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Aspiration Research Cluster Program

The Aspiration Research Cluster program was established by the Office of the Vice-President Research and Innovation to support research excellence, facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration, and raise the external profile of the university through capacity-building resources and support. Clusters can emerge from any discipline, but those that align with the Aspiration 2030 impact areas and/or institutional priorities are of particular interest.

Cluster funding is intended to support catalytic activities that will help to build the cluster’s identity and collaboration potential. Clusters should have the potential to develop into global leaders on relevant topics, attract major new external funding (e.g. NFRF Transformation, SSHRC Partnership Grant, CFI Innovation Fund, major NSERC Alliance, governmental programs, donors or foundations, international grants, etc.) and/or demonstrate significant impact (e.g., new strategic partnerships, generate meaningful intellectual property for licensing or commercialization activities, creation of new centre or institute, influencing public policy or major government directions, leading public discourse on major issues, etc.).

In the first round of the competition, six groups were awarded the title Aspiration Research Cluster, representing over 70 UVic faculty members across the 10 faculties. All clusters brought together multidisciplinary teams to collaboratively tackle critical issues and address local and global challenges and opportunities.

What is a research cluster?

In this context, a research cluster is defined as a group or network of UVic researchers with complementary and interdisciplinary expertise – working together to address important economic or societal challenges.

Key dates

NOI: November 30th, 2023

Full Application: January 31st, 2024

Funding start date: May 2024
Note that the funding start date has been delayed from April 2024 to May 2024.

Evaluation criteria

Applications are assessed on the following criteria: 

  • Research excellence and potential impact
  • Strength of the team and complementarity
  • Cluster plan

Refer to program terms below for full details.

Cluster adjudication process

  • An interdisciplinary panel of internal faculty and external partners will review and score all applications.
  • Shortlisted applicants will pitch their presentations to a strategic panel.
  • Shortlisted cluster applications will be reviewed by the strategic panel, taking into consideration the pitch presentation and the feedback from the first interdisciplinary panel review. Applications will be evaluated on their ability to meet the criteria outlined in the call for proposals and the overall institutional objectives of the cluster program.
  • The strategic panel will make recommendations to the VPRI Executive who will determine the funding allocation.

Information session

Recording of the Research Cluster information Session held on October 19, 2023.


Yes, teams are welcome to revise their cluster proposal and submit again.

No, all full applications must be preceded by an NOI.

Yes. However, if changes are made to members or the research area, please email the project officer with the changes to ensure appropriate reviewers are secured.

The NOI will be used primarily to help identify appropriate reviewers for applications. It may also be used to identify synergies or overlaps between proposals, and to confirm eligibility.  Some preliminary feedback may be provided at this stage.

Any full-time UVic research faculty member (tenure or tenure-track).

Faculty members may participate in more than one cluster but cannot be the designated PI/Co-PI for more than one application.

Yes. However, the program is to support activities of a group of UVic researchers (that may have external partners that strengthen the collective work), but is not a program to support, for example, an existing or new regional/national network with “some” participation of UVic researchers.

Yes, building or formalizing relationships may form part of the proposal plan, but potential collaborators and partners should be clearly differentiated from those who are already collaborating with the proponents.

Not necessarily. While it is expected that most members will have worked together in some way in the recent past, it could be beneficial for some groups to include members they have not worked with before; this might include early career researchers or newly appointed faculty.

Not necessarily, however we expect to see an interdisciplinarity among group members, with an array of different perspectives and funding portfolios.

Yes, clusters can be within and housed by a research centre. However, the proposal will need to clearly demonstrate why the extra capacity requested for the cluster is needed and why these needs cannot be met by the research centre (which usually have supports available to members). If you expect to access resources or support from a Centre as part of your cluster activities, please articulate this in your application and budget.

No, the size of groups is up to applicants, but should be based on genuine connections. Reviewers will be keen to see that the appropriate expertise to address the challenges outlined in the application is included on each cluster team.

Clusters can address more than one Impact Area or priority and this information can be included in the proposal. However, it will be important to clearly articulate how the cluster will address each impact area.

Possibly, though applications should clearly articulate why the sub theme is needed in addition to the wider cluster theme.

Not necessarily. We imagine that transformational goals could take different forms, depending on the nature of the research area, maturity of the cluster, etc. While this could be a major grant application, it could also include pursuing a membership of an international network that would enhance your global reputation or pursuing a significant industry or government partnership for example. Proponents are invited to define and explain the transformative goal that their cluster will be pursuing.

No. Cluster funding is not intended to support the direct costs of research.

The Dean (or Associate Dean if the Dean is absent) of the cluster’s PI should sign-off on the proposal. However, if any cluster members are requesting teaching release, their Dean will need to sign the form as well.

We anticipate being able to support four or five clusters in this round.

These two rounds are a pilot with one-time funding; however, there could be additional competitions depending on future funding and the impact of the program.