GRAND NCE Phase 2 Renewal Process

Blueprint for the GRAND NCE Phase 2 Renewal Process

[Updated May 28, 2013] The following is a revised version of a Blueprint for the second five years of the GRAND NCE. It was prepared after discussion of an earlier version by the RMC at its February 21-22, 2013, meeting in Toronto. The GRAND Challenges described below provide the new theme structure that will be a key element of Phase 2 of the GRAND NCE. The current descriptions of the seven challenges are initial efforts at identifying key targets that align with the priorities set out in the NCE Program. We expect that the wording of the challenges will evolve as we continue the discussion. The five themes that guided GRAND’s research program during its first five years have defined our core competencies as a research organization. These core competencies will be important building blocks for Phase 2.

As the preparation for renewal continues, this page will not be updated, except to add links to new pages that have further information about the renewal process. These links are at the bottom of the page.

For additional information about the GRAND network, please consult the GRAND Researcher Guide and 2009 Phase 1 NCE Application.

The GRAND Network of Centres of Excellence submits its first renewal application in June 2014. The application will provide a road map for the second five years in GRAND’s fifteen-year plan. It will build on the successes during the first five years and set a course that will help GRAND reach its ultimate goals. The information on this web page provides a high-level blueprint for the renewal process.



Mission Statement

GRAND conducts leading-edge basic and applied research on digital media with the goal of improving the quality of life of all Canadians and maintaining Canada’s role as a significant player in the global digital economy.



GRAND is committed to receptor-driven research that is solution-oriented.



The digital media sector of the economy includes industry, government agencies at the federal, provincial and local levels, and non-governmental organizations. An essential component of GRAND’s research program is building and maintaining meaningful partnerships with one or more of these receptor communities. Partnerships that translate knowledge generated by GRAND research into solutions that meet current needs in an identified receptor community and that use anticipated future needs to shape the questions that GRAND researchers pursue are the hallmarks of receptor-driven research.

In Phase 2 of the GRAND NCE there will be a much greater emphasis on the role of partners in defining, executing, and evaluating the activities within the research program. This will be reflected in all aspects of the network’s research management and planning. Every project will be expected to have cash or in-kind contributions from partners and to identify project champions who serve as mentors for the project. To encourage this, a portion of GRAND’s research budget will be reserved for use as matching funds for those projects that obtain cash or cash-equivalent contributions from partner organizations.


Phase 1 Themes established our Core Capabilities

GRAND’s original five themes provided the framework on which the core research capabilities of the network were established through a matrix of research projects. Each represents a key element of GRAND’s success in the field of digital media.

New Media Challenges and Opportunities

The tools, skills, and techniques needed to advance the next generation of new media applications and distribution channels.

Games and Interactive Simulation

The construction, use, and understanding of games and simulation in three areas: game development technologies, education, and applications.  

Animation, Graphics and Imaging

New knowledge and technology addressing the challenge of content generation and scalability required for deployment of digital technologies in a large range of social contexts.

Social, Legal, Economic and Cultural Perspectives

Research results made available to policymakers about how best to adopt legal and regulatory processes to the challenges of digital media so that technological innovations are relevant and beneficial to Canadians in all walks of life.

Enabling Technologies and Methodologies

The building blocks that will be used to invent, design, produce and evaluate the next generation of games, animation and new media technologies for use by consumers, research and industry.

These five core capabilities will continue to serve as inputs to the research program, but they will be augmented by a new set of seven outcome-based “GRAND Challenges” that will be the themes for Phase 2 of the research program.


Phase 2 Themes will be our GRAND Challenges

Seven GRAND Challenges have been identified that will focus the research program on problems of importance to Canada. These will be fully articulated over the coming months. Each project will have activity that targets one or more of the challenges. Projects will be evaluated on their impact achieving results that address problems in the challenge areas.

Entertainment in an Always-Connected World

Just-in-time content creation and always-connected personal lives offer new possibilities for entertainment that challenge traditional production practices and established distribution paradigms.

Learning in the Digital Age

The promise of digital media to revolutionize education has proven elusive.  Pedagogical and economic value requires innovative solutions that are sensitive to the social, cultural, and individual needs of global learners who are increasingly sophisticated in the use of digital media.

Patient-centred Healthcare and Wellness

Innovative diagnostic and therapeutic point-of-care approaches that lead to better health outcomes and cost-effective delivery systems depend on re-thinking the roles of healthcare providers and their patients in terms of information exchange to support evidence-based best practice.

Sustainable Communities

Timely and appropriate responses to environmental concerns at all scales depend on a shared understanding of often-complex inter-related systems. Consensus building requires developing and evaluating models that can explain and predict the consequences of decisions in ways that are meaningful to all stakeholders.

