MSSI newsletter

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.

The application deadline is November 6, 2022. Applications received after the deadline will not be reviewed.

Download the call

Download the application template

Available funds

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



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 dissemination activities. See previously funded projects.

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


  • Lead applicants must be active McGill faculty.
  • Students are not eligible as lead or co-applicants, although they can receive compensation for work on the project. Note that the Ideas Fund is for new research, and so it cannot be used to fund existing graduate studies (e.g. Masters or PhD programs).
  • Postdoctoal fellows can only apply as co-applicants if they will not receive HR compensation through the Fund.
  • All applicants must be MSSI Members or Affiliates (register here). 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.


  • HR compensation (stipends, salaries and benefits for students/post-docs)
  • Community engagement expenses (e.g. workshops, community consultations, etc.)
  • Materials and supplies; user fees (reasonable, as related to the project)


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

Projects are evaluated on their boldness/originality, potential for impact on a sustainability problem, and their feasibility within the one-year 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.

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
  • 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.


  • 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.


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 (note that the template should not be modified). Supporting figures (can include legend but not body text, maximum two), references (maximum six), and maximum two relevant publications can be included separately from the completed template.

Note that reviewers will likely not be experts in your field. Therefore, please provide a strong description of the research project in lay terms, situating it in the context of literature/prior research conducted.

The review process will be completed in January 2023 and funds will be allocated shortly thereafter.

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. See here for more information. 
  6. Anticipated deliverable(s)
  7. Project timeline and major milestones within the one-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)


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), publications 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.


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