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Fisheries and Oceans Canada Science Funding Opportunities: Project Application Guide

1. Purpose of this Application

1.1. As part of its commitment to the advancement of scientific inquiry in ocean and freshwater science, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) makes available a suite of programs that encourage scientific research and related scientific activities and dissemination of scientific knowledge in areas that are relevant to the mandate of the Department.

1.2. The specific objectives and scientific priorities of each particular priority area under a call for project proposals will vary, and each call process may involve the solicitation of applications from multiple different priority areas. Applicants are responsible for clearly identifying the priority area to which their application is directed on their application document in section 2.1. Detailed information for each funding program seeking proposals as part of an upcoming open call process is available on Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s website.

1.3. The number of individual priority areas accepting applications in the course of each open call process will vary. Applicants are responsible for ensuring that their proposals are clearly directed at priority areas that are open during the relevant call process. Applications that are not clearly directed to an open priority area will not be considered.

2. Principles of Government of Canada financial contributions

2.1. A Government of Canada financial contribution to an organization is premised on a request for financial contribution by that organization to support a project aligned with government objectives. Financial contributions are provided at arm’s length, and the Government of Canada neither expects to receive nor shall it receive any benefits as a result of financial contributions or rely on financial contributions to meet internal requirements. Therefore:

  1. If a proposal indicates that it will deliver any products or services to DFO or that the proposed project will generate any scientific information needed by DFO the proposal will not be accepted.
  2. If a proposal is premised on collaboration with DFO and any employee of the Department is identified as a member of the project team, the proposal will not be accepted.

2.2. DFO's involvement in a funded project is restricted to providing scientific knowledge unique to DFO, if needed by the organization to meet the objectives of the project; DFO may not manage or direct the activities related to a funded project.

3. Starting date of the proposed project

DFO financial contributions may never be used by a funded organization to pay or cover costs incurred before a project has officially begun. In general, a project begins and is permitted to incur expenses once a contribution agreement has been signed by both DFO and the funded organization.

Since it will take some time (~12 weeks) for DFO to both complete its review of a proposed project and negotiate the terms of a contribution agreement with your organization, the starting date of the proposed project (section 4.2 of the application) must take that into account the timing of activities that would be undertaken if the proposed project was approved for funding. This also means that the budget of the proposed project must only include costs that would be incurred no less than at least 12 weeks from the date the application is submitted to DFO for consideration.

4. Project Eligibility

To be considered for funding, proposals must:

  • be submitted and led by an eligible recipient organization (see below);
  • include project activities eligible for program funding (see Section 5); and,
  • align with the objectives of the specific priority area from which funding is being sought.

Eligible recipient organizations include:

  1. Canadian post-secondary academic institutions;
  2. Canadian non-governmental organizations;
  3. Indigenous organizations or groups;
  4. Canadian provincial, territorial and municipal governments;
  5. Businesses and industry, including business and industry associations;
  6. Community Groups;
  7. Canadian not-for-profit organizations;
  8. Foreign governments and international non-governmental organizations;
  9. Foreign Academic Institutions; and,
  10. Port Authorities.

Applicants must ensure that their proposal clearly identifies the registered corporate name of the recipient organization.

5. Eligible Activities

Eligible project activities include scientific research and related science activities, such as data collection, integration, monitoring and communication, including communication via conferences and symposia.

Additionally, building scientific capacity is an eligible activity for Indigenous organizations or groups only.

6. Completing the Budget Document: Elements that must be provided

6.1. The budget corresponding to a proposed project must reflect all cost items of the project including:

  1. Costs an organization will incur for the project using financial resources other than DFO financial resources. This would include its own financial resources as well as financial resources received from third parties other than DFO in support of the project. Those costs correspond to the organization's contribution in support of the project;
  2. Costs an organization will incur and for which the organization is requesting financial assistance from DFO; and
  3. Cost items corresponding to DFO in-kind contribution in support of the project.

6.2. Cost items must be entered in the budget template (section 4 of the proposal template) as follows:

  1. all cost items from (a), (b) & (c) in section 6.1 above must be entered in Part A of the budget;
  2. all cost items from (a) in section 6.1 above must be entered in Part B of the budget; and
  3. all cost items from (b) in section 6.1 above must be entered in Part C of the budget.

