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Joint Canada–Germany 2 +2 call on Advanced Manufacturing–Industry 4.0

Background

In an era when disruptive technologies and rapid technological developments have become ubiquitous, players who participate in the manufacturing chain need strategies for cooperation, collaboration, and even cost-sharing at pre-competitive stages.

Interdisciplinary and international collaborations are encouraged by both Canada and Germany, and three of the leading R&D financing agencies from these countries have teamed up in launching this 2+ 2 call. The call is coordinated by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), National Research Council Canada’s This link will take you to another Web site Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), and the German This link will take you to another Web site Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) through its This link will take you to another Web site Project Management Agency at the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

NSERC’s participation in this international call reinforces the importance of fostering relationships with domestic and international partners. It allows our research and industrial communities to access knowledge and expertise to generate world-class research results, in keeping with NSERC’s strategic plan, NSERC 2020, and specifically its objective, Go Global.

This call is aimed at enhancing the cooperation between industry—particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs)—and university research in both Canada and Germany under the comprehensive topic of Advanced Manufacturing–Industry 4.0. The overarching goals are to advance novel technologies, to spur innovation and to facilitate collaboration between Canadian and German partners while training highly qualified personnel. The collaborations fostered by this call are expected to lead to:

  • Increased cross-disciplinary research.
  • The next generation of young scientists in the important area of Industry 4.0 in a gender-balanced, diverse and inclusive manner.
  • Enhanced innovation capacity and integration of new knowledge into Canadian manufacturing.
  • Deployment of advanced information and communications technology (ICT) and/ or manufacturing solutions in industrial processes.
  • Tackling environmental and societal challenges through innovation for the next industrial age (Industry 4.0).
  • Increased economic benefits for Canada and increased competitiveness of Canadian companies.

Research topics

The topic of the call falls under the encompassing umbrella of Advanced Manufacturing–Industry 4.0. Industry 4.0, or the “Smart Factory,” refers to the digital transformation of manufacturing, connecting automated machines to each other, to their operators, to other processes and services, to the Internet of Things, and to the supply chain. The Smart Factory can act upon the available information to self-optimize, customize production, and self-manage for improved energy efficiency. It can also enable decentralized manufacturing. It represents the convergence of enabling technologies such as robotics, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, big data analytics, virtual reality, additive manufacturing, and the digitization of the supply chain. Some examples of research topics under this call are:

  • Advanced materials development
  • Additive manufacturing / 3D printing
  • High-precision manufacturing
  • Sensors and sensor networks
  • Industrial Internet of Things
  • Digital technologies on the factory floor
  • Robotics and mechatronics in manufacturing
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) applied in manufacturing

Project duration

Projects to be funded under the call must have a duration of 24 months to 36 months.

The minimum duration has been chosen to allow the applicants to propose projects suitable for high-quality scientific publications, students’ theses, and training of highly qualified personnel such as graduate students and post-doctoral fellows.

NSERC will provide up to $1,500,000 in funding per year of the call (totalling $4,500,000 over three years), and a maximum of $300,000 per project per year.

Timeline

The timeline of the call is as follows:

  • January 31, 2018 – opening of the call
  • April 16, 2018 – deadline for submission of Letters of Intent (LOIs) to NRC-IRAP
  • May 14, 2018 – announcement of selected proposals, based on LOIs
  • June 22, 2018 – deadline for submission of full proposal by consortia invited based on successful LOIs
  • September 21, 2018 – public announcement of funding decisions for successful projects
  • January 2019 – anticipated project start date

Consortia

Consortia eligible for project funding must be formed by industrial and academic partners from both Canada and Germany, including, at a minimum:

Third-party participants (such as large companies, Canadian research institutes, not-for-profits, other levels of government, etc.) are welcome to participate on a self-funded basis.

The Canadian university researcher and the Canadian university must meet NSERC’s eligibility criteria to apply for Collaborative Research and Development (CRD).

Submission

The research proposals will be evaluated by the three funding agencies coordinating the call. There are two stages:

  1. A Letter of Intent is submitted to NRC-IRAP by the Canadian SME(s) partner(s).
  2. Full National Project Proposals are submitted to NSERC (by the Canadian university researcher) and to DLR (by the German side of the consortium).

All projects will be tracked by a central database established at This link will take you to another Web site NRC-IRAP.

Letter of Intent

A common Letter of Intent, written in English only (as this is an international call), must be submitted to NRC-IRAP in Canada and shared with NSERC and DLR in Germany.

This Letter of Intent must identify all of the potential participants from both countries and provide an overview of the proposed collaboration and a high-level description of the project. A Project Lead must be identified on both the German and Canadian sides.

Each agency will conduct an assessment of the eligibility of the participants, as follows:

  • NSERC will assess the eligibility of the university professor and their university;
  • DLR, on behalf of BMBF, will assess both of the required German partners;
  • NRC-IRAP will assess the participating industry partner against its This link will take you to another Web site eligibility criteria.

