Innovation Fund

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 accelerate the innovation or process and move your project forward.

Download the funding call here.
Download the application template here.

Available funds

One-year, non-renewable, up to $75 000 per award ($150 000 available in total).



The innovation or process must have a positive impact on a sustainability challenge. The following are within the scope of the Innovation Fund: policy development; proof of concept (perhaps as a prelude to an entrepreneurial path, transfer of a technology to industry, or the implementation of a social innovation); preparatory work for IP filing; development of a prototype or small-scale pilot system; testing the viability of an approach in the environment; and reduction to practice. Previously funded projects can be viewed here:

Previously unsuccessful proposals will only be accepted for a subsequent competition if they contain obvious and significant developments that are clearly identified in the proposal.


  • All lead applicants must be active McGill Faculty
  • All applicants must be MSSI Members or Affiliates (register at
  • Applications from groups are welcome providing that at least 50% of participants are active McGill faculty and all applicants are either MSSI Members or MSSI Affiliates
  • Lead applicants cannot concurrently be in receipt of other MSSI funding (e.g., other funding competitions or 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


  • Materials and supplies
  • User fees
  • Travel
  • Community engagement expenses (e.g. workshops, community consultations, etc.)
  • HR compensation (stipends and salaries for students/post-docs). This excludes PIs and co-applicants, who cannot receive direct compensation.
  • IP filings, etc.


  • Building and refurbishment, equipment costing more than $5,000
  • Conference costs
  • Honoraria
  • Alcohol
Selection criteria

The Innovation Fund Review Committee reviews the applications and makes recommendations to the Executive Committee for final approval.

Projects receiving Innovation Funds are selected for their potential for significant impact on a sustainability issue, their feasibility to move an idea from bench toward commercialization or widespread adoption, and their potential to be awarded further funding from commercialization-enabling programs (NSERC I2I, VC accelerator/seed funds, etc.) or foundation translational programs (Gates, Kavli, etc.) at the end of the funding period.

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.

Proposals that ranked highly in previous competitions met the following criteria:

  • A clear explanation of how the end product (technology, process, policy etc.) will positively impact sustainability
  • A well-articulated and feasible plan that moves the end product from the idea or bench stage to practical application
  • Existing links with potential users of the end product
  • An explanation of how the expertise and breadth of the research team enables the success of the proposed project
  • A well-defined, though not necessarily detailed, budget that included explanations of the subcomponents and how any training is incorporated
  • Research described in the proposal received no other funding

Applicants may also find it helpful to refer to the Government of Canada Technical Readiness Level (TRL) scale


  • 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


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

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


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.

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 April 2021 and funds will be allocated in May/June 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. Resumes exceeding the maximum page length will be returned for modification).
  2. Outline of the research project with explicit description of its novelty (maximum 200 words)
  3. Relevance to and potential impact on sustainability (maximum 50 words)
  4. United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) addressed. Please refer to:
  5. Anticipated deliverable(s) including those associated with IP
  6. Project timeline and major milestones within the one-year funding period
  7. 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:
  8. Budget (including human resources, materials/supplies, and auxiliary costs)
  9. Any additional information relevant to the proposal:
    • Any commercial product or service that could be implemented or developed through application of the research results, including reference to other applications of the product or service
    • Any collaboration with industry related to the proposal
  10. Research Ethics Board Approval (if pertinent)



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-Application (i.e. Smith-J-Application)
  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 February 14th, 2021. Applications received after the deadline will not be reviewed.

Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) Ideas Fund

*The next call for applications will be in Winter 2021. All previously funded projects are listed here.*


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.

Ideas Fund

*The 2020/21 call for applications is now closed. All previously funded projects are listed here.*

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.

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.
Back to top