Stream 4: Automation and digital technologies in the agriculture and agri-food sector

From: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

Purpose and Eligibility

Advancements grounded in digital technologies are changing the face of agriculture and agri-food value chains.

Through a new Stream 4 competition, the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) is seeking proposals for new networks or consortia that will develop and deliver large-scale, disruptive approaches to automation and digital technologies with applications within the agriculture and agri-food sector value chain. Proposals should consider the value chain rather than focus purely on the primary agriculture sector.

Proposals should be a catalyst to advance industrial research, development and technology demonstration through collaboration between the private sector, researchers and non-profit organizations. Proposals should seek to accelerate the adoption and development of emerging platform technologies and the scaling of high-potential, disruptive approaches within the value chain.

Proposals must include multiple partners and should have a national scale and scope of impact. They should focus on new, collaborative ideas that create, leverage and integrate data and technology solutions in a way that will bring demonstrable benefits to Canadians and the agriculture value chain.

Proposals should seek to create clear outcomes for the value chain that are grounded in data and new technology solutions which may include automation and robotics, precision agriculture platforms, data and digital solutions, sensors, interconnected software and hardware, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and/or blockchain.

Stream 4 – Networks Component

We are seeking proposals for networks led by a Canadian non-profit organization able to support industry-led R&D, mobilizing new technologies and innovations to the market, and to reinforce and/or disrupt the overall growth of the sector.

The network must also demonstrate that they have established important partnerships with other organizations in multiple regions and support businesses in more than one region. The networks must have a clear objective and a path for sustainable outcomes by the end of the SIF proposal.

Activities:

The network will support activities which lead to the commercialization and mobilization of new transformative technology platforms and innovations by: supporting industrial-relevant R&D activities, and/or facilitating business-business or business-academia collaborations.

Stream 4 – Consortia Component

We are looking for a diverse consortium made up of Canadian universities, colleges, research institutes, businesses (including SMEs) and/or non-profit organizations from more than one sector across Canada. The consortium would be led by a Canadian company with significant operations in Canada and experience in both undertaking large scale R&D projects and launching new products, with strong equity and diversity policies and practices. The consortium must possess the necessary technical and managerial expertise to successfully undertake a large project.

Activities:

The consortium-led project will include large-scale industrial R&D which leverages significant private sector investment to bring a new transformative platform technology from a laboratory environment to an operational environment while integrating emerging technology.

Outcomes:

Proposals/projects for Both Networks and Consortia are expected to generate strong innovation, economic and social benefits such as:

How to Apply

Stream 4 applications will be assessed on a competitive basis. This competition runs from December 14, 2018 to March 8, 2019.

Before applying, applicants should do the following:

The Program Guide has been developed to provide details on the Strategic Innovation Fund, including program objectives, assessment factors based on expected benefits for Canada for each of the four streams as well as the process.

The application process then consists of two steps:

  1. Declaration of Intent: Applicants submit a Declaration of Intent due by January 11, 2019, which includes the following:
    • Contact information, including name, location and email address
    • Key technology area(s) of expertise
    • Identification as being a lead applicant or looking to partner with another organization
    • Identification as being a Network or a Consortium
    • A high-level overview of their project/proposal
    • Consent to release the above information

The objective of the Declaration of Intent is to foster collaboration amongst potential applicants. Please submit the completed form to ic.sifintegrationteam-equipeintegration-fsi.ic@canada.ca by no later than January 11, 2019. Further information about this declaration is included in the form.

  1. Full Application: Applicants must also develop and submit a detailed Application Form by March 8, 2019. The information provided will be used to complete a due diligence and benefits assessment. The Full Application form must be completed and returned to SIF via ic.sifintegrationteam-equipeintegration-fsi.ic@canada.ca by March 8, 2019.
Application Process and Timeline Duration
Declaration of Intent and Full Application Submission Period 11 weeks
Full application review and due diligence ~9 weeks
Final announcement May 2019

Frequently Asked Questions – Stream 4

General questions

What is Stream 4 of SIF?

The SIF provides financial support to projects/proposals that will improve Canada's innovation performance while providing economic, innovation and public benefits to Canadians.

Stream 4 will support projects/proposals that advance industrial research, development and technology demonstration through collaboration between the private sector, researchers and non-profit organizations. Stream 4 is open to Consortia and Networks.

Are eligible activities only within Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) 1-7?

Yes – for both the Consortia and Networks components of Stream 4, activities must be within TRLs 1-7.

What is the application deadline for Stream 4?

The Declaration of Intent form is to be submitted by no later than January 11, 2019.

Completed Full Application forms for the current call-for-proposals must be submitted no later than March 8, 2019.

Stream 4 operates on a competitive basis where applications are accepted following a call-for-proposals.

The current call-for-proposals is open to initiatives in automation and digital technologies in the agriculture and agri-food sector.

What happens if I miss the submission deadline for the Declaration of Intent form?

The Declaration of Intent form is to be submitted by no later than January 11, 2019.

