The MSSI Ideas Fund

High risk/high reward projects are increasingly seen as avenues to move fields of research forward rapidly. The MSSI Ideas Fund provides small amounts of seed funding to explore bold projects and novel ideas which, if successful, could make a significant impact on a sustainability-related challenge.

The Fund allows recipients to explore the feasibility of ideas before dedicating significant resources to flesh them out. Its aim is to enable development of projects to a stage where they can attract other funding.

Download the funding call here.

Download the application template here.

Available Funds

One-year, non-renewable, up to $40 000 per award ($200 000 available in total).


The Idea/Research

The idea or research must be bold and new, have potential to make a significant impact on a sustainability problem/challenge and align with the MSSI vision. Its nascent state or boldness should render it premature for other funding. This fund is not meant to support knowledge mobilization or dissemination activities. Previously funded projects can be viewed here: here.

Previously unsuccessful proposals will only be accepted for a subsequent competition if they contain obvious and significant developments.

The Proposer/s

Lead applicants must be active McGill faculty. Students can be included as co-applicants.

  • All applicants must be MSSI Members or Affiliates (register at Applications that include non-members of the MSSI will be returned.
  • Applications from groups are welcome providing that at least 50% of participants are active members of McGill and that all applicants are either MSSI Members or MSSI Affiliates.
  • Lead applicants cannot currently receive MSSI funding (either from other funding competitions or from research themes). These individuals may apply as co-applicants only.
  • Applicants may only appear on one application as either a lead applicant or a co-applicant.

The MSSI is a McGill-wide initiative so applications from scholars who have not previously received MSSI funding are particularly welcome.

Eligible Costs

  • HR compensation (stipends, salaries and benefits for students/post-docs)
  • Materials and supplies, up to a maximum of $1 000. Expenses in this category exceeding $1 000 must be pre-approved
  • User fees, up to a maximum of $1 000. Expenses in this category exceeding $1 000 must be pre-approved
  • Community engagement expenses (e.g. workshops, community consultations etc.)

Ineligible Costs

  • Building and refurbishment costs, large equipment
  • Conference costs (e.g. registration; travel)
  • Honoraria
  • Alcohol
Selection Criteria

Projects are evaluated on their potential for impact on a sustainability problem, their feasibility within the one-year funding period and their ability to become competitive for external funding. To reflect the complexity of sustainability challenges, proposals are encouraged to take a systems-level perspective (i.e., to consider the social, economic and environmental implications). In line with MSSI goals, projects that take an interdisciplinary approach are viewed favourably.

The Ideas Fund Review Committee reviews the applications and makes recommendations to the Executive Committee for final approval. Proposals that ranked highly in previous competitions met the following criteria:

  • Original and bold idea
  • Clearly grounded in sustainability with potential for big impact if successful
  • Explicit demonstration of the feasibility of budget and deliverables
  • Demonstrated potential for further funding at the end of the MSSI funding period
  • Research described in the proposal received no other funding

Note: Proposals that move an existing idea from bench to commercialization or toward widespread adoption (innovation) should be submitted to the MSSI Innovation Fund (the next call will be launched in Winter 2021).

Other Criteria

  • Work covered by the fund must be completed within one calendar year of the grant start date. All funding extensions must be approved by the MSSI.
  • Additional space and associated costs must have been approved and allocated by the relevant department prior to application.
  • Funding is dependent on obtaining all appropriate McGill Research Ethics Board approvals. Funds cannot be allocated until approvals are confirmed.

Reporting Requirements

An update on research activities is required after six months and a short final report must be submitted one month after the funding ends.


All material and information submitted to the competition should be non-confidential as a high-level synopsis of funded projects may be made available on the MSSI website and in other communications output.

Applicants are responsible for taking the necessary steps to protect any intellectual property associated with the project.

Successful applicants are expected to become active members of the MSSI community, present their work at MSSI events, and on request, act as reviewers in future competitions and provide material to help promote sustainability research at McGill.

To Apply

Proposals should be submitted using the template found on the MSSI website. Supporting figures (not text) and references can be included separately from the completed template (maximum two pages).

The review process will be completed in February 2021 and funds will be allocated in March/April 2021.

Proposal Details (also see template)

  1. For each applicant on the proposal:
    • Full name and e-mail
    • McGill faculty and department, or external affiliation for non-McGill co-applicants
    • Area of expertise relevant to proposal
    • A statement of relevant expertise or an abridged resumé highlighting relevant background, publications, patents, and collaborative research activities (maximum two pages for lead applicant and one page for co-applicants)
  2. Outline of the research proposal or idea (maximum 200 words)
  3. Explicit description of its novelty (why is this a bold idea?)
  4. Relevance to and potential impact on sustainability
  5. United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) addressed. Please refer to:
  6. Anticipated deliverable(s)
  7. Project timeline and major milestones within the 1-year funding period
  8. Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI). In keeping with Tri-agency expectations, the MSSI asks researchers to consider EDI in their application. Please refer to the following resources for guidance:
  9. Budget (e.g., human resources, materials/supplies, auxiliary costs)
  10. Research Ethics Board Approval (if pertinent)

Proposal Submission

The following documents must be submitted in a single e-mail to mssi [at], copying in all co-applicants:

  1. Completed template, submitted as a Word file, labelled LeadLastName-Initial-Proposal (i.e. Smith-J-Proposal)
  2. Supplemental figures and references (if any, two pages maximum) and resumés, all submitted as a single PDF file labelled LeadLastName-Initial-Appendix (i.e. Smith-J-Appendix)

Non-conforming applications (including resumés greater than the specified length) will be returned for modification and resubmission up to the competition closing date.

A confirmation receipt will be sent via email within one business day. Please contact the MSSI If you haven’t received a receipt within this timeframe.

The application deadline is December 13th, 2020. Applications received after the deadline will not be reviewed.

Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) Ideas Fund - 2020 Call for Applications

*The 2020 call for applications is now closed*


Solutions to sustainability challenges require much more than technological innovation, as viable plans to achieve sustainability must also address social and economic factors and conditions. For example, shifting society towards a more sustainable path will necessitate new norms, attitudes, habits, laws, economic incentives or instruments and public policies.

The MSSI SSH-Ideas Fund provides seed funding to explore bold projects and novel ideas drawn specifically from social sciences and humanities research with the potential to illuminate or solve sustainability-related challenges*. The ultimate result of successful proposal would contribute positively to society’s shift towards sustainability.

Download the funding call here.

The MSSI Innovation Fund

*The 2019/20 call for applications is now closed. All previously funded projects are listed here.*

Do you have an innovation that has potential for commercialization or a process that will lead to policy development in the field of sustainability? Do you need funds to proceed to the next stage of development? The MSSI Innovation Fund can provide up to $75K to accelerate the innovation or process and move your project forward.

Download the funding call Download the funding call

There are also funding streams offered through some of our research themes. For details, look under "Events & Funding Opportunities" on the theme-specific pages here.
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