Living with Big Data

As data grows, so does our need to understand it: to distill insight from vast and changing low-value data. We must see the big picture hidden in digital noise.

Work in a Global Economy

For many in a knowledge-based digital economy, work is no longer the production of physical goods and services, it is understanding and utilizing information in creative and innovative ways. This has transformed the nature of work in ways that have changed the historic relationship between labor, capital, and land as the drivers of economic growth.

Digital Citizenship and Civic Engagement

The rapid pace of social change and the increasing cultural diversity of populations have placed greater demands on governments and public institutions to develop new channels for involvement in the decision-making process. Equal access to technologies powering those channels must reflect the social values of the citizens they are designed to serve.


Phase 2 Projects will be different

Targeting the seven GRAND Challenges, in Phase 2 approximately 20-25 new projects will engage in research focused on achieving the goals and objectives of the GRAND NCE. These will replace the current set of projects. Every new project will be a dynamic collection of tightly coupled subprojects, each subproject representing a key milestone in the project’s life cycle. Projects will have a project leader and a project co-leader that provide the diversity of disciplines necessary for success in the particular domains tackled by the project.

Proposals for Phase 2 projects may continue some aspects of existing projects, or may be entirely new areas of research. Many will be hybrids with both new initiatives and continuations of some of the current research in GRAND. It is expected that some projects will engage with new researchers who will join GRAND for Phase 2.

Researchers may be leaders or co-leaders of at most one project. This is a change from Phase 1. It is being made to ensure that project leaders and co-leaders are able to devote enough time to project management and reporting. Phase 2 project leaders must be Principal Network Investigators or senior researchers from a Partner organization, but project co-leaders can be either a Principal or a Collaborating Network Investigator or a researcher from a Partner organization.


Phase 2 will have Subprojects

Because there will be fewer projects in Phase 2, we anticipate the need to have more structure within each of the projects to reflect the possibly wider range of research activities within a single project. Subprojects will provide this structure.

Subprojects will be focused activities with a definite duration, usually lasting between six month and three years, that address a specific research question that resolves an uncertainty or need within a GRAND project. Every subproject corresponds to a single milestone whose achievement is a step toward achieving the overall objectives of the project. Some subprojects may contribute to more than one project, but each will have as a primary goal the advancement of the research within a single project for which it is a project milestone.

Often a subproject will be of the scope of a doctoral dissertation, although some will be larger and others smaller. Every subproject is expected to have researchers from at least two different universities and normally from more than one discipline. Usually one or more of the students engaged in theses or dissertations related to a subproject will be co-supervised by a researcher who is from a different university than the supervisor.

Every subproject will be required to have a project champion from the receptor community. The project champion will be expected to participate in the periodic evaluation of the subproject by providing a written assessment of the contributions made by the project to the receptor community to which the subproject is targeted.

Each subproject will have a subproject leader who is responsible for submitting a report on the activities in the subproject that will be incorporated into the project’s report by the project leader and project co-leader.

Researchers may be leaders for multiple subprojects. Often project leaders and project co-leaders will each lead at least one subproject.


The Essential Role of the Receptor Community

In Phase 2 all projects will be required to have significant involvement of the receptor community throughout the full lifetime of the project. The receptor community may include stakeholders from industry, NGOs, and government agencies.

Projects will be encouraged to have either a project leader or project co-leader from the receptor community. Every subproject must have a project champion from the receptor community.

A portion of the GRAND research budget will be set aside for use as matching funds that will only be available to projects that obtain cash and in-kind contributions from partners in the receptor community. This will further encourage a strong component of receptor-driven subprojects within every project.

A minimum of 1/3 of the budget available to research projects will be held back for use as matching funds. These will be used to match funds from partners on 1:1 basis. This will result in projects receiving 25% of their budgets (on average) from partner funding. Over the five years of Phase 2 we expect to move to1/2 of the budget being held back for use as matching funds, which would result in project receiving 33% of their budgets (on average) from partner funding.


Project-based funding for Collaborating Network Investigators

In Phase 2 funding for Collaborating Network Investigators will be determined by projects. Each project will be allocated a budget that the project team will use to support research by Collaborating Network Investigators working on the project. The allocation process for Principal Network Investigators will be similar to what was done in Phase 1. The percentage of the research budget allocated to PNIs and to CNIs is expected to remain the same as in Phase 1.


Students and Postdoctoral Fellows

Training of highly qualified personnel (HQP) remains an essential component of the GRAND NCE. In Phase 1 of GRAND there were many opportunities for HQP to be involved in the research program. These opportunities will increase in Phase 2.

