Engineered Surfaces Challenge

From Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

This challenge seeks novel solutions that incorporate the use of Frequency Selective Engineered Surfaces (FSES) in the research and development of new building materials, construction products and design tools using FSES tuned to operate in the below 6GHz (potentially addressing the WiFi interference issue) and above 24GHz range (potentially addressing the issues of radio frequency propagation).

Sponsoring Department: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

Funding Mechanism: Grant

Opening date: January 22, 2018
Closing date: April 4, 2018, 23:59, Pacific Time

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Challenge

Problem statement

'Smart Cities' will need access to new spectrum and new methods of managing spectrum in order to avoid the so called "spectrum crunch". Most wireless mobile communication today takes place in the 6 GHz and below bands. Demand for spectrum to support new mobile and fixed wireless service offerings threatens to outstrip available supply. A significant and growing problem of interference is now occurring in the WiFi bands in dense environments, such as in condo buildings.

Opening up access to higher bands at millimeter-wave frequencies above 24 GHz will provide relief and enable new Smart City applications. These higher frequency bands though have additional significant technical challenges, namely poorer propagation around objects and through building materials that must be accommodated in order to maximize their potential.

The use of Frequency Selective Engineered Surfaces (FSES), materials placed on and within buildings that are specially designed to enhance the transmission and reception of Radio Frequency (RF) signals, is one method by which Smart Cities can manage interference and take advantage of these new higher frequencies.

In order to realize the potential of FSES, research and development of new building products, tools and practices will be required. CRC wishes to engage with developers of building construction products and design tools who wish to prototype and evaluate products using FSES tuned to operate in the below 6GHz (potentially addressing the WiFi interference issue) and above 24GHz range (potentially addressing the issues of propagation).

These products could include wall coverings such as wall board, curtains, vapor barriers, tiles, etc., or architectural modeling, visualization and design tools.

Desired outcomes & considerations

The desired outcome of this proposal is the creation of a strong Canadian industry with expertise in the design and application of Frequency Selective Engineered Surfaces into building construction for improved use of Radio Frequency spectrum.

Construction products which include FSES, as well as architectural design tools which would aid in the placement and simulation of the effects of FSES in building construction are of interest.

Benefits from the use of FSES are expected to be:

  • improved download/upload speeds,
  • reduced interference between neighbouring wireless access points
  • better coverage,
  • lower cost to service providers through reduced need of expensive transmitter/receiver towers,
  • reduced power consumption due to greater spectrum use efficiency,
  • increased privacy and security.

Background & context

Frequency Selective Engineered Surfaces (FSES) have the ability to enhance or attenuate the transmission and reception of Radio Frequency (RF) signals.

FSES make use of high speed, low production cost printed electronics technology to apply inks and other materials with useful electronic properties in carefully designed patterns onto low-cost materials such as plastic films or paper, and embed these into building construction products such as wall board, concrete panels, signage or even windows.

The choice of materials upon which to print, the design of the patterns and the orientation of the FSES, can be used to selectively reflect, attenuate and more generally shape the areas in which specific RF frequencies cover. This has the effect of allowing architects and builders to ensure RF coverage of hard-to-reach areas in buildings, minimizing the expense of RF transmitters throughout the building. The FSES can also be placed to mitigate interference between adjacent wireless access points in dense environments.

When placed on the outside of a building, city planners and architects can direct RF signals into hard-to-reach areas without the need and expense of additional cell sites and their burden of footprint, maintenance, power consumption and infrastructure.

The Communications Research Centre (CRC), a branch within the Spectrum and Telecommunications Sector of ISED, and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) have both worked collectively over the past five years under the auspices of the Printed Electronics Consortium (PEC) to research key elements of the technology required to construct FSES, namely the design of the deposited patterns and the inks used to create them. The PEC has successfully produced designs on various types of materials such as polyester plastic and curtains, which have demonstrated the ability to selectively attenuate Wi-Fi signals and at higher frequencies, selectively reflect those signals at specific angles or to act as a general diffuser.

Maximum value and travel

Maximum grant value:

Multiple grants could result from this Challenge.

