Dear Project Leads for CFI-IF 2018-19 Competition:
I am writing to provide an update on the University's preparation and processes for the upcoming CFI-IF competition.
The CFI-IF competition sets a funding limit on eligible institutions, based upon their overall Tri-Agency funding levels, averaged over the past three years. In the past, our success with this competition has been low. In fact, in the last competition, we received no awards. It is especially important to note in the current context that in past competitions, we did not generate enough proposals to reach our funding limit with the outcome being that we submitted any and all reasonable proposals. Based on our past funding limit and our performance with Tri-Agency funding, we can reasonably expect a funding limit of $28M for the current competition. In order to increase our engagement in the CFI-IF program and to increase the probability of success, we changed the process for the upcoming competition.
The overall objective of the new process for the CFI-IF applications is to have proposals fully developed and in very close to final form, well in advance of the CFI deadline for submission. In this way, and once the actual CFI call is announced, all that remains to be done on UM applications is "fine tuning" to align any new requirements set by the CFI, with the bulk of the work already completed.
We initiated a "notice of intent to apply" (NOI) process on January 25, 2018, which required potential applicants to complete a short 2-3 page outline of the proposal together with a rough budget estimate. NOIs were due on May 15, 2018. We then held a "pitch" session on June 13 and 15, 2018, in which applicants had 10 minutes to present their proposals to an audience of other applicants, members of the CFI Advisory Committee, ORS staff, and any interested parties. The "pitches" were followed by 20 minutes of questioning by the audience. There were 21 NOIs submitted and presented at the "pitch" sessions. Seven applicants withdrew their applications after these sessions. The remaining 14 applicants were required to submit their full CFI-IF applications in close to final form by December 14, 2018, allowing approximately six months after the "pitch" sessions to work on their proposals.
During August-September, 2018, Dr. Glavin met one-on-one with each applicant (some of whom were accompanied by co-applicants). All were told - without exception - that they were required to submit their proposal by the December 14, 2018 deadline - as if it was the final draft ready to submit to CFI. They were told also, without exception, that this would be a very tough competition and that, based on our past experience and current Tri-Agency funding levels, we could expect a CFI-IF funding limit of approximately $28M, as noted above. UM (as do other universities) also partners with CFI applications led out of other institutions and we committed $2.5M to these initiatives. We are allowed to exceed our application limit by 10% at the time of application, meaning that, in the end, we have an application limit of approximately $30M. With the remaining 14 proposals, our application limit was oversubscribed by a factor of 1.5 ($45.3M in requests versus a $30M limit). This is good news in the sense that uptake by UM researchers increased, relative to past years, and gives us an opportunity to submit very "polished" applications and hopefully increases our chances of success. It is bad news in that tough decisions had to be made.
The CFI Advisory Committee met on February 4, 2019. It is important to note that the UM Advisory Committee attempted to replicate the CFI multidisciplinary assessment committees (MACs) that review these proposals. We had representation from the faculties of Arts, Science, Engineering, Health Sciences, and Agricultural and Food Sciences. Each proposal was reviewed by a primary reviewer, a secondary reviewer, and two readers. Every committee member was encouraged to comment on any proposal.
The CFI Advisory Committee placed the proposals into one of the following four categories:
Category 1 - "Minor revisions" needed
Category 2 - "Needs questions" addressed
Category 3 - "Major challenges" to the proposal
Category 4 - Should not proceed
Dr. Glavin then met with Dr. Jayas and recommended proceeding with applications in categories 1 and 2 for two reasons: i) these proposals are most likely to succeed; and ii) their CFI request can be managed within our expected limit. I took this recommendation to President's Executive Team (PET) for information.
During the week of March 11, 2019, Dr. Glavin met one-on-one with PIs with proposals from categories 1 and 2 and indicated, without exception, that:
* We need the names of two external reviewers who can provide critical reviews of their proposal after they incorporate the feedback from the CFI Advisory Committee; they should incorporate the feedback from the external reviewers in July/August, 2019, and they should then submit the proposal to VPRIO by September 9, 2019, in a form that could be sent to CFI on that day. This is to include: a firm budget, a concrete plan for securing the 20% matching, and all details of the proposal as if in final form.
* All applicants in this group were also told that, since these are institutional applications where the UM is the applicant, the decision to proceed at this stage is not final and that the UM reserves the right to not proceed with any proposal if, for example, the proposal is not in a state that is ready for submission to CFI or if our application funding cap decreases as a result of the anticipated April, 2019 call from CFI.
The PIs in categories 3 and 4 have been told that their applications will not proceed forward. However, if the UM application limit is increased (a decision we expect to know by April 2019), we can add one or more proposals from category 3. At that time, we will inform all PIs in category 3 and their Deans and ADRs, to submit their revised proposals within 2 months and with the advice from CFI Advisory Committee we will select one or more proposals to add to our submission list.
If the CFI call comes out in April 2019, we can reasonably assume an October-November due date. Thus, having proposals in essentially final form as of September, 2019, we will have achieved the objective of leaving only "fine tuning" to be done in the weeks leading up to the actual submission deadline.
If you have any questions please contact me.
Digvir S. Jayas, O.C., Ph.D., P.Eng., P.Ag., FAZRA, FASABE, FCSBE, FAIC, FCIFST, FEC, FEIC, FCAE, FRSC, FNAAS, FISAE, FNASc, IntPE (Canada), APEC Engineer, FGC (Hon)
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