VPR Catalyst Grants

VPR Catalyst Grants

Deadlines: February 15, May 15, August 15, November 15

VPR Catalyst Grants are designed to catalyze research initiatives that will lead to substantial external funding, and are intended to support well-defined early-stage research activities.

The VPR Catalyst Grants ask researchers think boldly and strategically about how to maximize the impact of downstream funding. The stimulus grant program will prioritize those who present a winning research context, including for example mentorship, strong collaborators, and knowledge engagement partnerships.

The Office of the VP Research has also recently launched the new Transdisciplinary Connector Grants. Compare the VPR Catalyst and Transdisciplinary Connector Grants.

Value: $1,000 - $15,000

In rare cases, up to $20,000 may be awarded 

Duration: 6 months

Maximum 12 months, after which unused funds must be returned

Deadline: 4 per year

Feb 15, May 15, Aug 15, Nov 15

Important Information

  • Up to 30% of the total envelope is available for allocation at each deadline
  • One submission per applicant per intake
  • Note that deadlines that fall on a weekend or holiday will shift to the next business day

Deadline | Start Date

Feb 15 | Mar 15

May 15 | June 15

Aug 15 | Sept 15  

Nov 15 | Dec 15

Evaluation Criteria

The review committee will consider:

1. The extent to which the proposed area of work is compelling, and how impactful the downstream funding applications will be (to the principal investigator’s career trajectory, to the university, to society).


2. The extent to which a concrete body of work is being proposed for Catalyst Funding, as a logical progression to a compelling external funding application.  


3. The extent to which the proposed work is a fit for the principal investigator, and the other work that they do. 


4. The extent to which the principal investigator is presenting a winning research context (i.e. presence of mentorship, strong collaborators, knowledge translation partnerships that will help advance the program).

Internal review committee will be established by the Office of the Vice-President (Research).

  • The evaluation process will be undertaken in a formative manner.
  • In cases where applications are not selected for funding, the internal review committee will provide clear direction as to how resubmissions may be improved upon and research team(s) restructured such that their chances of success are greater in future competitions.
  • The following additional aspects will be considered in the review process:
    • Whether applications that include matching funds and/or are leveraged with other contributions including in-kind contributions,
    • Whether applications demonstrate the need for funding (i.e. includes only those budget items that are critical for the success of the project); depending on the program’s budget envelope, smaller requests may be viewed more favourably than larger requests,
    • Whether applications lead to external grant submissions to the tri-agencies,
    • While all eligible faculty members are encouraged to apply, applications from early career researchers may be ranked higher in relation to mid-career and senior scholars. New applicants to the Catalyst Grants Program may also be ranked higher than those applicants who have received Catalyst Grant funding in the past.

See Terms of Reference for all details related to Evaluation Criteria and Evaluation Process.

  • Applicants must hold an academic appointment (tenured and tenure-track) 
  • Individuals holding limited term or contingent term academic appointments are eligible provided the terms of their appointment explicitly include the expectation of independent research and the supervision of graduate students

VPR Catalyst Grants are intended for early phase activities that:

  • Can be completed swiftly (less than 6 months)
  • Increase competitiveness for external funding applications

To be considered for subsequent Catalyst Grants, applicants must have completed their previous grant and submit an Outcomes Report.

See Terms of Reference for all conditions and eligibility requirements.

Application Checklist

  ✔ Approvals page (download template)

  • until the application can be migrated to RMS

  ✔ Project description (not to exceed 3 pages) including a demonstrated need for funding

  • The project description should emphasize the over-riding strategy of the grant proposal and downstream funding applications rather than the methodological approach

  ✔ A description (one page maximum) of how the Catalyst Grant activities will enhance the chances for success of the external funding request, taking care to address the fourth review criterion

  ✔ Budget and budget justification including leveraged contributions (download template)

  ✔ Curriculum Vitae

  ✔ EDI statement (one page maximum) including relevant explanations of any significant career interruptions

Please see the Terms of Reference for complete details, including eligible expenses.


Special Initiatives

From time to time, the University of Calgary will utilize the VPR Catalyst Grant program to identify and support projects which are participating in special initiatives and strategic research partnerships. The existing application form will include a question to identify these projects as part of the normal submission process, and while the usual evaluation process will not be impacted, in some cases there may be additional funds which would allow more projects overall to be funded in certain rounds. Information about these initiatives and their aims will be posted here.

The University of Calgary has had a strong partnership with Curtin University since 2017 and with the University of Aberdeen since 2003. Building on the successful Aberdeen-Curtin Alliance founded in 2017, the new tripartite Alliance looks to “provide innovative solutions to global problems” by leveraging the research and academic strengths from all three institutions. The new Alliance will allow all three institutions to collaborate more comprehensively and to capitalize on and leverage their shared goals. Each is driven by the need to respond to the challenges of today’s world and the vital importance of securing a just and sustainable future.  

Please be sure to identify your proposal as connected with the Alliance, and to provide information about your co-investigators from the other institutions in your application. 

UCalgary has formed a tripartite Alliance with the University of Aberdeen and Curtin University, designed to leverage strengths and shared goals from all three institutions through comprehensive collaboration. Read more about the Strategic Alliance.  

For consideration, scholars connected with the Alliance should identify their proposal as such in their VPR Catalyst Grants application by selecting the appropriate institutional partner in the submission webform. 

