New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) - Exploration Stream


The Exploration stream of the NFRF program has been designed to support high-risk, high-reward interdisciplinary research not easily supported through funding opportunities currently offered by the Tri-Agencies. It seeks to inspire projects that bring together disciplines beyond traditional disciplinary or common interdisciplinary approaches, and to support research teams with the capacity to explore something new that may fail, but has the potential for significant impact.

Exploration grants aim to have a variety of types of impacts, some of which might be social, economic, scientific, artistic or cultural. This is not an exhaustive list (see link below to Exploration "merit indicators"). 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).

Value and Duration

The maximum budget for the direct costs of the research project is $100,000 per year for up to two years. Western applicants must add 25% of the value of the direct costs of research to cover indirect costs, and include this in the total funding request.

  • Example 1 - If your direct costs of research are $100,000, include an additional $25,000 in indirect costs ($125,000 total - NFRF ceiling)
  • Example 2 - If your direct costs of research are $80,000, include an additional $20,000 in indirect costs ($100,000 total)


To encourage projects that push the boundaries in terms of interdisciplinarity, proposals must be submitted by research teams composed of at least two individuals. This minimum applies to all stages of the competition. In addition to the Nominated Principal Investigator (NPI), the team must include either a Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI) or a Co-Applicant. Teams may include up to one Co-PI and any number of Co-Applicants and/or Collaborators. The NPI and team members can be from any discipline(s).

Participation limitations: To ensure Exploration grants support high-risk, high-reward projects across the broadest spectrum of disciplines, individuals may participate in ONLY ONE Exploration stream application or grant at one time. That is:

  1. Individuals can participate in only one application as either an NPI, a Co-PI or a Co-Applicant, AND
  2. Individuals cannot participate in any of these roles if they are a grantee or co-grantee on an active Exploration grant.

 The above restrictions do not apply to Collaborators.

Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) awardees: A researcher who is an NPI, Co-PI or Co-Applicant on a NFRF grant cannot be paid from CFREF grant funds. If a CFREF-funded researcher becomes a grantee or co-grantee of a NFRF grant, they must be paid from another source as of the start date of the NFRF grant.

What's NEW for this Second Competition?

The most notable changes are:

The competition is open to established researchers, as well as early career researchers (ECRs). (Note: instructions for calculating ECR status appear on the Exploration Competition main web page (link below). Should you require assistance in verifying ECR status, please contact, or your faculty research office.

A proportion of awards equal to the proportion of applications received from early career researchers will be reserved for them.

  • There must be a minimum of two team members on each application (e.g. an NPI, and a Co-PI or a Co-Applicant);
  • The competition has 3 stages: a) NOI-Notice of Intent to Apply, b) LOI-Letter of Intent to Apply and c) Application;
  • The NOI is not adjudicated. The LOI will be adjudicated by the NFRF multi-disciplinary review panel. Applications are by invitation only and based on the results of the LOI stage. Applications are first assessed by external reviewers with subject matter expertise. These evaluations will be be taken into account by the NFRF multi-disciplinary review panel during their review;
  • A NFRF Exploration Grants Guide has been created to clarify eligible and ineligible budget expenses; and
  • For the research proposal, a maximum of five Canadian Research and Development Classification (CRDC) codes at the field level can be selected and must be identified as primary or secondary fields of research.

Application Process & Deadlines (Times listed are EST)

(Check with your department/faculty for additional deadlines)

NOTE ON SUBMISSIONS: Your proposal at each stage of the process below (NOI, LOI, Application) does not go directly to the sponsor when you click "submit" in the Convergence Portal. It is routed to Research Western for administrative review, where the final submission is made to the sponsor. To ensure we have sufficient time to send the submission at each stage of the process, please adhere to submission deadlines below, including INTERNAL deadlines for the Convergence Portal. Due to high volumes and/or unanticipated technical issues, lack of adherence to these timelines could jeopardize the successful submission of your proposal.

A. Notice of Intent (NOI) to Apply (required)

  • August 6, 2019 by/before 10 a.m. - INTERNAL deadline to submit your final, completed NOI in the Convergence Portal. A ROLA proposal is not required at this stage. (This is the day prior to the sponsor's deadline.)

B. Letter of Intent (LOI) to Apply (required)

  • August 28, 2019 by/before 5 p.m. - INTERNAL deadline to submit ROLA proposal for e-approvals, and to email complete PDF copy of the LOI (complete drafts accepted) to for administrative review; and
  • September 4, 2019 by/before 2 p.m. - INTERNAL deadline to submit your final, completed LOI in the Convergence Portal.

C. Full Application (by invitation only)

  • December 3, 2019 by/before 2 p.m. - Internal deadline to submit ROLA proposal for e-approvals, and to email complete PDF copy of the Application (complete drafts accepted) to for administrative review; and
  • December 10, 2019 by/before 2 p.m. - INTERNAL deadline to submit your final, completed Application in the Convergence Portal.



If you have any questions or require additional information, please contact:, the Convergence Portal helpdesk or