If you miss the deadline, we recommend you check the SIF website to see if there are other applicants you wish to partner with. If there aren't any applicants that dovetail with your interests, please send your Declaration of Intent form to ic.sifintegrationteam-equipeintegration-fsi.ic@canada.ca  as soon as possible.

What does automation and digital technologies in the agriculture and agri-food sector mean?

Proposals in this competition should develop and deliver large-scale, disruptive approaches to automation and digital technologies with applications within the agriculture and agri-food sector value chain.  Proposals should consider the value chain rather than focus purely on the primary agriculture sector.

Examples of proposals that could meet these criteria include, but are not limited to:

  • New ideas/platforms to collect, share, and interpret data, to improve the sustainability, safety, and efficiency of agriculture and agri-food value chains.
  • Advancements that improve the connection of agriculture and food operations with Canadian consumers and global value chains such as new digital/big data solutions.
  • New products or automation processes that have the potential to scale broadly and help the Canadian agriculture sector address labour shortages.
  • Proposals that generate technologies that transform/disrupt production practices to lower GHG emissions, food waste, energy and water usage.
  • Support the growth and scaling of new agricultural and food technologies, including adaptation of solutions from other sectors, and establish new collaborations between the more established agricultural participants and new entrants into this space from the automation and digital technology sectors.
Why is this competition specific to this sector?

We are focussing this competition on building Canada's strengths in data technologies as well as those of our agriculture and agri-food sector. This competition focuses on business-led consortia and networks working on automation and digital technologies that lead to new jobs, growing companies and generating new solutions for the agriculture and agri-food sector.

When will the competition for other sectors be launched?

Dates have not yet been set for future calls-for-proposals.

Are there other programs that I can apply for?

We recommend that you visit the Innovation Canada platform to discover other government programs that can support innovative businesses.

Eligibility requirements

Who can apply for Stream 4?

Stream 4 applicants must be a company incorporated in Canada (for Consortium applications) or a non-profit organization incorporated in Canada (for Network applications).

Consortium:

A consortium is led by a Canadian company with significant operations in Canada and experience in both undertaking large scale R&D projects and launching new products. The consortium is made up of Canadian universities, colleges, research institutes, businesses (including SMEs) and/or non-profit organizations from more than one sector across Canada.

Network:

A network is led by a Canadian non-profit organization able to support industry-led R&D. The network must demonstrate that it has established important partnerships with other organizations in multiple regions) and supports businesses in more than one region.

Can a Canadian university apply for funding under Stream 4 as a Lead Applicant?

Stream 4 lead applicants must be a company incorporated in Canada (for Consortium applications) or a non-profit organization incorporated in Canada (for Network applications).
An academic institution (such as a university) in itself is not considered to be an eligible lead applicant.

If a Consortium is led by a private sector organization, does the Lead Applicant need to be a "Large" firm - i.e. a company with more than 500 Canadian employees?

The lead applicant does not need to be a large company as defined by having more than 500 employees. However, the applicant must ensure it has the management capacity to manage a large-scale project and the relationships with multiple collaborators to fully execute the requirements of a contribution agreement.

Do a Consortium and Network have the same obligations to be multi-jurisdictional in organizational membership? Or can a successful Consortium be more regionally focused?

A Network proposal should demonstrate a national scope (established important partnerships with other organizations in multiple regions and support businesses in more than one region), however, Consortium proposals do not have to meet this requirement in the same manner, but should be able to demonstrate impact on a larger scale, as opposed to only one firm or a narrow issue/product.

Can a governmental organization be a partner and receive funds under Stream 4?

A governmental organization can act as a partner in a Consortium or a Network application, however, it cannot receive funds awarded to the application under Stream 4.

How many applications does ISED expect to fund? What is the threshold of funding under Stream 4?

Specific amounts and number of contributions will depend on the nature and scale of the applications received.

In terms of the funding threshold, SIF funding of between $10 million to $50 million could be provided to a successful Applicant in the competition.

Type of support

If I am successful, how will I access SIF funding?

In the case of Consortia, the SIF program will reimburse costs incurred and paid by the partners. The lead recipient will gather the invoices for costs incurred and paid from all partners and claim the total amount of eligible costs at regular interval. SIF will reimburse a maximum of 50% of those total eligible costs. Academic institutions can claim 100% of their eligible costs.

In the case of Networks, an eligible recipient may receive 100% of its eligible costs. However, partnerships with private investors are also encouraged under Networks. Networks may be provided advance payments on an annual basis. For each fiscal year, the Network will provide evidence of all eligible expenditures that have been incurred and paid.

What project costs are covered under Stream 4?

For Consortia projects, eligible costs are those incurred by the Recipient that are non-recurring and are necessary and reasonable to carry out the project. These can include:

  • Direct labour
  • Overhead (program limits apply)
  • Subcontracts and consultants
  • Direct materials and equipment
  • Other direct costs
  • Land and buildings

For Network proposals, eligible costs include expenditures directly related to the operation and activities of the Network. These can include:

Operations:

  • Salaries
  • Office equipment
  • Professional services
  • Overhead
  • Travel
  • Other operational costs, as appropriate

Activities:

  • Organization of networking events
  • The participation in collaborative research and technology development activities
  • Conferences and workshops in support of collaborative R&D activities
  • Amount of funding the Network provides to partners for a given project
What project costs are not covered under the SIF?

