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What you need to know about Canada's $1.6 billion IDEaS program for defence challenges

By OMX | April 12, 2018

The Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program, announced in June 2017 in Canada’s defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, has officially launched this week.

Here's everything you need to know about this $1.6 billion program - and how you can submit a proposal and win funding.

You could be eligible for up to $200,000 in innovation funding  The Government of Canada's IDEaS program tackles future defense and security  challenges - with $1.6 billion budgeted over the next 20 years.  Join Eric Fournier, the Director General and Lead for IDEaS, in an  OMX-exclusive webinar on November 15, "Understanding and applying to Canada's  IDEaS program: How you can win up to $200,000 in innovation contracts"   Learn more

The IDEaS program looks to leverage Canadian innovation from companies, universities, and consultants to solve pressing defence challenges.

The program comes with $313 million in funding for various projects over the next five years and a total $1.6 billion over the next 20 years.

"Our government will look beyond the traditional defence community and scientists and look to all Canadians to find the solutions we need to support, equip and train our service members," Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced at the University of Calgary on Monday.

There are currently 16 challenges being considered:

Theme one: People and Enhanced Human Performance

  • Understanding and addressing post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Recruit, retain, and reach 25% female representation by 2026
  • Cognitive performance enhancement
  • Predicting and optimizing personnel performance
  • Human performance in extreme climatic environments
  • Lightweight ballistic protection
  • Collaboration of robotic systems

Theme two: Anticipate Threat

  • Detection and classification of objects of interest
  • Persistent maritime surveillance
  • Identification and characterization of space objects
  • What is in full motion video?
  • Making sense of the chatter
  • Cyber attribution for the defence of Canada
Theme Three: Adapt to a Changing Environment
  • Chemical, biological and radiological hazard detection and planning
  • Resilient non-global positioning system based positioning, navigation and timing
  • Proactive deterrence

The deadline to submit a proposal is May 24, 2018 with the first contracts expected to be awarded in Fall 2018.

Interested? You can apply on the IDEaS' website here or read the FAQ below.

What is the Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program?

Announced in Canada’s defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged (June, 2017), DND introduced the Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program to improve DND’s access to the creative potential of Canadian innovators to build defence capability and economic impact. The program supports the formation of an innovation ecosystem from the early stages of an idea, creates awareness of defence and security challenges and mobilizes innovators to develop prototypes and capabilities for defence and security capabilities.

How is IDEaS different from other government innovation programs that are involved in the defence sector such as Innovative Solutions Canada (ISC) and Build in Canada Innovation Program (BCIP)?

The focus of the IDEaS program exclusively seeks to resolve defence and security challenges. IDEaS supports innovation activities across Solution Readiness Levels 1-9 and all innovators from academia to small and large companies are eligible to submit proposal(s). Additionally, IDEaS fosters networks, incentivizes collaboration and development expertise, and provides opportunities for innovators to interact with CAF leadership while demonstrating their solutions to obtain operational feedback.

How much funding is dedicated to IDEaS?

The new defence policy Strong, Secure, Engaged announced that DND will invest $1.6 billion over 20 years, including $313 million in the first five years, to build and promote an innovation ecosystem in defence and security. The funding will foster a vibrant innovation system capable of responding to DND innovation challenges. IDEaS offers a variety of elements which ensure innovators have the opportunity to become aware of Defence and Security challenges and provide developmental support to bring their ideas toward shaping defence capability.

What are the IDEaS financial instruments?

The IDEaS Program provides financial support to foster innovation through contracts, contribution agreements and grants. Within the program, IDEaS supports full spectrum innovation support including personnel exchanges, assessments and the opportunity to interact with DND experts that have posed the challenges.

How much funding am I eligible to receive?

Each IDEaS element will have specific funding assigned that will be posted on the IDEaS website with each Call for Proposal.

What are the eligibility criteria to apply?

Everyone is invited to participate in the IDEaS program—from small and large companies, academia, non-profit organizations and individuals.

How does IDEaS contribute to the Canadian economy?

IDEaS challenges are focused on funding innovation across any sector of the economy. IDEaS competitively awards grants and contributions, and contracts to Canadian researchers, industries and academia as well as engages innovators in a number of consultative ways. This directly incentivizes them and boosts innovation. All IDEaS activities are tracked for their economic benefit to the recipients of funding.

What are the IDEaS program elements?

There are five elements and three enablers within the IDEaS program that operate concurrently and collaboratively to grant innovators access to resources.