Funding of up to $150,000.00 CAD for up to 6 months could be available for any Phase 1 grant resulting from this Challenge.

Funding of up to $1,000,000.00 CAD for up to 2 years could be available for any Phase 2 grant resulting from this Challenge. Only eligible businesses that received Phase 1 funding could be considered for Phase 2.

This disclosure is made in good faith and does not commit Canada to award any grant for the total maximum funding value.

Travel:  It is anticipated that three meetings will require the successful applicant(s) to travel to the location identified below:

Kick-off meeting
Communications Research Centre
3701 Carling Ave.
Ottawa, ON

Progress Review Meeting
Teleconference/videoconference

Final Review Meeting
Communications Research Centre,
3701 Carling Ave.
Ottawa, ON

Eligibility

Solution proposals can only be submitted by a small business that meets all of the following criteria:

  • for profit
  • incorporated in Canada (federally or provincially)
  • 499 or fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) employeesFootnote *
  • research and development activities that take place in Canada
  • 50% or more of its annual wages, salaries and fees are currently paid to employees and contractors who spend the majority of their time working in CanadaFootnote *
  • 50% or more of its FTE employees have Canada as their ordinary place of workFootnote *
  • 50% or more of its senior executives (Vice President and above) have Canada as their principal residenceFootnote *

Application guide

All federal departments and agencies that issue ISC challenges, regardless of whether they use a grant or a contract as the financial instrument to support research and development (R&D) in Phases 1 and 2, will assess proposals and bids from small businesses based on standard questions. The online application and bid submission system will contain these standard questions and provide guidance on the length of responses.

Assessment process

Once a complete application or bid is submitted, it will be sent to the department and agency that issued the challenge as well as to the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) for assessment. It is the prerogative of the challenge sponsoring department or agency to decide which businesses will receive funding for Phase 1. All businesses that submit an application or bid will receive feedback.

In advance of accepting applications and bids from eligible businesses, the following is meant to provide guidance to businesses on what could be asked as part of the application and bid submission process. The information below may be used to evaluate proposals and is subject to change.

Innovation

  • Please be prepared to identify the starting technology readiness level (TRL) of the solution and the anticipated TRL at the completion of Phase 1. Reminder, Phase 1 is meant for solutions in the TRL range from 1 to 4.
  • Be prepared to describe the novelty of your solution and how it advances the state-of-the-art over existing technologies, including competing solutions. Include in your description the scientific and technological basis upon which your solution is proposed.
  • Be prepared to identify what are the key scientific and technical risks facing your solution and how those risks would be addressed in Phase 1.

Benefits to Canada

  • Please be prepared to provide a brief description of your proposed solution and how it addresses the problem identified by the department or agency that issued the challenge statement.
  • Be prepared to describe the benefits to Canada that could result from the successful development of your solution, with a focus on three types of benefits: Economic Benefits, Innovation Benefits, Public Benefits.

Economic Benefits: Consider the proposed solution's potential impact on the growth of your firm but other firms in Canada more broadly. This could include the development of new clusters and supply chains. Consideration should be given to the number of jobs created, number of high-paying jobs, project-related revenue growth, etc.

Innovation Benefits: Consider the proposed solution's expected contribution towards the enhancement or development of new industrial or technological innovation within your firm. For example, potential spillover benefits, creation of intellectual property, impact on productivity of the new technology, etc.

Public Benefits: Consider the proposed solution's expected contribution to the broader Canadian public, including but not limited to inclusive business and hiring practices (e.g., gender balance), investment in skills and training and the environment.

Management and technological capability

  • Please be prepared to identify the work plan for Phase 1 including key milestones and activities anticipated, the total time foreseen to complete Phase 1 (not more than 6 months), resources required to complete the project and the key success criteria.
  • Be prepared to identify the potential project risks (e.g., financial, project management, human resources, etc.) to the successful development of the solution and how those risks would be managed in Phase 1.
  • Be prepared to provide a brief description of the project implementation team including specific members, partners, their roles and responsibilities, and how their expertise is relevant to the project. The team members must include a Project lead.
  • Be prepared to describe what your business is doing to encourage greater inclusivity in its innovation activities. One of the objectives of the program is to encourage greater participation of under-represented groups (e.g., women, Indigenous people, youth, persons with disabilities, visible minorities) in the innovation economy.

