Grants/Agreements FAQ for Faculty

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS for SMU Faculty Applying for Research Grants or Contracts

Who helps with applications for research grants from the Tri-Agencies (NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR)?

SMU’s Research Grants Officer (RGO), Marlene Ramos ( , is the main point of contact for faculty applying for grants to the Tri-Agencies.   Any faculty considering applying for a Tri-Agency Grant should contact the RGO ahead of time to see what kind of assistance may be available, and to determine what the internal SMU application deadlines for particular programs are.  NOTE that the RGO will normally set internal submission deadlines that are earlier than the posted federal application deadlines, since internal review and approval may be required – so please check with the RGO early.

What is the process for applying for research grant from a funding agency outside of the federal Tri-Agencies?

There are opportunities for faculty to apply for research grants from agencies/foundations other than the Tri-Agencies, and when such opportunity is identified we strongly encourage faculty members to let the Research Grants Officer (RGO) be aware of an application being made.  This way, if there are any institutional requirements that need to be included with the application, FGSR will be able to assist; also, this gives advance notice to FGSR/RGO of any application that requires institutional sign-off, and ensures the timing is managed to get applications submitted on time. 

Also note that some opportunities have to be looked at closely to determine whether the program is for research grants, or research contracts/agreements (with contracts/agreements following a little different process, as outlined in the FAQ section below).

What is the Saint Mary’s University process for applying for Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) programs?

All CFI programs (e.g. John Evans Leadership Fund, Innovation Fund) require institutional submission of applications, and Saint Mary’s has a specific amount of funding envelope provided through each of these opportunities.  Therefore, any faculty member interested in applying for a CFI program must first contact the RGO to learn how Saint Mary’s will be managing each specific competition.  Due to the limited funding envelope provided, careful discussions are had with interested faculty members to determine which opportunities are able to be supported.

The following items are specifically related to faculty becoming involved with Research Agreements or Contracts (rather than Grants).

The university’s Research Agreements Policy (7-1004) was updated in November 2021 and can be found here:

The following FAQ items are related to this updated Policy, to provide some basic guidance to faculty navigating the Policy.

Who helps with research agreements?

The Office of Innovation and Community Engagement is the primary contact for all research agreements –

What is the new rate of overhead charged to cover indirect costs?

The University will charge a minimum flat rate of 20% based on the total direct costs of research delineated in a funding agreement. In cases where a separate line item for overhead costs does not show on a contract or funding application, the overhead charges can be built into other costs. Advice on how to build in overhead charges is available through the Office of Innovation and Community Engagement and the Faculty of Graduate Students and Research.

What are the indirect costs of research?

Indirect costs mean support costs common to research activities undertaken at the University. Indirect Costs include, but are not limited to:

  • Use of laboratory capital equipment and general University buildings/equipment
  • Support and technical staff time
  • Cleaning and maintenance
  • Utilities (heat, power, water, telephone etc.)
  • Accounting, administrative and computer services
  • Legal and consultative services
  • Library expenses
  • General and project coordination/management
  • Ethics, animal use and health and safety committees
  • Depreciation and other indirect costs

Is overhead charged on student salaries?

Money that is used to directly pay for student salaries may be exempt from overhead charges.

How are overhead costs received by SMU distributed?

Funds recovered by the University from overheads charges on external funding agreements and contracts will be distributed as follows:

  • 30% to the Dean of the primary placement of the lead faculty member
  • 30 % to the Dean of the Faculty of Research and Graduate Studies
  • 20% to the lead faculty member of the project
  • 20% to general university revenue

Who has signing authority on research agreements?

The President; Vice-President, Academic and Research; and the Associate Vice President, Research have authority to sign Research Agreements. Research Agreements without the signature of one or more of these officers are invalid and not legally binding on the University.

How long does it take to get a research agreement signed?

A minimum of two weeks is required for reviewing and signing research agreements.  Note that more time is required for complex agreements that require significant negotiation between SMU and the partner. Faculty are encouraged to reach out to the Office of Innovation and Community Engagement ( as early as possible to discuss research agreements and what is required to avoid delays.