HBHL International Partnerships Program

Envelope Up to $1.65 million 
Duration Multi-year support – up to 4 years
  • Launch: December 2, 2019
  • Application submission: February 28, 2020, 5:00 pm EST
Evaluation and decision
  • Initial assessment for eligibility
  • Strategic assessment and alignment with Healthy Brains, Healthy Lives (HBHL) objectives and goals
  • Scientific assessment
  • Funding decision by HBHL Strategic Steering Committee (SSC)
Matching funds Required 1:1
Awarded projects 2 to 4 projects 
Application Online submission

Overview and objective

International research is a pivotal element of HBHL and contributes to meet the overall objectives of the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) program which are to help institutions to:

  • Compete with the best in the world for talent, for partnership opportunities, and to make breakthrough discoveries
  • Seize emerging opportunities and strategically advance their greatest strengths on the global stage
  • Implement large-scale, transformational and forward-thinking institutional strategies

The HBHL International Partnerships Program is a strategic funding envelope to support projects that demonstrate high potential to build and advance partnerships that will meet these objectives.

The HBHL International Partnerships Program supports international research collaborations with leading institutions known for high-quality research and global ranking. Grants are intended for large teams working in formal collaboration between McGill/HBHL and partner organizations in areas that are aligned with HBHL's mission.

The aim is to support 2 to 4 large-scale, multi-year initiatives that will benefit multiple researchers, graduate students and research professionals. Commitment by the partner organization(s) to contribute direct funding towards the proposed initiative at the same level as requested by HBHL is mandatory with a letter of support by the partner organization(s) confirming all financial and other type of commitments. Participating in large-scale international networks that are funded via granting agencies outside of Canada (e.g. EU Horizon 2020) will be considered conditionally when involving a large group of researchers and not just one or a few.

Project eligibility

HBHL will fund international partnership initiatives within the HBHL's four research themes that meet the following criteria:

  • Demonstrate direct relevance to advancing HBHL research objectives
  • Develop new or build on existing partnerships with internationally recognized research organizations
  • Offer outstanding opportunities to McGill scientists and trainees that cannot be provided through other funding programs
  • Support large teams, research centres, or platforms based at McGill or affiliated hospitals. This program is not intended for a single researcher to collaborate with an individual or a small group of researchers abroad, rather it aims to fund collaborations between outstanding research groups (i.e. multiple PIs) within the context of reciprocal institutional partnerships
  • The international partner(s) must provide at least 1:1 matching funding (in cash, not in-kind support) to advance the joint initiative

Equity, diversity and inclusion: The project application must include a description of how the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion will be integrated into the proposed project (please see details in the Application section).

Applicant eligibility

Applicant: A McGill faculty member who is eligible to hold Tri-Agency research funding.

Co-applicant: Co-applicant can receive funding from HBHL. A co-applicant must be from McGill, affiliated hospitals, or one of our CFREF partner institutions (Western University, Université de Montréal, University of British Columbia, or Polytechnique Montréal) and eligible to hold Tri-Agency research funding.

Collaborator: Any individual who makes a significant contribution to the project is eligible to be a collaborator. Collaborators can be from within McGill, another academic institution in Canada or abroad, industry, or Foundations, etc. Funds from the HBHL International Partnerships Grant may not be transferred to or used as compensation for collaborators.

International partner organization

For the purpose of this program, an international partner is an organization, not an individual. There can be more than one partner organization involved in the proposed project in different roles and capacities. A formal partnership agreement will be established between McGill and the partner organization(s).

What is the difference between a team of researchers and a formal partnership?

While both involve groups who have come to an agreement to work together on a project, the main difference lies in the nature of the agreement. A team of researchers consists of an individual applicant involved in an informal arrangement with other individual researchers, while a formal partnership consists of an applicant involved in a formal arrangement with institutional partners. The home institutions of international partners should not automatically be considered as formal partners. Examples of partner organizations are academic institutions, non-for profit organizations, industry, or foundations.