Students’ roles in project management

Every subproject will have student representative who assists the project leader and co-leader in coordinating the subprojects within the project and who serves as a liaison between the students working on the project team and the graduate student and postdoc committee (GSPC).

GRAND Scholars

A limited number of doctoral students who show exceptional promise will be identified as GRAND scholars. They will receive direct funding from the GRAND NCE (in the amount of $10,000 per year for up to three years). It is expected that all GRAND scholars will have additional funding from other sources, including from GRAND awards to network investigators.

GRAND scholars will be nominated by projects as part of the evaluation process for the project.



There will be a sequence of steps between now and June 2014 that will determine the set of projects that will be the basis for the GRAND renewal application.

Announcement of guidelines for project selection for Phase 2

The full procedure for project selection, including detailed instructions for each of the steps, will be released on or about April 2, 2013. These will be made available to all researchers in GRAND and also to researchers who are not currently participating in GRAND.

Discussion and further clarification of the process

There will be a question-and-answer session at the GRAND 2013 conference, probably on May 14, 2013, during which questions related to the project selection process can be raised. The session will be open to all interested parties.

Letters of intent

Each proposed project will be required to submit a letter of intent (LOI) that provides a summary of the multi-year objectives of the project, the names of the project leader and co-leader, an initial set of proposed subprojects, potential project champions and partner organizations for each subproject, and a description of how the project will contribute to GRAND’s ability to meet each of the five NCE criteria (research excellence, training of HQP, networking and partnerships, knowledge & technology exchange & exploitation, and research management).

The tentative due date for LOIs is June 15, 2013.

The research management committee (RMC) will review the LOIs that are submitted and will recommend a set of projects that will be considered for Phase 2. These projects will then be reviewed by the international scientific advisory committee (ISAC) and by external reviewers. The recommended projects may be asked to provide additional information prior to this review.

Full project proposals

Based on the LOIs, a limited number of project teams will be invited to submit full project proposals that expand on the information in the LOI. The full project proposal will be expected to address any issues raised by the ISAC in its evaluation of the LOI. As was the case in Phase 1, multiple LOIs may be invited to submit a combined project proposal and some LOIs may be instructed that certain parts of the proposed project should not be included in the full proposal.

The tentative due date for full project proposals is September 1, 2013.

Project selection

Based on the full project proposals, the set of projects that will comprise Phase 2 of the GRAND NCE will be determined by the RMC using a set of criteria that will be made available at the time project teams are invited to submit full proposals (earlier if possible).

The tentative date for announcing the set of Phase 2 project is October 1, 2013. This will allow all network investigators, as part of the reporting cycle for 2013, to submit budget requests for 2014-15 that reflect their involvement in the new projects.

Final project descriptions

Those projects that are selected for Phase 2 will be expected to provide full project descriptions, including the amount of cash and in-kind contributions from partner organizations for the first two years of the project.

The tentative due date for completing final project descriptions is March 1, 2014.

Each project will be asked to nominate one GRAND scholar as part of its final project description.

Project budgets

Project budgets for each project will be determined similarly as in the past, but with some changes in the process: each Principal Network Investigator will allocate a portion of their GRAND funding to each project based on the subprojects in which they are involved. Additional matching funds will be allocated to projects based on the actual cash contributions to projects from partner organizations. The project budget will be the estimated cash contributions from partner organizations, the allocations from all of the PNIs, and an amount that the project team can use to support CNIs.

The tentative date for announcing awards to PNIs is March 15, 2014. Matching funds will only be disbursed to PNIs and CNIs after the cash contributions have been received from partner organizations. If a project does not receive sufficient partner contributions, the matching funds reserved for it will be allocated to other projects that have obtained additional cash contributions from partner organizations.

Commencement of new projects

Phase 2 projects will begin on April 1, 2014. Most Phase 1 projects may be terminated on that date, but some may continue to have partial funding for the remainder of the calendar year. This will be a transition period from Phase 1 to Phase 2. Funding to individual researchers will be awarded based on a nine-month proration of the allocations recommended by the RMC. The remaining three months of funding for the fiscal year will be awarded for January-March, 2015, if the GRAND NCE is successful in its renewal application.

Researchers may continue to complete work on Phase 1 projects until December 31, 2014, to ensure that all of the objectives of Phase 1 are achieved. If Phase 1 work is necessary for the success of one or more Phase 2 projects, the work may be funded as part of the Phase 2 project for that period. Funding allocations for the nine-month transition period will be based on the RMC’s assessments of the need for funds across the full set of Phase 1 and Phase 2 projects. New researchers joining the GRAND for Phase 2 may receive start-up funds during the transition period, but normally will not receive full funding until the renewal period begins.

Under NCE rules, no Phase 1 funding may be carried over past December 31, 2014.