Canada – Germany 3+2 collaborative call for proposals on Innovative Artificial Intelligence Solutions for Industrial Production

From: National Research Council Canada

1. Introduction

The governments of Canada and Germany are working together 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 Germany who wish to form a project consortium to perform collaborative projects focussed on developing innovative products, processes, or technology-based services via innovative artificial intelligence (AI) solutions for industrial production in the context of value-added manufacturing.

This bilateral call for proposals is managed by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), including the NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) and the NRC National Program Office.

2. Application deadlines

July 20, 2020

Canadian registration deadline

July 24, 2020

Canadian expression of interest deadline

September 11, 2020

International consortium project proposal deadline

3. Sectors of focus

The projects must be focussed on the development of pre-commercial technologies that address an identified need in the area of innovative artificial intelligence (AI) solutions for industrial production in the context of value-added manufacturing.

Projects can focus on, but are not limited to:

AI solutions, in the context of the call, are expected to have a clear added value or innovation (e.g. increased levels of automation, increased efficiency, resiliency, and/or flexibility) compared to state-of-the-art technologies, and to the supply chain. In some cases, factors such as: explainability, transparency, ethical AI, scalability, potential for near-term application, and systems safety may become relevant. To achieve these goals, application, adaptation and merging of current AI methods as well as the development of new methods may be appropriate. The thematic spectrum could include: deep learning, artificial neural networks, reinforcement learning and deep networks, Internet of things (IoT), cybersecurity, smart infrastructure, autonomous systems for remote applications, and contextualized optimization.

4. Eligibility requirements

To be considered for funding, applicants must form a project consortium and develop a collaborative R&D project that meets the following criteria:

  1. The project consortium must include a minimum of five (5) participants (3 Canadian and 2 German participants):
    • 1 incorporated Canadian small or medium-sized enterprise (SME), defined as a for-profit company with 500 or fewer full-time equivalent employees
    • 1 researcher from the National Research Council of Canada who will be undertaking project research activities through the NRC's challenge programs or supercluster support programs validated by a program director
    • 1 Canadian research institution (e.g., post-secondary institution, research and technology organization)
    • 1 eligible German R&D-performing SME, and
    • 1 German research institution
  2. The project partners that form the consortium must:
    • identify one lead participant from each country
    • be capable of implementing the project including funding their respective share
    • agree in advance on intellectual property rights and a commercialization strategy
    • not be related in terms of corporate ownership
  3. The collaborative project must focus on co-developing a product, process, or technology-based service that:
    • advances the objectives of the NRC's challenge programs in the fields of artificial intelligence for design, high-throughput and secure networks for remote/northern communities, disruptive technologies for cell and gene therapies, and materials discovery for clean fuels, or its 5 supercluster support programs (Advanced Manufacturing, Canadian Digital Technology Supercluster Collaboration program, Sustainable Protein Production, Ocean, and Artificial Intelligence for Logistics).
    • is highly innovative
    • has significant commercial potential
    • has outcomes that can be realized within 3 years of completion of the project
    • does not involve R&D related to products, processes, or technology-based services with military or non-peaceful applications
  4. The collaborative project must demonstrate the following:
    • the unique scientific and technological contribution that each organization brings to the project
    • an obvious advantage and added value for each project partner resulting from the collaboration, such as an increased knowledge base, an access to R&D infrastructure or new fields of application or a solution for commercial needs
    • international networking in the stated thematic priority areas
    • new and/or further development of technological and social innovations and applications in the field of artificial intelligence
    • an increase in the international competitiveness of German and Canadian partners, including the development of market potential
    • promotion of early-career researchers in the field of artificial intelligence in Germany and Canada
    • an adequate balance and significance for all project partners, with no more than 75% of the project budget contributed by any one organization or country

In addition to the above eligibility requirements, each applicant must meet their country-specific requirements, outlined below:

4.1 Canadian eligibility requirements

Canadian applicant(s) must also meet the following criteria.

Canadian SMEs

  1. The Canadian SME must have a technology that is:
    • competitive in global markets, differentiated, and protectable, such as a unique or novel patentable technology that may alter the industry or market
  2. The Canadian SME must be committed to:
    • pursuing growth and profit by developing and commercializing innovative, technology-driven new or improved products, processes or technological-based services and
    • substantive growth through global market expansion.
  3. The Canadian SME must be ready, and have the resources to:
    • make a serious new market entry push, generally measured by having more than 20 full time equivalent employees and $2 million CAD in annual revenue, and
    • complete a collaborative project with international project partners

Canadian research institution

NRC researchers

4.2 German eligibility requirements

Please consult the DLR Project Management Agency call for proposals announcement for German eligibility requirements.

5. Funding

Eligible project participants in collaborative projects selected through this call for proposals may receive funding from their respective national funders. Funds will be provided in accordance with the applicable laws, regulations, rules, and procedures established by the relevant national funders, country, and jurisdiction.

NOTE: One country and/or project partner cannot represent more than 75% of the total project budget.

Additional country-specific funding parameters are outlined below:

5.1 Canadian funding

In Canada, this call for proposals is offered through the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) and the NRC National Program Office. NRC IRAP is responsible for the delivery of this call for proposals and for the management of any resulting SME funding agreements. The NRC National Program Office is responsible for the management of any resulting RTO funding agreements.

Canadian SMEs

Eligible Canadian SMEs may receive up to 50% reimbursement of eligible project costs up to a maximum total funding amount of $600,000 CAD over 24 to 36 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 a client, please contact NRC IRAP at 1-877-994-4727.

