Government of Canada funds 117 innovative projects across Canada to advance groundbreaking research

News release

New Frontiers in Research Fund 2020 Exploration grants target high-risk, high-reward and interdisciplinary research

The New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) 2020 Exploration competition has awarded funds to support 117 research projects across Canada that bring diverse disciplines together in pursuit of breakthrough ideas and high-reward outcomes. The NFRF program, a federal research funding initiative, mobilizes cutting-edge interdisciplinary, international, and transformative research that strengthens Canadian innovation and benefits Canadians.

This year’s 2020 Exploration awards—with grants up to $250,000 over two years for research teams of two or more—support research projects with the potential to yield game-changing results in social, cultural, economic, health-related or technological areas. With $14.5 million awarded, some of the innovative research projects receiving funding include: using machine learning algorithms to help predict suicidal behaviour in young people; and developing a film to cover urban buildings to mitigate flooding and provide cooling in extreme-weather events.

The fund’s Exploration stream specifically targets interdisciplinary, high-risk, high-reward research that defies current models, bridges disciplines in novel ways, or tackles fundamental problems from new perspectives. The stream’s design recognizes that interdisciplinary research is often risky, but worthwhile given the potential for significant groundbreaking impact. All funded teams must demonstrate commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion in the research environment.

More information about the 117 awarded 2020 Exploration research projects can be found on the NFRF website.


“Research that takes great risks advances the way we think about the issues that impact Canadians. The Government of Canada is supporting researchers who are exploring bold new directions that could change lives and position Canada at the forefront of global research and innovation.”

—The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

“The NFRF Exploration stream plays a key role in the Canadian research ecosystem through its encouragement of high-risk, high-reward, interdisciplinary projects and support for international collaboration. These grants show Canada’s and the federal research funding agencies’ commitment to keeping our research at the forefront of innovation.”

—Alejandro Adem, Chair, Canada Research Coordinating Committee, and President, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council

“Our research takes a uniquely integrative approach—one that merges nutrient management with water quality, energy economics, air quality and climate policy—to offer novel solutions for challenges at the intersections of these systems. Specifically, we will investigate the improved use of manure as both a fertilizer and an input to the biogas energy system, and then quantify its impact on water quality and greenhouse gas emissions. By directly exploring the interconnections between water quality, environmental change and energy sustainability, we are challenging the current research paradigm, and offering a solution pathway to more efficient allocation of our most vital resources.”

—Nandita Basu, NFRF 2020 Exploration award recipient and Associate Professor and University Research Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth and Environmental Science, University of Waterloo

Quick facts

  • The NFRF was launched in late 2018 to mobilize world-leading interdisciplinary, international, high-risk, high-reward and transformative Canadian-led research. The fund is investing $275 million over five years (2018–19 to 2022–23) and will grow to have an annual budget of $124 million in 2023–24.

  • The NFRF has three streams that support specific goals and the flexibility to launch special calls:

    • Exploration: generates opportunities for Canadians to conduct innovative high-risk, high-reward interdisciplinary research
    • Transformation: provides large-scale support for Canada to build strength and leadership in interdisciplinary and transformative research
    • International: enhances opportunities for Canadian researchers to partner on international projects
    • Special calls: responds to fast-breaking, rapid-response research as needed
  • The NFRF is under the strategic direction of the Canada Research Coordinating Committee and is managed as a tri-agency program by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), on behalf of Canada’s three research granting agencies—the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and SSHRC. 

  • The NFRF interactive dashboard highlights key data on NFRF competitions. The 2020 grants provide support to 425 researchers, of whom 148 are early career researchers, and over half self-identify as a member of one of the underrepresented groups.

Associated links


Media Relations
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

Media Relations
Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat

Page details

Date modified: