Supporting older Canadians to age in place with technologies developed and evaluated through healthy aging community living labs
- Digital technology built around the needs and wants of older adults, while including them in the design process, that improves the lives of aging adults. Technologies must have a use case of supporting older adults and their caregivers to age well in the community.
- Age-friendly community
- A community where the policies, services and structures related to the physical and social environments are designed to help older adults age and live safely.
- AgeTech innovation board
- A board comprised of experts appointed from industry, investment, academia and individuals with lived experience and that advises the NRC's National Program Office on funding decisions for projects under the healthy aging community living lab funding opportunity.
- Expert by experience
- An older adult (aged 65 or above) and those who provide care or support to older adults who share wisdom and lived experience and are sought out to engage in co-design to support the development, implementation, evaluation and overall impact of AgeTech innovation.
- Healthy aging community living lab
- A collaborative approach to innovation where groups of complementary organizations work together with community partners to develop and evaluate technologies to minimize the risk and maximize the likelihood of commercialization and adoption of the technologies.
- National Program Office
- An independent NRC office that oversees funded collaborative R&D programs and initiatives and ensures funding is aligned with Government of Canada policies governing transfer payments (grant and contribution funding).
- Research partner
Organizations eligible to receive grants and contribution funding:
- Academic institutions
- Canadian SME
- Indigenous groups, governments and representative organizations
- Not-for-profit organizations
- Small and medium-sized enterprise (SME)
- A business with 1 to 99 paid employees (small enterprise) or 100 to 499 paid employees (medium-sized enterprise).
- Technology readiness level (TRL)
- A measure to evaluate the maturity of an evolving technology and identify the stages of pre-commercial development on a 9-point scale that enables consistent and uniform discussions of technical maturity across different types of technology.
Through its Aging in Place Challenge program, the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) is issuing an open call for funding, to advance projects over the next 4 years, in support of its challenge objectives. This opportunity will enable community-based development and evaluation of technologies to support older Canadians and their care partners to live well in their home and in communities of their choice.
Through a phased approach that is mapped to the technology readiness level (TRL) scale, the program will provide research funding across a continuum of innovation for projects housed in community living labs across Canada and with a TRL between 3 and 6 that have the potential for commercialization and adoption. A total of $5,000,000 over 4 years has been allocated to the healthy aging community living lab funding opportunity. The funding has different budgets, matched funding requirements and project lengths to accommodate the needs of each TRL phase.
Technologies matured through a community living lab must align with 1 or more of the program's 3 focus areas:
- Focus area 1: Preventing transitions in care by supporting healthy aging through improved health and well-being and reductions in anticipated risk factors known to cause transitions in care. Technologies under focus area 1 will either enable people to access preventative care or support early detection of age-related diseases.
- Focus area 2: Enabling older adults and their caregivers to live well with frailty, cognitive impairment, social isolation and other risk factors leading to transitions in care. Technologies under this focus area will either reduce the risk of sentinel events (i.e. hospitalizations, falls, caregiver burnout) or facilitate activities of daily living.
- Focus area 3: Creating age-friendly communities and social structures that address social, political and built environment barriers to aging in place. Technologies under focus area 3 will either adapt the social or physical environment or provide opportunities for meaningful contributions to society despite frailty, cognitive impairment and other known risk factors for transitions in care.
The funded projects must be supported by an eligible team of partners with an appropriate mix of organizational and lived experience, capabilities and perspectives in order to meet the program's objectives.
Applications will be accepted for the following:
- Developing and validating a proof-of-concept, TRL 3 and TRL 4
- Pilot testing a prototype, TRL 5
- Testing a prototype in an operational environment, TRL 6
The population of Canada is aging. Older adults (those aged 65 or above) are the fastest growing demographic. It is estimated that, by 2050, they will represent 25% of Canada's population.Footnote 1 Recent research shows that, if given the choice, over 85% of older adults in Canada would prefer to age in place within their own homes and communities.Footnote 2
In recent years, innovative solutions and technologies have started emerging from the AgeTech sector. It may be possible to enable and extend the ability for older adults to safely age in place within the homes and communities of their choice by enhancing and adapting alternative care approaches through emerging technologies, thus decreasing hospital stays and long-term care costs.
Despite the scientific excellence that has resulted in aging in place technologies, there is a well-known challenge in the AgeTech sector of being able to translate technologies into products and solutions that will have a significant impact on older adults and their caregivers.Footnote 3 Intersectoral partnerships between experts by experience, researchers, clinicians, decision-makers and industry are needed to be able to develop and evaluate AgeTech. In addition to engagement with experts by experience throughout the innovation continuum,Footnote 4 the ability to pilot and evaluate innovations in real-world settings for effective impact assessment is a key element of AgeTech adoption.Footnote 5
In response to this challenge, this funding opportunity will support technology maturation in healthy aging community living labs. These living labs embrace a collaborative approach to innovation and implementation science where groups of complementary organizations work together with community partners to develop and evaluate technologies to minimize the risk and maximize the likelihood of commercialization and adoption of the technologies.