6.3. If any cost items are partially supported by DFO, the portion supported by DFO must be entered in Part C of the budget template and the remaining portion in Part B of the budget template.

6.4. Applicants should ensure that budget documents are clear with regard to the distribution of costs between DFO and non-DFO sources of funds. The total of all proposed project expenses in Part A of the budget should be equal to the sum of all DFO (Part C of the budget) plus all non-DFO supported expenses (Part B of the budget). Note that the figure utilized for DFO supported project expenses should be prior to the inclusion of any funding amounts for administrative expenses, as these will be exclusive to Part C of the budget document. Note that the budget document includes a simple tool to assist you in verifying the above at the bottom of the table.

7. Completing the Budget Document: Guidelines for Budget Expense Items

7.1. Applicants should ensure, when entering budget line items, that enough information is provided to enable DFO to make a determination that:

  1. The proposed expense item is necessary to the successful achievement of the objectives of the project;
  2. The proposed expense item is reasonable and represents good value-for-money to the project and the Crown; and,
  3. The proposed expense item is eligible for funding under one of DFO’s eligible cost categories (see Section 11 below).

7.2. Please ensure that budget expense line item titles do not consist solely of references to implicated project activities (e.g. oceanographic model development), but instead clearly demonstrate that the expense falls into one of the eligible cost categories laid out in Section 11 below (e.g. professional service contract for oceanographic model development).

7.3. For costs pertaining to salaries, stipends, scholarships and similar payments, please make clear in the budget line item the number of positions implicated (e.g. two students at a rate of $x/month). If possible, include a reference to the annualized or hourly compensation of the position, whichever is most appropriate. Note that DFO may not provide funding support for costs attributable to an applicant’s existing, permanent employees (see Section 9.1 below). If you have further questions as to whether your compensation expense may be eligible, please reach out to DFO to discuss the matter (

7.4. Please ensure that professional service contracts are labelled as such in the budget document.

7.5. For purchases of equipment & instruments, please provide a per unit cost where possible. If you have received a formal quote, you may choose to include this documentation as part of your application package.

7.6. For rental or lease arrangements, including vessel charters, please include a reference to the contractual cost per day/week/month, as appropriate to the specific expense.

7.7. When entering travel expenses, please include the costing of the underlying components of the request where possible (i.e. airfare, accommodation, per diems etc.). If daily estimates for items such as accommodations and per diems are available, please provide them.

7.8. The budget document includes a row in Part C (Amount Requested from DFO) specifically to request support for administrative expenses as a percentage of DFO’s total project contribution. Administrative or other overhead expenses should not appear elsewhere in the document, as they do not otherwise represent eligible project costs. In all cases, administrative expenses will not be accepted as part of a non-DFO contribution to a project.

7.9. Please ensure that Tab b of the budget document (Source of Funds) has been completed, listing the source of funding support for all non-DFO contributions to the proposed project.

8. Completing the Budget Document: Requirements of DFO Financial contributions

8.1. DFO's financial contribution may only be used for eligible costs (see section 10 below).

8.2. The total DFO contribution to an organization for a project may not exceed 75% of the total cost of the project, THOUGH THERE ARE SEVERAL EXCEPTIONS (see section 8.3 below - EXCEPTIONS). This means that the total of:

  • DFO financial contribution PLUS
  • DFO in-kind contribution PLUS
  • DFO financial contribution for admin support

shall not exceed 75% of the total cost of the project (see section 8.3 below - EXCEPTIONS). A project proposal that does not include at least 25% of expenses funded from non-DFO sources, and which does not fall under one of the exceptions listed in section 8.3 will not be accepted.


If an organization is a business or an industry recipient, including business and industry associations, the total DFO contribution shall not exceed 50% of the total cost of the project.

If the organization is an Indigenous organization or group, the total DFO contribution shall not exceed 100% of the eligible costs of the project.

If the organization is a Canadian not-for-profit organization or community group possessing four or fewer permanent employees (including zero employees), the total DFO contribution shall not exceed 100% of the eligible costs of the project.

For all other organizations not falling under the exceptions listed above, the total DFO contribution shall not exceed 75% of the eligible costs of the project.

