Canada–UK 2023-24 critical minerals sustainability and circularity call for proposals
From: National Research Council Canada
Working together, the governments of Canada and the United Kingdom (UK) aim to foster and support collaborative industrial research and development (R&D) projects with a high potential for commercialization. This call for proposals is open to organizations from Canada and the UK who wish to form project consortia to perform collaborative projects focused on developing innovative products, processes, or technology-based services in the area of critical minerals technologies.
2. Application deadlines
- Canadian registration deadline: December 15, 2023
Canadian expression of interest deadline: January 12, 2024
International consortium project proposal deadline: April 3, 2024
3. Sectors of focus
Projects must focus on innovative technologies that enable the development and commercialization of circular solutions for critical minerals and their supply chains. The project focus should be on the minerals and not on the end application performance. Projects must focus on 1 or more of the following themes:
Enhanced circularity in critical minerals
- Battery systems
- Improving recovery or efficiency of recovery of critical minerals from battery systems (e.g. cobalt, nickel, lithium, manganese from black mass)
- Improving recovery or efficiency of recovery of new critical mineral streams from battery waste (e.g. graphite, silicon, lithium iron phosphate (LFP))
- High-performance permanent magnet systems (HPPM)
- Safe and economic identification, collection, sorting, separation, dismantling of rare earth element (REE) containing end-of-life products
- Novel and sustainable routes for processing of recovered REE materials
More sustainable use of critical minerals
- Processing and manufacturing
- Novel manufacturing methods and processes across the value chain (from mine to end-product for use in battery systems or high-performance permanent magnet applications) to enhance circularity and sustainability of critical minerals
- Reduction in use
- Novel approaches to reduce reliance on existing critical minerals
- Complete substitution of critical minerals and systems
Innovations in environmental, societal and governance (ESG) for critical minerals
- Life cycle analysis (LCA) and sustainability models for LCA of critical minerals and systems
- Measurement and accounting for embedded carbon, radioactivity and other environmental and societal impacts of REE
- Provenance (e.g. material passports, digitization, traceability) of critical minerals and systems
4. Eligibility requirements
To be considered for funding, applicants must form a project consortium and develop a collaborative research and development (R&D) project that meets the following criteria:
4.1 Canadian SME applicant
- The Canadian small or medium‑sized enterprise (SME) applicant must:
- be an incorporated, profit oriented small or medium sized business in Canada
- have 500 or fewer full time equivalent employees
- pursue growth and profit by developing and commercializing innovative, technology driven new or improved products, services or processes in Canada
- have a differentiated and protectable technology with commercial potential in global markets
- have sufficient working capital (e.g. revenue, investment etc.) and resources to undertake a multi-year R&D collaboration and commercialize the results
- be committed to significant growth through international market expansion
- Preference may be given to SME applicants who:
- have a minimum of 15 full‑time equivalent employees
- have commercialized 1 or more products domestically or internationally
- have greater than $500,000 CAD in annual revenue
- The project consortium must include at least:
- 1 incorporated Canadian SME
- 1 incorporated UK business of any size, defined as a for‑profit company
- The parties listed above must be unrelated parties (i.e. no direct, indirect, beneficial or constructive ownership interest between these parties)
- The project partners that form the consortium must agree on a plan addressing intellectual property rights and intent to commercialize.
In addition to the Canadian SME, other Canadian collaborators such as research institutes, universities, government laboratories, and research and technology organizations may join the consortium on a self-funded basis. If the consortium includes a National Research Council of Canada (NRC) researcher, they may be eligible to receive funding through the NRC’s Critical Battery Materials Initiative (CBMI), a new initiative hosted under the NRC’s Advanced Clean Energy program.
- The project must focus on co-development, adaptation or validation of an innovative product, process or technology-based service that has:
- commercial potential and outcomes that can be realized within 2 to 3 years of completion of the project
- a civilian (non-military) purpose
- The project must demonstrate:
- a complementary technological contribution from each partner
- an obvious advantage and added value resulting from the cooperation between the participants
- a balanced contribution between project partners and countries (i.e. no more than 70% of the effort contributed by any one partner or country)
4.4 UK eligibility requirements
Please consult the UK Innovation Funding Service (IFS) call for proposals announcement for UK eligibility requirements.