In general, a partner organization is expected to:

  • Play an indispensable role throughout the entire project
  • Provide matching funding
  • Provide a letter of support signed by an individual who has the authority over decisions at the organization, i.e. Principal, President, or Board Chair
  • Engage in a formal partnership agreement with McGill/HBHL that determines the roles and responsibilities of each partner and their financial contribution to the project


  • All expenses must adhere to guidelines in the CFREF Administration Guide
  • Funding from the international partner(s) must be included in the overall budget (at least 1:1 contribution in cash; in-kind contributions are welcome but not necessary)
  • Expenses at the international partner(s) is not eligible on the HBHL-portion of the budget
  • Funds may be transferred to co-applicants from eligible partner institutions
  • Eligible expenses include direct costs, such as salary and benefits for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and other Highly Qualified Personnel (HQP), supplies, small equipment, travel, networking, workshops and meetings, computers, and services

Evaluation and decision

Review of proposals will be done in three steps: i) Verification of eligibility, ii) Strategic assessment, and iii) Scientific evaluation.

  1. Eligibility assessment: All proposals that are received will be screened for eligibility by the HBHL office.
  2. Strategic assessment: HBHL SSC will review all proposals to assess the strategic advantage to HBHL and alignment with program guidelines. Specifically, the following aspects will be considered:  
    • Relevance to HBHL scientific goals and the overall CFREF program objectives
    • International status of the partner organization
    • Involvement and commitment by the partner organization
    • Quality of the partnership
    • Feasibility of the research plan
    • Clarity of the proposed budget
    • Effective integration of SGBA+ and promotion of the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion
  3. Scientific evaluation: Proposals that are deemed strategically relevant will undergo a scientific evaluation by HBHL. Proposals must undergo bilateral scientific evaluation (i.e. by HBHL as well as the international partner). Based on the nature of each proposal, the SSC will determine the process for a scientific evaluation.


Applications must be submitted online using the provided templates. The online application includes the following parts:

Applicant, co-applicant(s), collaborator(s), international partner organization(s)

General project information

Lay summary (150 words), for HBHL’s communication purposes: 

  • Research area and overall objective
  • Identification of the international partner and the nature of the partnership
  • Alignment with HBHL objectives

Application Package:

1) Proposal—maximum 10 pages (Access proposal template)

- Introduction: background, context, overall objectives, and rationale

- Alignment with HBHL: alignment with HBHL’s goals and research priorities. Refer to the HBHL Strategic Research Plan

- International partnership:

  • Profile of the international partner organization(s)
  • Description and rationale for the partnership; past collaboration (if applicable)
  • Nature of planned activities; roles and responsibilities

- Research plan:

  • Aims/objectives/goals and how these aims will be achieved
  • Outcomes and added value of this partnership to HBHL
  • Timelines of milestones and deliverables
  • Team description
  • Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI):
    • Commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion: Describe the manner in which this project advances McGill’s commitment to EDI and/or promotes EDI in communities outside the university;
    • Sex- and Gender-based Analysis Plus (SGBA+): Describe how sex as a biological variable, gender as a socio-cultural determinant of health and/or other relevant factors (e.g. race, age, Indigeneity, ability) will be integrated into the proposed project (if applicable). If none of the above factors were considered, provide an evidence-based justification for this decision.

2) Budget (Access budget template)

  • Complete the budget using the HBHL template
  • Breakdown of funding from HBHL and the partner(s)
  • Budget justification: Explain why these expenses are necessary and how they were calculated

3) Biosketches (Access biosketch template)

  • Provide a 2-page biosketch for each applicant/co-applicant(s) and leading researchers at the partner organization(s)
  • Do not submit biosketches for collaborators

4) Letter(s) of support

  • Letter(s) of support from the partner organization(s) outlining their interest in the initiative, commitments (funding amounts), and timeline
  • Signed by a senior official (e.g. Principal, President, VP Research)

Important documents