Full proposal

Projects with LOIs determined to be eligible by all three agencies will be invited to submit Full National Project Proposals to each of the respective funding agencies.

The Full Project Proposal consists of:

  • A common three-page document written in English that describes the overall project, the role of the participants, and the expected outcomes and the potential benefits that will result from the project;
  • A German Full Project Proposal (project outline) written in German and submitted to DLR, not exceeding 10 pages (in addition to the common three-page document);
  • On the Canadian side, a Collaborative Research and Development (CRD) application submitted to NSERC by the eligible university applicant;
  • In parallel, a draft Project Proposal submitted by the Canadian SME partner(s) (individually for each SME partner if there are multiple SMEs on the project) through their NRC-IRAP Lead Industrial Technology Advisor.

The Canadian university partner must submit the following CRD documents to NSERC following the procedures for online submission of CRD proposals:

  • Form 101 (Application for an NSERC Grant) Part I, including codes, summary for publication, milestone schedule, budget, budget justification, contributions from supporting organizations, a detailed description of all in-kind contributions, intellectual property description, and relationship to other research support;


    In the application submitted to NSERC, in addition to the 10-page research proposal describing the Canadian proposal, a three-page description of the international consortium, which includes the master work plan and describes the complementarity of partners, their expertise, and the planned collaborations between the Canadian and German partners;

  • Form 100 (Personal Data Form) and related appendices for the applicant, co-applicant, and key research personnel on the Canadian side, as well as CVs of key collaborators;
  • Form 183A, including details on the company, a profile of the company, and a letter of support from the company indicating its cash and in-kind contributions to the project.

Evaluation

Collaborative Research and Development proposal

Three main criteria will be monitored in assessing the CRD proposals received by NSERC specifically for the 2+2 Canada–Germany call on Industry 4.0: project excellence, potential impact, and implementation.

I. Project Excellence

  • Novelty of the proposal
  • Relevance to the proposed topics of the call
  • Clarity and relevance of objectives
  • Feasibility of the proposed approach and methodology
  • How the proposed work will affect the field, what innovation potential it has, and how it relates to the state of the art (e.g., ground-breaking objectives, novel concepts and approaches)

II. Potential Impact

The proposal should identify how the consortium’s work will:

  • Increase German–Canadian collaborative research
  • Increase the competitiveness of both the Canadian and German industrial partners
  • Generate economic benefits for Germany and Canada
  • Enhance the innovative capacity of the participants
  • Facilitate the deployment of advanced ICT and/or manufacturing solutions in industrial processes
  • Add value by undertaking the project as an international collaboration
  • Facilitate the training of gender-balanced highly qualified personnel (HQP), i.e., PhD, MSc, post-doctoral fellows

III. Implementation

The following will be taken into account when assessing the implementation of the proposed work:

  • A comprehensive research plan that involves research activities coordinated between Germany and Canada.
  • Coherence and effectiveness of the work plan, including appropriateness of task and resource allocation.
  • Interaction between partners, roles of partners, mobility of researchers, and technology transfer activities.
  • Milestones, deliverables and probability of success within the project timeframe as well as risks associated with the project and mitigation strategies.
  • Technological competencies and managerial abilities of the Canadian partners to successfully deliver the project.
  • Complementarity of the participants within the consortium (including between Canadian and German participants) and clear roles of all participants.

The German application will be assessed against the This link will take you to another Web site criteria posted on DLR’s website.

Only successful proposals that are recommended by Canada and Germany will receive funding.

NSERC contact

Dr. Marius Ivan
Manager, Research Partnerships/Manufacturing, Communications and Technologies
Marius.Ivan@nserc-crsng.gc.ca

NRC-IRAP contact

Mr. Tim Jackson
NRC-IRAP Germany National Program Coordinator
National Research Council Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program
Timothy.Jackson@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca

DLR (Germany) contact

Dr. Barbara Hellebrandt
barbara.hellebrandt@dlr.de
or
Dr. Matthias Frattini
matthias.frattini@dlr.de
DLR Project Management Agency

About NSERC

NSERC invests over $1 billion each year in natural sciences and engineering research in Canada. Our investments deliver discoveries—valuable world-firsts in knowledge claimed by a brain trust of over 11,000 professors. Our investments enable partnerships and collaborations that connect industry with discoveries and the people behind them. Researcher–industry partnerships established by NSERC help inform R&D, solve scale-up challenges, and reduce the risks of developing high-potential technology.

NSERC also provides scholarships and hands-on training experience for more than 30,000 post-secondary students and post-doctoral fellows. These young researchers will be the next generation of science and engineering leaders in Canada.

About NRC-IRAP

The National Research Council–Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) is Canada’s premier innovation assistance program for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It is a vital component of the NRC, a cornerstone in Canada’s innovation system, regarded world-wide as one of the best programs of its kind.

About DLR

The DLR Space Administration is located in Bonn, Germany. It is responsible for managing national space activities on behalf of the federal government. It is also home to several offices of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).