Financial capability

  • Please be prepared to provide a financial proposal for R&D in Phase 1. Be sure to check the details of each challenge posting which will indicate the maximum funding available for Phase 1 as well as any eligible or ineligible costs.
  • In addition, please be prepared to provide information on funding received from other orders of government (i.e., federal, provincial and municipal) for the same work being proposed in your application or submission.
  • Please be prepared to describe the financial controls and oversight that your business has in place to manage public funds if selected to proceed into Phase 1.

Commercialization

  • Please be prepared to describe how you envision the commercialization of your solution and how potential risks or barriers to further commercialization would be mitigated.

Application guide

Evaluation Criteria

Innovation PASS/FAIL section
Question Mandatory/ Point Rated Criteria Assessment Pass/Fail or Points Range Minimum Pass Mark
1 (a) Mandatory The Applicant/Bidder demonstrates that the proposed solution is starting between Technology Readiness Level 1 and 4 (inclusive). Pass: The Applicant/Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution is starting between TRLs 1 and 4 (inclusive), and provides justification by explaining what kind of research and development (R&D) has taken place to bring the solution to the stated TRL.

Fail: The Applicant/Bidder has not provided sufficient evidence that the TRL is between 1 to 4 (inclusive) including:
  1. There is insufficient/no evidence provided for TRL judgment.
  2. The solution involves the development of basic or fundamental research.
  3. The solution is at TRL 5 or higher.
  4. The solution is commercially available
  5. The explanation simply paraphrases the description of a given TRL level.
  • TRL 1: Basic principles observed and reported
  • TRL 2: Technology concept and/or application formulated
  • TRL 3: Analytical and experimental critical function and/or proof of concept
  • TRL 4: Components and/or validation in a laboratory environment
  • TRL 5: Component and/or validation in a simulated environment
  • TRL 6: System/subsystem model or prototype demonstration in a simulated environment
  • TRL 7: Prototype ready for demonstration in an appropriate operational environment
  • TRL 8: Actual technology completed and qualified through tests and demonstrations
  • TRL 9: Actual technology proven through successful deployment in an operational setting
Pass/Fail Pass
1 (b) Point Rated The degree to which the Applicant/Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution advances the state-of-the-art over existing technologies, including available competing solutions, and provides a description of the scientific and technological basis of the solution.
  • 0 points The Applicant/Bidder has not provided any details that the proposed solution advances the state-of-the-art over existing technologies, including available competing solutions.
  • 4 points
    • The proposed solution offers one or two minor improvements to existing technologies, including available competing solutions, that have potential to create competitive advantages in existing market niches; OR
    • The stated advancements are well-described in general, but are not substantiated with specific, measurable evidence.
  • 6 points
    • The proposed solution offers three or more minor improvements to existing technologies, including available competing solutions, that together are likely to create competitive advantages in existing market niches; OR
    • The proposed solution offers one significant improvement to existing technologies that is likely to create competitive advantages in existing market niches
  • 8 points
    • The proposed solution offers two or more significant improvements to existing technologies, including available competing solutions that are likely to create competitive advantages in existing market niches and could define new market spaces; OR
    • The proposed solution can be considered a new benchmark of state of the art that is clearly ahead of competitors and that is likely to define new market spaces
0-8 4
1 (c) Point Rated The degree to which the Applicant/Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution can solve the problem identified in the challenge.
  • 0 points There is no clear link between the solution and the challenge.
  • 4 points The proposed solution has components that partially relate to the challenge, but it is not clear or substantiated how the solution solves the challenge problem.
  • 6 points The proposed solution includes a sufficient description of how it solves the challenge problem with minor substantiation of the claimed solution.
  • 8 points The proposed solution substantially addresses how it solves the challenge problem with substantial evidence to support the solution claims.
0-8 4
