Off-site Construction Research Centre

Fund your research project idea

Author: OCRC

Posted on Mar 13, 2023

Category: Research

Four years ago, the UNB Off-site Construction Research Centre (OCRC) was created with the purpose of using the triple helix model of academia-industry-government collaboration to complete the mission of accelerating construction innovation through the improvement and adoption of off-site construction technologies and practices. Since the OCRC’s inception, the centre has been fortunate to receive over $6 million in funding for applied research.

As a research centre within an academic institution, the UNB OCRC can leverage a variety of funding sources through the National Research Council (NRC), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Mitacs, New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF) and Atlantic Canadian Opportunities Agency (ACOA) to partner with industry on applied research projects.

The following list is a highlight of the funds the OCRC often leverages to support innovative businesses in the off-site construction industry, depending on the industry partner's schedule, budget and priorities (e.g., including students in the research through internships).

National Research Council (NRC)

The NRC Industrial Research Assistant Program (IRAP) is one of the many methods the OCRC works with industry. An overview of this funding opportunity:

  • For small and medium sized enterprises (SME) (i.e., an organization less than 500 employees)
  • Leverages the Contribution to Organization (CtO) program
  • The program funds 100% of a small project (approx. 40 research hours in duration)
  • Acts as an opportunity to introduce the OCRC to the SME to understand the company, current business practices and opportunities for further collaboration

Through these projects, the OCRC often does the beginning of a software implementation project, recommends suggestions for plant layout or optimizing the manufacturing plant, or provides testing services on structures, materials and the building envelope (soon). The CtO projects are meant to be introductory with hopes of leading to another project. Since 2019, we have completed over 20 CtO projects.

Following the completion of a CtO, organizations will often look to complete larger research projects or begin a multi-year research program. In these scenarios, the OCRC will work with Mitacs, NSERC, NBIF or NRC IRAP to understand what options are best fit for the next project.

NSERC Alliance grant

There are two options for the Alliance grants, however the OCRC has only leveraged Alliance grant option

The OCRC has been successful in four Alliance grants to date. An overview of this funding opportunity:

  • Ranges from $20,000 to $2 million projects
  • Have either a 1:1 or 2:1 leveraging ratio depending on the size of the industry partner
  • For private partners that are under 500 employees, public industry partners or not-for-profit organizations, NSERC will cover 66.6% of a research project with a minimum contribution of $10,000 from the industry partner
  • For private industry partners with more than 500 employees, Alliance grants will match the funding supplied from the industry partner (for example, a $30,000 project will be funded with $15,000 from NSERC and $15,000 from the industry partner)

Mitacs Accelerate

Mitacs has several funding programs which are often focused with providing undergraduate or graduate students with internship opportunities with industry partners. The most common one used by the OCRC is the Mitacs Accelerate grant. An overview:

  • The industry partner will provide $7,500 (plus HST) per internship which is matched by Mitacs 1:1 for $15,000 to the OCRC
  • The OCRC uses the $15,000 to pay a graduate student and cover project expenses
  • The student is required to complete a 4 to 6-month internship with the industry partner which often aligns with the students research focus
  • This results in the industry partner receiving a high-quality innovative student for 4 to 6-months as well as additional value as the student will use data and insights from that organization throughout their degree (two years for a masters and four years for a PhD)

To date, the OCRC has been 100% successful in applying for Mitacs Accelerate projects and has had over 12 students complete a Mitacs Accelerate internship with an industry partner. Some examples where the OCRC has used Mitacs includes projects with Strescon Limited, Ocean Steel, Alantra Leasing and many more.

New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF)

NBIF has been a major contributor to the OCRC since 2019. NBIF has both a venture capital and a research arm which has seen continual growth over the last two decades. In the last four years, the OCRC has leveraged NBIF’s Research Professional Initiative (RPI), Equipment Fund, Innovation Voucher, Lab-to-Market, NB Innovation Chair, Emerging Projects Fund, COVID-19 Research Fund and Artificial Intelligence Fund.

Many of these programs are direct support for the OCRC however, the Innovation Voucher Fund (IVF), Lab-to-Market (L2M), Emerging Projects Fund and AI Fund are all programs that have been leveraged with industry partners; the most used are the IVF and L2M. A summary of these funding options:

Innovation Vouncher Fund (IVF)

  • Funds 80% of a maximum $100,000 project
  • Open to New Brunswick based companies to partner with New Brunswick based academic institutions
  • Is a method to accelerate commercialization of research and accelerate product development.

Lab-to-Market (L2M)

  • Funds 33% of a project and the industry partner is responsible for funding the remainder
  • The remaining amount can come in the form of in-kind or cash contributions

Examples where the OCRC have used the IVF or L2M include projects with Malta Inc. and PLAEX Building Systems.

Additional resources

Beyond the programs mentioned above, there are other options for private industry partners to invest in research and development. For organizations who become NRC IRAP clients, they receive advisory services from the IRAP ITAs and have opportunities to connect with researchers across the country. Furthermore, there are programs that help with cost recovery on innovative projects (e.g., the OCRC have been hired by industry partners on fee for service contracts where IRAP reimburses the industry partner 50% of the costs) or programs that help organizations with training or hiring young professionals through the Youth Employment Program.

After the OCRC works with an industry partner to determine the appropriate funding mechanism, the OCRC will lead the application process to minimize additional work required by the industry partners. Once approved, the OCRC works with UNB’s Office of Research Services (ORS) to finalize contractual requirements including project schedule, payment schedules, intellectual property, etc. IP ownership often varies depending on the program being used to fund the project.

If you have any questions about the different funding programs, and how the OCRC can help you leverage them, please contact the OCRC at