UCalgary scholars interested in making connections with colleagues at Aberdeen or Curtin should contact Strategic Global Initiatives at UCIresearch@ucalgary.ca.

Strategic Alliance Info Sheet

Information Sessions

VPR Catalyst Grants & Strategic Alliance Information Session | April 26, 2023 

Research Services and UCalgary International held an overview of the VPR Catalyst Grants and the new connection with Curtin-Aberdeen Strategic Alliance.

Strategic Alliance Info Sheet


The overall success rate has been 56 per cent for the first five rounds.

No, ECRs are not prioritized for funding. On average, ECRs perform equally to established researchers in this competition, however the selection committee has the option to elevate ECR applicants in the rankings to distribute the funding more evenly if needed.

Yes, the intake deadline will always shift to the next university business day if the scheduled date falls on a weekend or holiday. The submission webform is scheduled to close at 11:59 pm Mountain Time on the day of the deadline.

The Research Management System (RMS) does not currently support collection of some of the information we require on the submission webform. We intend to continue using the submission webform with uploaded approvals page for the time being.

The program terms offer some guidance on budget eligibility. In general, we defer to the university's expense handbook and the principles-based Tri-Agency Guide on Financial Administration. Most direct costs of research are eligible. Note that eligibility is less of a concern than the rationale for any given expense in relation to the prospects of the project for success with an external funding request/application.


No, neither principal applicants nor co-applicants can be paid using grants funds. Anyone paid should be listed as research personnel or a trainee.

Yes. We have no eligibility restrictions on co-applicants since we recognize that projects may involve people in various roles, including external stakeholders and community members.

Each person with a co-applicant role should sign the application to signify they accept their role. Co-applicants may be academics from other universities or non-academics. The principal applicant is encouraged to explain the role the co-applicant will play in requests/applications for external funding.

You are not required to propose an external submission to the tri-agencies, however these agencies are explicitly encouraged in the program terms of reference. Tri-agency funding is considered the “gold standard” of research funding in Canada and it also carries indirect benefits to the university such as CRC allocation and Research Support Fund instalments.

However, we also strongly encourage researchers to seek out funding sources that are new to the university.

Generally yes, however the competitiveness of this type of proposed use will depend on the nature of the external funding request.

The notion of “leveraging” in the program terms refers to additional funding that may already be committed to your project from other sources, however this does not rule out using Catalyst funding to meet a matching requirement or a similar condition/element of an external funding request.

Either way, applicants are expected to be very clear about how they intend to utilize the Catalyst funding to help them in their efforts to secure external funding.

Generally speaking, the aims of your project cannot be strictly knowledge mobilization/translation, commercialization, etc. It will depend on the nature of the external funding you are seeking.

For example, SSHRC and CIHR both offer funding opportunities that support knowledge mobilization exclusively, and these can be quite substantial. You can make a strong case for this, and the case should also articulate the importance of the activities for a longer-term research program.

Similarly for commercialization, the Catalyst terms do not exclude this, and if there is significant external funding at stake then there may be a case to be made for Catalyst funding. However, there are other forms of support available for this part of the research lifecycle, and it would be prudent to explore those options first.

Typically yes, unless you have not met the conditions for the prior internal funding. The required conditions are that you must have submitted your final report and made a related external funding request/application.

No, this is not a service we offer for internal grant programs.

RSO does maintain a library of tri-agency samples you can consult, and individual faculties may also have such resources available. We have suggested to faculties that they create their own internal grant sample libraries as they will be more relevant to their researchers’ disciplines.

No, because the award period is too short to meet the requirement. We suggest that required certifications be in place at the time of application.

Yes, unless an extension is given. Remaining funds are returned to the VPRO.

Yes, you will receive feedback. 

Yes, and you can re-apply as frequently as you wish until you are successful. However, it is advised to note in your application the changes you have made based on feedback you may have received.

The submission webform closes at 11:59pm mountain time. We will consider a late submission under the standard process for late submissions, which requires approval from the ADR or Dean as well as the Executive Director of RSO.

If there is a good reason identified and the decision makers agree, we can re-open the form for your submission. If you miss the submission deadline due to a technical problem, please contact us and we can examine the issue the following day.

For re-submissions, we try to assign at least one new reviewer. In some cases, we may assign two new reviewers. If you do receive helpful feedback and you implement it, it is often beneficial to have at least one of the same reviewers assigned when you resubmit.

Compare Catalyst and Connector Grants

UCalgary is pleased to offer strong internal grant programs, including

  • VPR Catalyst Grants, launched in 2020
  • Transdisciplinary Connector Grants, launched in 2023

These programs have similar application processes and the same recurring intake dates, but each program has a different focus. They are intended to support UCalgary scholars along the continuum of their research programs, so please familiarize yourself with both programs so you can apply to the relevant program at the right time. 

  1. VPR Catalyst Grants


    • Catalyze research initiatives that will lead to substantial external funding

    • Intended to support well-defined early-stage research activities


    • $1,000 - $15,000 
    • up to $20,000 awarded in rare cases


    • 6 months 


  2. Transdisciplinary Connector Grants


    • Exploration of questions, challenges, and opportunities that demand a transdisciplinary approach

    • Foster new connections among scholars, trainees, and external partners 


    • up to $10,000 - Initiating stream
    • up to $20,000 - Consolidating stream


    • 6-12 months