1 (d) Point Rated The Applicant/Bidder identifies scientific and technical risks facing their solution and explains how those risks would be addressed in Phase 1.
  • 0 points The Applicant/Bidder has not provided any details on potential scientific or technical risks facing their solution.
  • 4 points The Applicant/Bidder has provided vague scientific and technical risks and does not provide how those risks will be mitigated.
  • 6 points The Applicant/Bidder has identified scientific and technical risks to their solution but only provides vague mitigation strategies.
  • 8 points The Applicant/Bidder has clearly identified specific scientific and technological risks facing their solution and clearly outlines how those risks will be mitigated in Phase 1.
0-8 N/A
Benefits to Canada
Question Mandatory/ Point Rated Criteria Assessment Pass/Fail or Points Range Minimum Pass Mark
2 Points Rated The proposed solution describes the benefits that could result from the successful development of the solution using the following 3 categories (Economic Benefits, Innovation Benefits, Public Benefits The Applicant/Bidder identifies the benefits to Canada citing 3 categories of below (Innovation, Economic and Public).
  1. Innovation Benefits: The proposed solution's expected contribution towards the enhancement or development of new industrial or technological innovations. Assessment factors could include: potential spillover benefits, creation of intellectual property, impact on productivity of the new technology, etc.
    0 points: Benefit not identified or insufficient claim of benefit.
    1.5 points: Benefit has marginal increment or limited justification.
    3 points: Benefit is significant and well justified.
  2. Economic Benefits: The proposed solution's forecasted impact on the growth of Canadian firms, clusters and supply chains, as well as its expected benefits for Canada's workforce. Assessment factors could include: number of jobs created, number of high-paying jobs, project-related revenue growth, etc.
    0 points: Benefit not identified or insufficient claim of benefit.
    1.5 points: Benefit has marginal increment or limited justification.
    3 points: Benefit is significant and well justified.
  3. Public Benefits: The solutions expected contribution to the broader public, including inclusive business and hiring practices (e.g., gender balance), investment in skills and training and environmental best practices. Assessment would consider the degree to which the Applicant/Bidder demonstrates that the solution is expected to generate social, environmental, health, security or other benefits to Canada. Assessment factors could include: solution-related environmental benefits, investment in local communities and solution-related impact on Indigenous communities.
    0 points: Benefit not identified or insufficient claim of benefit.
    1.5 points: Benefit has marginal increment or limited justification.
    3 points: Benefit is significant and well justified.
9 N/A
Management and Technological Capability
Question Mandatory/ Point Rated Criteria Assessment Pass/Fail or Points Range Minimum Pass Mark
3 (a) Point Rated The Applicant/Bidder provides a project plan for Phase 1 that includes key milestones and activities, estimated time to complete the milestones and associated success criteria.
  • 0 points The proposed project plan is partially complete with significant gaps in time between milestones. Total time for completion of Phase 1 not provided.
  • 4 points The proposed project plan is conceivably achievable and time available, but it is not clear or substantiated that this is the case. Total time for completion of Phase 1 provided.
  • 6 points The proposed project plan includes milestones that provide some substantiation that the solution is solvable with the time available. Total time for completion of Phase 1 provided.
  • 8 points The proposed project plan substantially addresses time available and provides evidence of the ability of the Applicant/Bidder to reasonably develop the proposed solution within the scope of Phase 1. Total time for completion of Phase 1 provided.
0-8 N/A
3 (b) Point Rated The Applicant/Bidder describes the potential project management risks to the successful development of the solution and how will they be managed in Phase 1.
  • 0 points The Applicant/Bidder has not identified any project management risks
  • 4 points The Applicant/Bidder has identified vague project management risks and does not provide a risk mitigation strategy.
  • 6 points The Applicant/Bidder has identified project management risks and only partially addresses them with a mitigation strategy.
  • 8 points The Applicant/Bidder clearly outlines project management risks and provides a mitigation strategy to address them.
0-8 N/A
3 (c) Point Rated The Applicant/Bidder identifies roles, responsibilities and expertise in the project implementation team that will develop the solution in Phase 1.
