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, 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 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-Council (i.e., NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR) and/or Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) awards. This funding helps institutions to meet the financial burden of hidden costs of research such as lighting, heating, and addressing the increasingly complex oversight and compliance requirements that ensure the safety of researchers, as well as their human and animal subjects.

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, 88 Departments, and 179 extra departmental units. Eligible tri-agency funded research conducted at the following 9 fully affiliated hospitals is counted in the calculation of RSF funding for the University of Toronto ‘system’.

  • 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

Based on proportional expenditures in 2018-19, the most recent complete data available, it is projected that the 2020-21 RSF grant to the University of Toronto and its affiliates will be allocated across the five expenditure categories as shown in the following graph (affiliated institutions are included):

Each year, the University’s Planning and Budget Department undertakes a detailed analysis of the institutional costs associated with supporting the University’s research enterprise. Part of the annual exercise involves mapping U of T’s actual indirect costs into the eligible categories under the Federal Research Support Fund (RSF) for reporting purposes under that program. U of T reports annually on this analysis and its outcomes. For the most recent year, total indirect costs were allocated as follows for RSF-eligible categories of expense: Research Facilities – 37%; Research Resources – 18%; Management and Administration of the Research Enterprise – 32%; Regulatory Requirements an Accreditation – 7%; Intellectual Property – 6%.

Although the RSF provides critical indirect costs support for peer reviewed research funded by the three federal granting agencies, a significant gap remains between the true indirect cost of tri-agency funded research (57% on campus in 2018-19) and the amount provided through the RSF program (20.5% in 2018-19). This gap (36.5%) constrains our potential as an internationally competitive research powerhouse and requires the redirection of funds to indirect costs of research from other operations, including our teaching function.

The University generates a formulaic determination of each of its partner hospitals’ share of the RSF grant, and transfers that money as a sub-grant to those institutions, which then apply the money to relevant activities/initiatives. Each hospital reports to the University on their use of the grant funds, and that information is incorporated into a consolidated Outcomes Report.

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. See U of T’s 2020-21 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 2018-19 Research Support Fund – Institutional Performance Objectives.

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

Radio Options- Did you find this useful?
Did you find this useful?
Let us know if you found this page useful. Did you find the information you were looking for?