Eligible project participants in collaborative projects selected through this call for proposals may receive funding from their respective national funding bodies. Funds will be provided in accordance with the applicable laws, regulations, rules and procedures established by the relevant national funding bodies, country and jurisdiction.
Non‑eligible project participants (e.g. universities, research institutes and participants from other countries) are welcome to participate on a self‑funded basis or as sub‑contractors to funded participants, according to each country's funding regulations.
Additional country-specific funding parameters are outlined below.
5.1 Canadian funding
In Canada, this call for proposals is offered through the NRC’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP). NRC IRAP is responsible for delivering this call for proposals and for managing any resulting funding agreements.
Eligible Canadian SMEs may receive up to 50% reimbursement of eligible project costs up to a maximum total funding amount of $500,000 CAD over 12 to 24 months.
Note: Canadian SME applicants must be eligible for funding as NRC IRAP clients before they can be considered for funding through this call for proposals. For more information on NRC IRAP eligibility and becoming an NRC IRAP client, please contact NRC IRAP at 1-877-994-4727.
Note: Canadian SME applicants may apply to more than one NRC IRAP call for proposals simultaneously. However, NRC IRAP may limit the number of funded projects per applicant. Canadian SME applicants who are applying to more than one opportunity or who have ongoing NRC IRAP projects should speak to their NRC IRAP representative for more information.
Other Canadian collaborators
The NRC National Program Office is responsible for the management of any resulting funding agreements with other Canadian collaborators and NRC researchers.
Canadian research institutes, universities, municipal, territorial or provincial government laboratories, and research and technology organizations participating in a project consortium may be eligible to receive funding through NRC’s Critical Battery Materials Initiative (CBMI) if the consortium includes an NRC researcher and is aligned with the initiative’s technology focus areas.
Eligible Canadian research institutions may receive funding of up to 100% of eligible costs. Indirect (i.e. overhead) costs may represent up to 10% of total eligible project costs. Eligible direct costs include salaries (excluding academic principal investigator salaries); research support costs (including student stipends, research materials and minor equipment purchases up to $10,000); travel and accommodation costs; and professional services (amounts invoiced by a contractor for services rendered directly to the project).
Funding may be available for other Canadian collaborators who involve an NRC researcher and offer complementary expertise to either of the 2 following technology focus areas:
- Midstream battery minerals processing acceleration platforms: using self-driving labs and machine learning approaches to develop more efficient and sustainable processing pathways for raw and recycled source materials.
- Battery materials acceleration platforms: using self-driving labs and machine learning approaches to discover new battery materials with optimized performance, safety and sustainability characteristics.
These collaborators will work with the NRC researcher to prepare a project outline that will be reviewed by the National Program Office for eligibility, and if successful, will result in a separate, complementary funding agreement.
To discuss a potential collaboration with an NRC researcher or a technical scope, contact Lawrence Charlebois, CBMI Manager at Lawrence.Charlebois.@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca.
For information on CBMI’s grants and contributions, contact Mireille Goulet, Innovation Investment Advisor at Mireille.Goulet@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca.
5.2 UK funding
In the UK, this call for proposals is offered through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Innovate UK, part of UKRI, is responsible for the delivery of this call for proposals and the management of any resulting funding agreements.
Please consult the Innovate UK IFS call for proposals announcement for UK funding parameters.
6. Application process
This call for proposal is being hosted by Innovate UK's Innovation Funding Service (IFS). Each project consortium must complete and submit the joint project application form via the UK IFS application portal. The UK lead project applicant must register, open and invite their Canadian project partner through the UK IFS application portal.
Please consult the Innovate UK IFS application portal for instructions on how to complete and submit the project application package.
