CIFAR AI Catalyst Grants

Circuit Maple Leaf Illustration

Call for Proposals

The National Program of the CIFAR Pan-Canadian AI Strategy brings together AI researchers and trainees from across the country to share ideas, foster collaboration, advance knowledge and drive Canada’s leadership in AI research and innovation. We offer: training opportunities on the latest technical advances and social considerations of the applications of AI; an annual conference to bring our national community together; and other programs and activities to support and advance Canadian AI research. Our programs are open to all Canadian researchers and trainees who are interested in AI research. We aim to support world-leading AI training, research and innovation while at the same time, fostering the values of equity, diversity and inclusion and social responsibility in AI research.

The National Program Committee of the CIFAR Pan-Canadian AI Strategy is seeking proposals for CIFAR AI Catalyst Grants.

Funding of up to $50,000 per year for up to two years is available to support NEW collaborative research and exchange with current Canada CIFAR AI Chairs. Applicants must be Canadian Principal Investigators (PIs) located at different institutions and not affiliated with the same AI Institute (Amii, Mila or the Vector Institute), who have not previously collaborated. CIFAR AI Catalyst grants are intended to catalyze new research areas and collaborations in machine learning and its application to different areas of science and society. Preference will be given to:

  • proposals that are multidisciplinary (i.e. co-investigators come from different disciplines); and/or
  • proposals that advance training opportunities for underrepresented groups; and/or
  • proposals that include early-career investigators

DEADLINE: February 28, 2020, 11:59 PM EST

Eligible Applicants

  • Proposals must be submitted jointly by at least two PIs, each based at different Canadian institutions and not affiliated with the same AI Institute
  • One applicant must be a current Canada CIFAR AI Chair
  • The applicants must not have previously collaborated (no co-authored publications)
  • Applications will be accepted from researchers based at any Canadian institution and in any discipline, but applicants must be eligible to apply for funding from the Tri-Council
  • If approved, funding will be awarded to the CCAI Chair’s AI Institute and they will administer annual payments of the grant

Eligible Expenditures

  • Salary support for a jointly supervised post-doctoral fellow (up to $50k pa for up to 2 years); if awarded, the position must be filled within 1 year of the award date.
  • Travel expenses within Canada for researchers travelling to different locations to exchange research methodologies and ideas (up to $20k for one year); can be used for trainee exchange/internships at other research institutions; not to be used for conference travel.
  • CIFAR AIX Workshops. One-day research workshops on the application of AI approaches to a dedicated area of research (e.g. AI for Agriculture, AI for Public Health, AI for …) (up to $20k); further program details available below.
  • Collaborative research projects (up to $50k)
  • Other joint research activities will be considered

In partnership with the RBC Foundation, two CIFAR AI Catalyst Grants will be awarded in support of research in the areas of privacy, accountability, transparency and bias in machine learning.

# of Anticipated two-year CIFAR AI Catalyst Grants funded 2020: 10

CIFAR AIX Workshops:

One-day research workshops on the application of AI approaches to a dedicated area of research (e.g. AI for Agriculture, AI for Public Health, AI for …). Workshops may be held in any Canadian city, but must include participants from multiple research institutions (universities, research institutes, research hospitals). The goal of the workshop should be to identify opportunities for the application of AI to the specific domain of interest, identify emerging research opportunities and foster the development of new collaborations. Up to $20,000 of funding is available and applicants will be asked to provide a complete budget. CIFAR will provide some logistical support to workshop organizers (e.g. online registration system, booking venues and catering). Workshop proposals must be developed jointly by at least two Canadian Principal Investigators, one of whom should have expertise in AI, while the other has domain-specific expertise. Workshop organizers will be encouraged to seek additional partnerships and funding to help support this activity. The leaders of CIFAR AIX Workshops are required to submit a written report describing the outcomes of the workshop and anticipated opportunities for further research and collaboration within 4 weeks following the conclusion of the Workshop.

Evaluation Criteria

Applications will be judged on the following criteria:

  1. Research excellence of the applicants – 25 points
  2. Scientific merit and potential impact of the proposed research – 40 points
  3. Innovative, multidisciplinary nature and novelty of the proposal – 20 points
  4. Training opportunity, especially for students from underrepresented groups – 15 points


Successful applicants will be required to provide a progress report to CIFAR annually and a final report upon completion of the CIFAR AI Catalyst Grant. Successful applicants must acknowledge CIFAR’s support in publications and presentations on the funded research. CIFAR AI Catalyst Grant projects and trainees will be expected to attend and may be asked to present their work at AICan, the annual meeting of the CIFAR Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, which is held annually in December/January. If you are invited to present your work, CIFAR will reimburse your travel costs following our travel policy.

How to apply

Apply using CIFAR’s online application portal and select "Streams"


Please contact if you have any questions or require additional information.

Statement on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion:

CIFAR is committed to equity, diversity and inclusion. We recognize that bringing together individuals from multiple backgrounds, perspectives and experiences is integral to advancing excellence and increasing the impact of our organization. Ensuring that every person feels valued and welcome is vital to achieving our mission, and embodies our values of diversity, creativity, excellence, risk taking, respect and collaboration. CIFAR strives to foster the active participation and inclusion of all, including those from underrepresented groups in research, such as but not limited to women, members of racialized groups, Indigenous Peoples, persons with disabilities, members of sexual and gender minority groups – across geographic borders, disciplines, and career stage. In the pursuit of excellence, CIFAR embraces diverse ideas and perspectives, and proactively seeks to increase equity, diversity and inclusion within our community. CIFAR aims to create a culture that embodies these principles of equity, diversity and inclusion in all aspects of our work.


CIFAR is grateful to the RBC Foundation and Facebook for their support of our National Program of Activities.