1 – Innovation Networks

Innovation Networks are groups of multidisciplinary researchers from academia, industry or other partners that can develop and apply their expertise towards defence and security challenges. IDEaS will provide seed funding to create new networks and sustain existing networks to focus attention on addressing defence and security challenges.

2 – Contests

Contests are project proposals sought to address S&T Challenges through regular calls for proposals. The IDEaS Program will provide financial support through contracts and contribution agreements where phased development allow continual progress as milestones are achieved for quick project implementation as well as quick termination if warranted. Proposals will be reviewed and evaluated according to predetermined criteria.

3 – Competitive Projects

Competitive Projects are project proposals sought to address S&T Challenges through regular calls for proposals. The IDEaS Program will provide financial support through contracts and contribution agreements where phased development allow continual progress as milestones are achieved for quick project implementation as well as quick termination if warranted. Proposals will be reviewed and evaluated according to predetermined criteria.

4 – Sandboxes

Sandboxes are curated trials (physical or virtual) that provide an opportunity for innovators to demonstrate and test their prototypes or ideas in a controlled setting. Experts’ feedback and interaction with other innovators provide context for future refinement with the goal of creating a better solution.

5 – Innovation Assessment and Implementation

Innovation Assessment and Implementation is the process by which relevant experts and operational stakeholders will be assigned to evaluate limited quantities of pre-production prototypes to confirm technology maturity, evaluate in a realistic environment, and provide innovators with operational feedback.


1 – Mobility

Mobility is the practice of personnel exchange between organizations. It is one efficient way of sharing information and expertise. IDEaS will allow for opportunities for scientific exchanges, placements, sabbaticals, and assignments. This would be open to members of government, academia, industry or other partner organizations.

2 – Integrators

Integrators are subject matter experts appointed to help their assigned projects navigate through the development process, serving as their point of contact with the IDEaS Program. Their main objective will be to provide key insight and linkages toward the goal of making the technology "adoption ready".

3 – Ideation

Ideation is the creation of a collaborative environment between multidisciplinary participants, including academia, governments, private and public sectors that facilitates the formulation of new and innovative ideas and concepts. These collaborative sessions will enable participants to obtain a deep understanding of defence and security challenges, explore how their research or ideas might resolve future issues, and integrate this content into innovative proposals.

Does IDEaS and its challenges target specific industries, regions or domains?

By its nature, IDEaS is an access to innovation program and does not have a preference for any particular industry, region or and domain. IDEaS is seeking the best ideas from anyone that has a potential solution to an identified DND challenge.

How can I apply to a challenge?

Each IDEaS element has its own criteria and specific web-based application process. Visit our Current Opportunities for more details.

Can I apply to more than one challenge?

Innovators are invited to apply to multiple challenges.

Will I receive feedback on my proposal?

In the initial phase of evaluations, subject matter experts will conduct an evaluation of the proposal. Applicants will be notified if their proposal is considered for funding. See Tips for applicants for more on this process.

Where can I get more information about the Solution Readiness Levels?

More information can be found on the Solution readiness levels section of the IDEaS website.

What are the Intellectual Property (IP) considerations?

All IP rights that arise as a result of this program will remain with the recipient.

DND may require the recipient grant the Crown a non-exclusive, non-transferable, irrevocable, royalty-free and world-wide license to use, reproduce, sublicense, translate, and distribute the resulting IP. The Crown will not exploit the resulting IP commercially and may exercise the above license in order to make the IP available, in whole or in part, to the broader Canadian defence and security communities and the private and academic sectors, for information and evaluation purposes only, and to assess funding options for further development of the resulting IP.

Please refer to the specific relevant Call for Proposal document for more detailed information to ensure compliance and understanding. 

How will DND proceed to acquisition once a matured proposal is accepted and proven?

The IDEaS program will seek innovative solutions and help in their development through to their evaluations at near commercial readiness. Limited quantities of a solution may be procured for the purposes of operational evaluations. The acquisition of these solutions in larger quantities to equip DND would be addressed by a separate procurement process.

How might industry influence IDEaS priorities?

The Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security program gathered the most difficult “challenges” from the Defence community from which its priorities are based. Innovators provide their best ideas in response to these challenges which indicate where there is a match between what is possible and the challenge itself. 

What are the Canadian content requirements for IDEaS?

IDEaS will favour innovation that is developed in Canada but is seeking the best solutions wherever they exist. Each Call for Proposal will describe the minimum Canadian Content desired; typically between 50-80%.

Will I have to repay IDEaS if my proposal and project does not return intended results?

No. IDEaS is seeking novel and creative solutions and not all of them are worthy of pursuing. Even efforts that do not deliver the anticipated results provide key insight that informs future decisions.

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