In addition to the project consortium submitting a Eureka project application form, each project partner seeking funding must submit all required documents to, and meet the due diligence process of, their respective national funding body. Failure, at any point or for any reason, to do so may cause the entire collaborative project application to be considered incomplete or ineligible and render the entire project consortium ineligible for funding through this call for proposals.
Application processes and evaluations will be performed independently by each national funding body in accordance with their national and institutional laws and regulations. Once each national funding body has evaluated the submitted applications, a final joint project selection will be performed.
Information on respective application processes follows below:
6.1 Canadian application process
The Canadian application process has 4 phases:
- Expression of interest
- International consortium project proposal
- National funding body funding agreement
Step 1: Registration phase
Each Canadian SME applicant must register using the Register button at the bottom of this page. Basic information about the applicant and the organization will be required upon registration.
NRC IRAP will review registrations for this call for proposals and contact applicants if more information is required. Qualifying applicants will proceed to the next phase and be invited to submit an expression of interest form.
Step 2: Expression of interest phase
During this phase, each Canadian SME applicant seeking funding must submit an expression of interest (EOI) form outlining basic information on the applicant and the collaborative project.
While completing the EOI form, each Canadian SME applicant is encouraged to contact their NRC IRAP representative to discuss their project idea and receive guidance on preparing their submission.
It is recommended that applicants submit the EOI as early as possible. EOIs will be evaluated by the applicant's NRC IRAP representative and the NRC IRAP International Office. Qualifying applicants will be invited to submit the more detailed international consortium project proposal in collaboration with their project partners. The lead Canadian SME applicant will be provided all templates needed to submit an international consortium project proposal (ICPP).
Step 3: International consortium project proposal (ICPP) phase
During this phase, all project partners must work together to complete and submit an ICPP package.
In this call for proposals, the Canadian ICPP application package consists of:
- Innovate UK IFS project application form outlining the:
- project consortium
- collaborative project
- expected outcomes
- expected project cost and calendar
- NRC IRAP Canadian SME annex form containing additional information required to assess the Canadian SME applicants and the project consortium
- NRC Other Canadian Collaborator annex form containing additional information required to assess the Canadian researcher applicants and the project consortium (if applicable)
- Draft international consortium agreement containing descriptions of the following:
- roles and responsibilities of each consortium member
- project management framework
- division of intellectual property rights
- confidentiality and publication agreements, and liability clauses
Canadian ICPP applications will be evaluated by an NRC IRAP evaluation team including the applicant's NRC IRAP representative and the NRC IRAP International Office. Only Canadian participants of selected project proposals will be invited to proceed to the final national funding body proposal and funding agreement stage.
Step 4: National funding body proposal and funding agreement phase
During the national funding body proposal and funding agreement phase, all eligible project partners work independently to complete funding proposals and sign legally binding funding agreements with their respective national funding body. Canadian SME applicants will work with their NRC IRAP representative to prepare an NRC IRAP funding proposal and contribution agreement. If other Canadian collaborators are part of the consortium, they will work with the NRC CBMI to prepare a funding proposal and grant or contribution agreement as appropriate.
6.2 UK application process
For information related to application stages, requirements, instructions, ICPP application packages and funding agreements, please consult the UK IFS call for proposals announcement.
For questions, concerns, or for more information, please contact the appropriate call for proposals representative listed below:
7.1 Canadian contacts
Small and medium-sized enterprises
NRC IRAP UK National Program Coordinator
National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program
Other Canadian Collaborators
Innovation Investment Advisor, National Program Office
National Research Council of Canada
7.2 UK contact
Innovation Lead – Advanced Materials
Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund
UK Research and Innovation | Innovate UK
Canadian SME participants must be registered NRC IRAP clients. If not already an NRC IRAP client, Canadian SMEs must contact 1-877-994-4727 to determine if they might be eligible for support through the NRC IRAP.
To begin the application process, the lead Canadian applicant must register for this opportunity by clicking the Register button.
If there is no Register button visible below this line, it means the call for proposals has closed. Please contact the Contact listed or the NRC IRAP International Office for more information.