internet access and networking services are included above.

Equipment

This may cover research equipment, supplies, and computer equipment, as well as software required for the research project, including costs of purchase, refurbishment, transportation, extended warranties, importation costs, staff training for use, maintenance and operating costs.

All four of the following conditions must be met for an item to be considered Equipment:

  • it is nonexpendable and tangible;
  • it has a useful life of more than 1 year;
  • it costs C$2,000 or more; and
  • it is critically and explicitly needed to carry out the project.

Equipment costs cannot account for more than 5% of overall direct costs.

Travel

This category includes:

  • air travel costs – not to exceed full economy fares
  • reasonable accommodation costs when travelling to workshops, seminars, or conferences
  • meals and mileage in a personal car, in accordance with the reimbursement rates set forth in the province’s Travel, Meal and Hospitality Expenses Directive
  • other applicable travel costs (e.g. public transit, taxi fares, car rentals)

Though applicants may have individual policies and establish their own rates for the reimbursement of meals and mileage, the reimbursement rates for ROP purposes are those found in the provincial directive noted above.

Amounts requested may be limited at the Ministry’s discretion, and the overall travel budget cannot account for more than 10% of the total funding request.

Other Expenses

The ROP may also cover certain other costs not captured above, but items within this category will be subject to Ministry approval and reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Ineligible Costs

ROP funds cannot be used for the following:

  • indirect costs, such as:
    • academic services such as the library and computer service;
    • university-provided administrative services such as purchasing, finance and human resources, as well as the university administration itself, President’s Office, deans, department heads and directors and administrative staff;
    • research and contract administration and support such as the Office of Research Services; and
    • building operating costs including heating, cooling, power, cleaning, maintenance and landscaping
  • capital expenses;
  • costs related to proposal development;
  • fees for use of equipment owned by the institution unless such fees are charged to all institutional users based on a published schedule;
  • costs relating to existing facilities’ infrastructure improvements, not specifically related to the proposal and / or not included in the original application;
  • opportunity costs;
  • any items or services not directly related to the program;
  • contract research and development (where the private sector owns the resulting intellectual property);
  • clinical trials; and
  • high performance computing platforms.

Dates for Eligibility of Contributions and Expenses

Expenditures for the project are eligible only from the award’s start date to the completion date, as defined in the funding agreement.

Eligible in-kind contributions are deemed expensed at the same time they are contributed or acquired by the research institution. As such, they can only be shown as contributed and expensed between the start and end dates as defined in the funding agreement.

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