For Consortia: costs which are not related to the project are not eligible.

For Network proposals: costs which are not related to either the Operations of the Network or related to the Activities of the Network are not eligible.

In addition, the following costs are not covered under any circumstances:

  • Entertainment and marketing expenses
  • Losses on contracts or other bad debts
  • Depreciation of assets
  • Income and goods and services taxes
  • Fines and penalties
Can I obtain assistance from other governments?

For Consortia projects, the combined level of assistance from all governments (federal, provincial, territorial and municipal) to any one recipient will not normally exceed 75% of that recipient's Eligible Costs. In cases where the recipient is an academic institution, the maximum combined level of assistance can be 100%.

For Network proposals, the combined level of assistance from all government sources will not exceed 100% of the total eligible costs of the Network.

Are in-kind costs eligible under SIF?

In-kind costs are costs in the form of goods and services rather than cash.

To be an eligible cost under SIF, the cost must be incurred and paid by the recipient or ultimate recipient.

For example, a university laboratory is made available for researchers working on a SIF project. The use of the laboratory is not a cost that is incurred and paid by the recipient or ultimate recipient of the SIF project and therefore not eligible under the program.

However, if a university is an ultimate recipient, the salaries for the researchers that are incurred and paid by the university are eligible costs.

How are sources of financing defined?

The notion of industry matching does not exist for SIF. The partners' contribution to the project/proposal is the portion of eligible costs that is not reimbursed by SIF as well as ineligible and in-kind costs.

For Consortia, the sources of financing used to pay for total eligible costs must be identified in the workbook (Appendix A of the Consortia Application Form). Please note that total financing sources must equal total eligible costs of the project.

For Networks, even though the program can support 100% of eligible costs, the recipient must be able to show that it has the capability to incur and pay for costs before claiming to SIF.

Application process

How do I apply to Stream 4?

Before completing any application, ask yourself the following:

  • Am I meeting the requirement to create a network or a consortium as defined by the Strategic Innovation Fund?
  • Is my project innovation-based?
  • Would my project/proposal be better suited to other federal or provincial programs, based on its size, sector or activities?
  • Can I clearly describe the anticipated innovationeconomic or public benefits of my project/proposal?
  • Do I have a plan to maintain and advance the work and the relationships identified in my network or consortium proposal after the funding is completed?
What information do I need to provide in a Declaration of Intent?

You will be asked to include the following:

  • Contact information, including name, location and email address
  • Key technology area(s) of expertise
  • Identification as being a Lead Applicant or looking to partner with another organization
  • Identification as being a Network or a Consortium
  • A high level overview of their project/proposal (if applicable)
  • Consent to release the above information on the SIF website
Are Letters of Support or Commitment required from participating organizations to affirm the nature and amount of project cash and in-kind support?

Letters of Support or Commitment are required as part of the Full Application. This includes both financial and in-kind commitments from Partner Applicants and other partners.

How long will it take to process my SIF application under Stream 4?

Stream 4 is a competitive process. The first call for applications will be open to proposals/projects in automation and digital technologies in the agriculture and agri-food sector and will run from December 14, 2018 to March 8, 2019.

Application Process and Timeline
Declaration of Intent and Full Application Submission Period 11 weeks
Full application review and due diligence ~9 weeks
Final announcement May 2019
What information will I be asked to provide in the Full Application?

You will be asked to provide detailed information on the following:

  • Your organization and partners
  • Your project/proposal schedule, activities, costs and location of work
  • Your organization's capability to undertake the project/proposal, which includes information on your organization's finances as well as its technological and managerial capabilities.
  • Benefits to Canada

Assessment process

How is my financial information used in the assessment process?

Your organization's financial information in the SOI is used to formulate a preliminary assessment of your state of readiness to undertake the project/proposal.

What are examples of innovation benefits?

Innovation benefits may include: IP creation, development of new and/or improved products, services and/or processes, and collaboration between recipients and NGOs, post-secondary academic institutions and other private sector firms.

What are examples of economic benefits?

Economic benefits may include: an increase in business revenue, increased exports, increased involvement in a Canadian supply chain, attraction of R&D or production mandates to Canada, expansion of industrial or technological facilities, and commercialization of products, services or processes.

What are examples of public benefits?

Public benefits may include: environmental benefits (such as an increase in energy efficiency, reduction of greenhouse gasses (GHGs) emissions, conservation of renewable and non-renewable natural resources, increase in production efficiencies and reduction material usage), and broader public benefits (such as improvements to employment equity and diversity, positive impacts on the local community, improvements in safety, increase in national security and improvements to human health).

Other important issues

Do I need to secure the background intellectual property (IP) to apply to SIF?

Yes, you need to have secured the rights to the IP required to undertake your projects before applying to SIF.

What is the duration of a funded project/proposal under Stream 4?

Typically, the duration of the work/R&D phase is 2–5 years, with a reporting period of another 5 years.

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