9. Completing the Budget Document: Project costs (Part A of the budget template)

9.1. Project costs may only include actual costs that an organization incurs for a project while a contribution agreement is in effect. As a general rule project costs are costs that are deemed essential for the project AND that an organization would not incur if the project was not undertaken (those costs shall be referred to as incremental costs). The exceptions are the actual salary costs of an organization, which may be counted as non-DFO project contributions, but for which DFO funding support may not be sought (see sections 9.2 & 9.3 below). Therefore:

  • Assets and resources that are used for a project and which an organization had acquired independently from the project do not entail actual incurred costs for the project and are not therefore allowed as project costs. For example costs attributed to equipment, laboratories facilities, platforms (such as ships), databases, software, etc. that an organization may have acquired prior to the effective date of a contribution agreement are not allowable project costs. If however the use of these assets for a project involves incremental costs (such as maintenance costs and operational costs), the incremental costs are allowed as project costs.

9.2. Salaries of an organization's employees who spend time on a project are considered in-kind contribution by the organization to the project. These may be included as non-DFO project contributions.

9.3. Projects costs may not include any amount for overhead or administration. However, DFO allows an amount for administration support calculated based on DFO’s financial contribution only (see section 10 and section 11(n)) provided that the total DFO contribution not exceed the maximum allowed contribution (see section 8.2 and section 8.3 above).

10. Completing the Budget Document: DFO Financial contributions (Part C of the budget template)

As a general rule DFO's financial contributions to a project may only be used towards incremental costs, i.e. costs that are deemed essential for the project AND that an organization would not incur if the project was not undertaken, however DFO will allow an amount for administration support costs based on DFO’s financial contribution.

11. Eligible Costs

  1. Salaries, stipends, scholarships and similar payments;
  2. Fees paid for third party services;
  3. Rental and/or purchase costs of motorized vehicles (cars, trucks, ATVs, snowmobiles, outboard motors), boats and boat trailers ("Motorized vehicles "). Note that any request to purchase motor vehicles must clearly demonstrate both project need, as well as value-for-money for the Crown, when compared to a comparable rental arrangement;
  4. Purchase costs of laboratory and field equipment and instruments, including hydrophones and similar monitoring equipment but excluding Motorized vehicles;
  5. Costs of laboratory materials and supplies;
  6. Rental and maintenance costs of laboratory and field equipment and instruments;
  7. Rental cost of space such as laboratory, rooms, office space and facilities;
  8. Travel and related costs (consistent with the National Joint Council’s Travel Directive);
  9. Conference and symposia costs, including registration costs;
  10. Publishing costs
  11. Communication costs
  12. Data management costs; and,
  13. Other costs that clearly directly support scientific research and related scientific activities, pre approved by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, up to a maximum of 10% of total eligible costs
  14. Additionally, DFO may reimburse administrative support costs up to 15% of the total amount of all eligible costs reimbursed by DFO. For example, if DFO is contributing $80k towards the eligible costs of the project (before overhead costs); the maximum that DFO will reimburse for overhead is $12k (15% of $80k) and
  15. Additional costs eligible only to Indigenous organizations or groups:
    1. Honoraria, ceremonial items, gifts and/or feasts

12. Payments

In general, DFO contributions are paid in arrears on receipt of satisfactory project and financial reporting. In exceptional cases, DFO may provide payment of a portion of contributions in advance where such payments are deemed crucial to the successful advancement of project priorities. Advance payments are based on the cash flow requirements of the project, and are provided at the discretion of DFO.

Applicants requesting advance payments will need to satisfactorily demonstrate that:

  • The project’s cash flow requirements are substantial AND
  • The applicant lacks the financial resources to manage these requirements pending DFO reimbursement

After notification by the Department that a project proposal has been successful, Applicants wishing to request an advance payment should submit:

  • a written request justifying the need for an advance payment and identifying the potential impacts of not providing the advance should your application be successful; and
  • a completed project statement of cash flows illustrating quarterly planned budget expenses by federal fiscal year (April 1 to March 31). The project cash flow template will be provided to applicants upon their request.

Projects receiving an initial advance payment will need to submit all required project scientific and financial reporting before qualifying to receive any following advance.

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