Canadian research institutions

Eligible Canadian research institutions may receive funding for up to 100% of eligible costs up to a maximum of $100,000 CAD per year, including funding for indirect costs representing no more than 10% reimbursement of total eligible project costs.

Eligible costs include salaries (excluding academic principal investigator salaries), research support costs, including student stipends and equipment under $10,000, and travel and accommodation, and professional services as a minor proportion of project costs.

NRC researchers

NRC operating funding is available to support a portion of NRC research costs; NRC research costs will not be funded via National Program Office contribution funding. The total available operating funding envelope is $250,000 per year. NRC research centres are expected to contribute 50% of the NRC costs of the project in-kind; a research centre in-kind contribution of up to $100,000 per year is expected per project.

Operating funds made available to NRC researchers must be used to support incremental operating costs incurred that are reasonable and necessary to carry out project activities, including bringing on dedicated staff (e.g., students or post-doctoral fellows) under the direction of NRC scientific personnel, as well as consumables, minor capital, and travel.

NOTE: Canadian collaborators must ensure that project activities and objectives are aligned with the objectives of one of the NRC challenge programs or supercluster support programs in order for the project to be considered for funding through this call for proposals.  Please contact the NRC Challenge Officer at NRC.3plus2-3plus2.cnrc@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca to determine if the proposed project is in alignment with one of these programs.

5.2 German funding

In Germany, this call for proposals is administered by DLR Project Management Agency (DLR) and offered through the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). DLR is responsible for the delivery of this call for proposals and the management of any resulting funding agreements.

Please consult the DLR Project Management Agency call for proposals announcement for funding parameters.

6. Application process

This call for proposals is offered through the 3 + 2 Canada-Germany Collaborative Industrial Research and Development Program, a bilateral program aiming to foster collaborative research and development between Canadian and German organizations. Application processes and evaluations will be performed independently by national funders in accordance with their national and institutional laws and regulations. Once the national funders have evaluated the submitted applications, a final joint project selection will be performed.

Each country lead participant must submit all required consortium application documents on behalf of the consortium, to their national call administrator (NRC IRAP for Canada and BMBF for Germany) and meet its due diligence process requirements.

Not meeting these requirements may cause the collaborative project application to be considered incomplete or ineligible and render the entire project consortium ineligible for funding through this call for proposals.

Information on respective application processes follows below:

6.1 Canadian application process

The Canadian application process has 4 phases:

  1. Registration
  2. Expression of interest (EOI)
  3. International consortium project proposal (ICPP)
  4. National funders proposal and funding agreement

Step 1: Registration phase
The lead Canadian applicant must register electronically by using the Register button and completing the online registration form which requests basic information about the Canadian applicants and their organizations.

Registrations for this call for proposals will be reviewed by NRC IRAP who will contact applicants if further information is required. Qualifying applicants will proceed to the next phase and be invited to submit an expression of interest (EOI) form.

Step 2: Expression of interest phase
During this phase, the lead Canadian applicant seeking funding must submit an EOI form outlining basic information on the applicants and the collaborative project.

While completing the EOI form, each Canadian SME applicant is encouraged to contact its NRC IRAP representative while Canadian research institutions are encouraged to contact the NRC Challenge Officer 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 an NRC evaluation team. Qualifying applicants will be invited to submit the more detailed international consortium project proposal (ICPP) in collaboration with their project partners. The lead Canadian applicant will be provided all templates needed to submit an ICPP.

Step 3: International Consortium Project Proposal phase
During the ICPP phase, all project partners work together to complete and submit an application package to each lead national call administrator. The contents of the ICPP package are unique to each national call administrator.

In this call for proposals, the Canadian ICPP application package consists of:

  1. an international consortium project proposal (ICPP) / joint application form, outlining the
    • project consortium
    • collaborative project
    • expected outcomes
    • funding request
  2. a draft international consortium agreement template containing descriptions of the:
    • roles and responsibilities of each consortium member
    • project management framework
    • financial plan
    • division of intellectual property rights
    • confidentiality and publication agreements, and liability clauses
  3. an NRC IRAP/NPO Canadian annex form, containing additional information required to assess the Canadian applicants and the project consortium for funding through this call for proposals processes.

Canadian ICPP applications will be evaluated by an NRC evaluation team including the applicant's NRC IRAP representative, the NRC National Program Office and the NRC IRAP International Office. Next, the amalgamated evaluation results will be shared between national funders to jointly select the collaborative projects that will be invited to proceed to the final national funder proposal and funding agreement stage.

Step 4: National funders proposal and funding agreement phase
During the national funders 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 funders. Canadian SME applicants will work with their NRC IRAP representative to prepare an NRC IRAP funding proposal and contribution agreement. Canadian research institutions will work with the NRC National Program Office to prepare a funding proposal and contribution agreement.

6.2 German application process

Please consult the DLR Project Management Agency call for proposals announcement for full official instructions related to the German application process and requirements. 

7. Contacts

For questions or for more information, please contact the appropriate call for proposals representative listed below:

7.1 Canadian contact

SMEs

Andrew Bauder
NRC IRAP Germany National Program Coordinator
National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program
andrew.bauder@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca

Research institutions and NRC researchers

Russell Girard
Challenge Officer, National Program Office
National Research Council of Canada
NRC.3plus2-3plus2.cnrc@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca

7.2 German contact

Barbara Hellebrandt
Senior Scientific Officer
DLR Project Management Agency
barbara.hellebrandt@dlr.de

8. Registration

To begin the application process, the lead Canadian applicant must register for this opportunity by clicking the Register button below.

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