  • 0 points There is no information that describes the roles, responsibilities and expertise of the applicant/bidder or any associated external partners.
  • 4 points There is no project lead identified and/or there is minimal or incomplete information concerning the roles, responsibilities, capabilities and expertise of the applicant/bidder and any external partners.
  • 6 points A project lead is identified and there is sufficient information regarding the roles and responsibilities of the applicant/bidder and any associated external partners. However, the expertise of team members, including the project leader, is not clearly demonstrated.
  • 8 points The applicant/bidder has provided full and complete information on roles, responsibilities and expertise of all project implementation team members including any associated external partners. The project implementation team, including the project lead, have an exceptional combination of skills, capabilities and experience to deliver the project in Phase 1.
0-8 N/A
3 (d) Point Rated The Applicant/Bidder identifies how it is including members of under-represented groups (e.g., women, Indigenous people, visible minorities) in its efforts to innovate.
  • 0 points No description or examples of actions the Applicant/Bidder has taken to encourage inclusivity in its innovation activities.
  • 2 points. The Applicant/Bidder only vaguely mentions that under-represented groups are involved its innovation activities with no examples or substantiation.
  • 3 points The Applicant/Bidder identifies clearly how under-represented groups are involved in its innovation activities and provides examples and/or justification.
0-3 N/A
Financial Capability
Question Mandatory/ Point Rated Criteria Assessment Pass/Fail or Points Range Minimum Pass Mark
4 (a) Point Rated The degree to which the Applicant/Bidder has identified a realistic financial proposal to advance the proposed solution in Phase 1.
  • 0 points The financial table is not provided OR significantly lacks credibility in the costs identified to complete Phase 1 or exceeds the maximum funding identified in the challenge.
  • 2 points The financial table is completed however some costs are either over or under-estimated for the work foreseen in Phase 1.
  • 4 points The financial table contains strong, credible elements of the costs associated with Phase 1.
0-4 N/A
4 (b) Point Rated The degree to which the Applicant/Bidder has indicated financial controls and oversight to manage public funds in Phase 1.
  • 0 points No financial controls or oversight mechanisms are identified.
  • 2 points The Applicant/Bidder provides very general or vague descriptions of financial controls and oversight to manage public funds.
  • 4 points The Applicant/Bidder has clearly identified human resources as well as processes to manage public funds in Phase 1.
0-4 N/A
Commercialization
Question Mandatory/ Point Rated Criteria Assessment Pass/Fail or Points Range Minimum Pass Mark
5 (a) Point Rated The degree to which the Applicant/Bidder has thought beyond the work in Phase 1 and advancing the solution in Phase 2.
  • 0 points  The Applicant/Bidder has not provided any description of activities in Phase 2.
  • 4 points The Applicant/Bidder has provided some evidence of thinking about moving the solution from Phase 1 to Phase 2. However, there are significant gaps.
  • 6 points  The Applicant/Bidder has provided a more complete picture of how the solution could be moved from Phase 1 to 2, however, there are unrealistic expectations.
  • 8 points  The Applicant/Bidder has provided a complete picture of efforts to take the solution from Phase 1 to Phase 2.
0 - 8 N/A
5 (b) Point Rated The degree to which the Applicant/Bidder has identified target market, risks and barriers to commercialization following Phase 2.
  • 0 Points  The Applicant/Bidder has not provided a vision or plan of taking the solution beyond Phase 2.
  • 2 Points The Applicant/Bidder has provided a vision or plan of taking the solution beyond Phase 2. However, the Applicant/Bidder has not identified, or made very little effort to identify, a target market barriers or risks to commercialization after Phase 2.
  • 4 Points The Applicant/Bidder has provided a clear vision or plan of taking the solution beyond Phase 2. Target market, Barriers or risks to commercialization following Phase 2 are identified as are potential risk mitigation strategies.
0 - 4 N/A
Minimum pass mark
40
Total available points
80

Questions and answers

All incoming questions regarding a specific challenge will be posted here with the corresponding response.

If you have a question about a challenge, please send it to ISED-ISDE@canada.ca.

You can also consult the Frequently asked questions about the Innovation Solutions Program.

A glossary is also available.

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