Funded projects will develop technologies along the innovation continuum, from TRL 3 to TRL 7 (refer to Table 1). This phased approach will provide a mechanism for technologies to mature on the TRL scale through the participation of partners with various types of expertise across the AgeTech ecosystem. This collaborative approach will move technologies towards product commercialization and widespread adoption.
|Technology readiness level||Definition||Description||Checklist of activities to achieve this level|
|3||Development of a proof of concept||Active research and development begin. Feasibility of separate technology components is being validated through analytical and laboratory studies. No attempt yet to integrate components into a complete system.||Proof of concept and/or analytical and experimental critical function has been developed|
|Separate components validated in a laboratory environment|
|Market and competitiveness analysis completed|
|4||Validation of a proof of concept||Basic technological components are integrated ad hoc to establish that they will work together in a laboratory environment. The ad hoc system would likely be a mix of on-hand equipment and a few special purpose components that may require special handling, calibration or alignment in order to function.||Ad hoc integrated components, subsystems or processes validated in a laboratory environment|
|Input and feedback received from key stakeholders (end users, healthcare professionals, community members, commercial partners)|
|Implementation analysis completed|
|5||Pilot testing of a prototype||The integrated basic technological components are performing for the intended applications in a simulated environment. Configurations are being developed but could undergo fundamental changes. Technology and environments at TRL 5 are more similar to the final application than to technology at TRL 4.||Semi-integrated component(s) and subsystems or processes validated in a simulated environment|
|Implementation plan completed|
|6||Testing of a prototype in an operational environment||A model or prototype that represents a near-desired configuration is being developed at a pilot scale, generally smaller than full scale. Testing of the model or prototype is being conducted in a simulated environment.||Pilot-scale model or prototype developed|
|Pilot-scale model or prototype system near desired configuration in performance and volume but generally smaller than full scale|
|Pilot-scale prototype or model system demonstrated in a simulated environment|
|Input and feedback received from key stakeholder on how simulated environment differs from operational environment, and how results differed from expectations is understood|
(Stage when the project exits the opportunity)
|Prototype system (form, fit and function) is ready||A full-scale prototype is being demonstrated in an operational environment but under limited conditions in field tests (final design is very close to completion).||Full-scale prototype developed with ready form, fit and function|
|Full-scale prototype demonstrated in an operational environment but under limited conditions|
3. Funding and support
A total of $5,000,000 has been allocated to this living lab funding opportunity over 4 years. Funding amount will vary according to the parameters described in Table 2.
Cash or in-kind contributions from team members and partnering organizations (industry and/or industry support organizations and/or interested research organizations) are expected to amplify the funds from the NRC.
|Technology readiness level at entry||3||4||5||6|
|Objective||Develop and validate a proof of concept||Pilot test a prototype||Prototype test in an operational environment|
|Minimum requirements for team composition||
|Expected deliverable||Use case scenario(s)||Model and/or prototype||Completed pilot-scale test in simulated environment||Completed full-scale prototype testing in operational environment|
|Maximum NRC funding available per project||$50,000||$100,000||$150,000||$200,000|
|Maximum duration of project||6 months||6 months||12 months||24 months|
|Minimum requirements for matching funds||Not applicable||Not applicable||At least 40% of total budget (cash or in-kind)||At least 60% of total budget (cash or in-kind)|
NRC funding will be provided under the terms and conditions of the Collaborative Science, Technology and Innovation Program (CSTIP). CSTIP funding is administered through the NRC's National Program Office (NPO).
For additional questions on grant and contribution funding contact the NPO at NRC.NationalProgramOffice-Bureaunationaldesprogrammes.CNRC@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca.
4. Eligibility and costs
4.1. Eligible technologies
Requirements for technologies supported through this funding opportunity:
- Be clearly aligned to 1 or more of the program's focus areas
- At a TRL 3 or higher at entry (use Table 1 to evaluate TRL)
- Must include plans for achieving the TRL objective (Table 2)
- Reach the impact-oriented development objectives in Table 2 within required maximum project timelines
- Supported with a team of experts demonstrating appropriate excellence (Table 2)
- Salaries for high-quality personnel (HQP) working on the project activities
- Set compensation scheme for expert by experience team members
- Research support costs: direct costs incurred in the project implementation phase, which can include consumable materials, supplies, rental costs for equipment or facilities required for the execution of the project, honoraria for research participants
- Costs for on-duty travel required to execute the project and limited conference travel (for HQP only)
- Amounts invoiced to the applicant by a contractor for services rendered related directly to the project (e.g. professional services fees), including evaluation of commercialization potential
- Indirect costs not directly applicable to carrying out the project but necessary for conducting the recipient's general business, up to a maximum of 10% of total eligible costs
- Equipment costs:
- Laboratory equipment and other components, generally between $10,000 and $50,000
Equipment costs must not exceed 25% of CSTIP project funding. Applicants must demonstrate that the project objectives cannot be achieved without this equipment and that equipment can be procured in a reasonable timeframe.
