Federal Research Support Fund

Who is this for?

Anyone who is interested in learning about the federal Research Support Fund (RSF) and how indirect costs are utilized within the University of Toronto (U of T) and its affiliated institutions, per the sponsor’s requirements.

What do I need before I can begin?

This program is administered at the institutional level to address institutional costs of research. There is no application process for researchers to obtain this funding. To find funding opportunities for your research, please visit Funding Opportunities.

The Federal Research Support Fund (RSF), provided by the Government of Canada, assists Canadian postsecondary institutions with the costs associated with managing their research enterprise, helping them to maintain a world-class research environment.

Indirect Costs of Research

When people think about the cost of research, for many what comes to mind are things like specialized equipment, salaries of trainees (graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and research assistants), travel costs, and so forth. These are the “direct” costs of research – budgeted expenditures for undertaking a specific research project. Less likely to be associated with the costs of research, however, are things like maintenance of the building where the researcher works, the electricity used to power the specialized equipment, or the staff that provide support for research funding applications/agreements, oversight and compliance. These “indirect” costs are the hidden costs of research; the real dollars incurred by the University, or affiliated institutions, to support research activities. It can be difficult to assign these costs to specific projects since these necessities for conducting research are often shared. U of T has established a Research Administration Policy that provides a more specific definition of “direct” and “indirect” costs.

The Research Support Fund Program

The RSF program provides partial support to universities and their affiliates for the indirect costs of research associated with eligible Tri-Agency (i.e., NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR) awards. This funding helps institutions to address hidden costs of research such as lighting, heating, and the increasingly complex oversight and compliance requirements that ensure the safety of researchers, as well as their human and animal subjects. This support allows researchers to concentrate on conducting cutting-edge research.

According to its website, the Research Support Fund assists Canadian postsecondary institutions with the costs associated with managing their research enterprise, helping them to maintain a world-class research environment. Grants can be used to do any of the following.

  • Maintain modern labs and equipment
  • Provide access to up-to-date knowledge resources
  • Provide research management and administrative support
  • Meet regulatory and ethical standards
  • Transfer knowledge from academia to the private, public and not-for-profit sectors, and, in so doing, helps to make Canada a world leader in research and development

List of Affiliated Institutions

The University of Toronto is a large, complex institution, comprising three campuses, 18 Faculties/Divisions, 90 Departments, and 179 extra departmental units. The University of Toronto also includes the following 9 partner hospitals, and each receives a portion of our RSF funds.

  • Baycrest Health Sciences
  • Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
  • Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital
  • Unity Health Toronto
  • Sinai Health System (Mount Sinai Hospital)
  • Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
  • The Hospital for Sick Children
  • University Health Network
  • Women's College Hospital

See the comprehensive list of all affiliated institutions (including primary, sub- and sub-sub-affiliates).

Institutional Allocation of Grant Funds

The projected allocations for RSF expense categories reflect the actual proportions in the most recent year for which financial reporting is complete at the time of application. Therefore, the 2021-22 projection at the time of application is based on reporting to RSF for 2019-20. These projections are updated as part of annual financial reporting by aggregating expenditure totals by category across the University and its affiliates (as noted in the graph below).

Each year, the University’s Planning and Budget Office undertakes a detailed analysis of the institutional costs associated with supporting the University’s research enterprise. Although the RSF provides critical indirect costs support for research funded through selected tri-agency programs, a significant gap remains between the true indirect cost of tri-agency funded research relative to direct costs (57% on campus in 2020-21) and the rate provided through the RSF program (20.2% in 2020-21 when including the Incremental Project Grant). This gap (36.6%) constrains our potential as an internationally competitive research institution and requires the redirection of funds to indirect costs of research from other operations, including our teaching function.

2021-22 Projected RSF expenditure by category – U of T and affiliates


Donut chart detailing breakdown of RSF funds into 5 expenditure categories: facilities, resources, management, regulatory requirements, and IP.


Performance Objectives

The RSF provides funding to Canadian postsecondary institutions to assist with the management of their research enterprise.  RSF funds are allocated to five eligible expenditure categories, which include the following.

  • Research facilities
  • Research resources
  • Management and administration of research enterprise
  • Regulatory requirements and accreditation
  • Intellectual property & knowledge mobilization

The RSF program requires eligible institutions to prepare institutional performance indicators for the upcoming year. For details please see U of T’s 2021-22 Research Support Fund – Institutional Performance Objectives.

In addition, the University is responsible for reporting outcomes on a yearly basis. This information is based on the previous year’s institutional performance objectives. See U of T’s 2020-21 Research Support Fund – Institutional Performance Objectives

The Incremental Project Grant

The Incremental Project Grants (IPG) was introduced in 2018-2019 to provide eligible institutions with additional support for projects that focus on the following four IPG priority areas.

  • Innovation and commercialization activities
  • Facilities renewal, including deferred maintenance
  • Information resources, including digital resources, open access and databases
  • Equity, diversity and faculty renewal (in the context of equity, diversity and inclusion)

For the FY 2021-22, the University’s notional allocation is $10.9 M with the percentage of projects by the following eligible category as follows.

  • Innovation and commercialization activities: 1.46%
  • Facilities renewal, including deferred maintenance: 56.12%
  • Information resources, including digital resources, open access and databases: 36.73%
  • Equity, diversity and faculty renewal: 5.7%

For further detail, please see Institutional Performance Indicators for the upcoming year: U of T IPG 2021-22 Institutional Performance Objectives.

In addition, the University is responsible for reporting outcomes on a yearly basis. Please see the following for details.

Forms & Downloads


  • Facilitate the preparation and submission of the application, dissemination of funds and collection of data for yearly reports

VPRI Contact


Michael Hussey

Research Funding Manager, Internal Programs
Research Services Office (RSO)
(416) 978-3211

Other Resources