All equipment costs will be reviewed at the proposal stage. The NRC team may contact the applicant for more details.
Costs not covered:
- Purchase of land, leasehold interest or property taxes
- Any portion of costs subject to refunds, rebates or credits, including HST, GST and PST
- Costs incurred or paid by the NRC
4.3. Team members
Healthy aging community living labs are made up of teams from complementary organizations and community partners who leverage a methodology that enables implementation science, collaborative learning and innovation.
Team members of these living labs will include the NRC, research partner, industry and commercialization experts, experts by experience, community health and social care organizations, and government representatives. Teams of each healthy aging community living lab project is expected to be made up of members of these partner groups. The required team members and their level of engagement will vary depending on the project phase (Table 2), with the required involvement detailed in the proposal (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Healthy aging community living labs funding opportunity
4.4. Commitment to EDI and GBA+
Project teams must clearly demonstrate their commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) in their research, including in the composition of their teams as well as in research methods, analysis and knowledge mobilization plans. The scoring criteria for proposals include EDI and the inclusion of a plan for GBA+ analysis. Undertaking GBA+ and critically considering factors related to EDI adds valuable dimensions in research and improves the quality, social relevance and impact of the research. In addition, it can contribute to taking the research in a new direction. EDI and GBA+ considerations should influence all stages of R&D processes, from establishing priorities and building theory to formulating questions, designing methodologies and interpreting data.
Applicants are invited to consult the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council's guide on best practices in equity, diversity and inclusion in research practice and design.
5. Application process
The NRC is committed to a consistent, fair and transparent funding adjudication process in order to identify, select and approve the allocation of funding to projects for the maturation of technologies that best fit the objectives of this opportunity.
- This is an open funding opportunity with anticipated quarterly intake and evaluation of proposals, subject to available funding.
- Project teams will submit a proposal to the funding phase most appropriate for their technology.
- The NRC is committed to supporting accepted projects across all TRLs of this call. Once accepted into the program, projects teams will have the opportunity to apply for follow-on funding upon successful completion of project outputs, moving them to the following TRL.
- Project eligibility and alignment with the objectives of the Aging in Place Challenge program are assessed at the registration phase by the program.
- Full project proposals are evaluated by an AgeTech innovation board, which will make recommendations to NRC's NPO.
Interested project teams are invited to submit a proposal for any of the funding phases. Upon successfully demonstrating the project's targeted TRL, teams will have the opportunity to apply for follow-on funding for the next funding phase to reach the next TRL by collaboratively developing a proposal that builds on the previously funded project. The phases of the TRL will remain open until the program needs are met.
To facilitate collaboration between the NRC and potential partners in AgeTech innovation communities, the NRC's Aging in Place Challenge program endeavours to support matchmaking. In-person and virtual events will be hosted upon launch of the opportunity to facilitate matching of project team members in communities across Canada.
Upon request, the program is also available to help potential applicants better understand the objectives of this call for proposals and make connections to help create teams that meet the above requirements. Applicants are invited to contact the program by sending an email to NRC.AgingInPlace-VieillirChezSoi.CNRC@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca.
- Step 1. The project team lead requests a registration form (refer to registration).
- Step 2. All members of the project team complete the registration form. Team lead then emails the completed form to NRC.AgingInPlace-VieillirChezSoi.CNRC@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca.
- Step 3: The NRC reviews the registration form and evaluates eligibility and fit.
- Step 4: The NRC sends a notice of the results to the research teams and the full project proposal (FPP) templates to the selected research teams.
- Step 5: Research teams work together to develop FPP and select a team lead applicant.
- Step 6. The team lead applicant emails FPP on behalf of the project team to NRC.NPOCollaborativeR&D-BNPR&DCollaboratifs.CNRC@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca.
- Step 7. The AgeTech innovation board evaluates proposals and submits their evaluation and recommendations to the NRC.
- Step 8. The NRC sends a notice of outcome to the team lead applicant.
- Step 9. The NRC completes the due diligence process and agreement(s) are signed by the NRC and successful applicants.
- Step 10. Funds are disbursed and project begins.
- Step 11. Upon completion of the project, the team lead applicant submits final deliverable report on project outcomes along with a proposal for the next TRL level, if applicable.
- Step 12. For projects continuing in the funding opportunity, steps 7 to 12 are repeated until end goals of TRL 6 are reached.
5.5. Key dates and deadlines
- October 23 to 27, 2023: AGE-WELL's AgeTech Innovation Week (in person). For more information or to register, visit AgeTech Innovation Week.
- November 13, 2023: Proposal registration form is due.
- January 22, 2024: Full project proposal submission deadline.
- March 2024: Funding decisions are announced.
For questions or for more information, contact NRC.AgingInPlace-VieillirChezSoi.CNRC@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca.
Request a registration form by sending an email to NRC.AgingInPlace-VieillirChezSoi.CNRC@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca. Submit your completed form to the Aging in Place Challenge program at the same email address no later than 11:59 pm ET on November 13, 2023.