Spark Grants

Novel technology applications in cancer prevention ans early detection.

Highlights of the program

The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research - Institute of Cancer Research (CIHR-ICR), and Brain Canada Foundation (BC or Brain Canada) have committed a total of up to $2.4M over one year to jointly fund Spark Grants focused on Novel Technology Applications in Cancer Prevention and Early Detection.

Deadline dates

Program Launch
Mid-July 2020
Registration due date
August 28, 2020
Full application due date
October 16, 2020
Results announcement
January 8, 2021
Anticipated funding start date
January 15, 2021
When a deadline falls on weekend or holiday, the next business day will be considered the deadline date.

Program description

Spark Grants will support preliminary research to establish proof of principle in novel cancer prevention and early detection approaches. The goal is to fund high risk, high reward studies, that provide sufficient rationale and/or preliminary data to convince reviewers of the novelty and feasibility of the proposed work. Spark grants are intended to support the development of new partnerships and the exploration of highly novel concepts, involving researchers from any research area, and particularly from non-traditional cancer fields, such as engineering, AI, robotics, physics, nanoscience, statistics, informatics, computer and data sciences, behavioural science, and any other discipline poised to seed the next generation of disruptive technologies in cancer control. These grants are not intended to support research that is the “next logical step” in a program of work, but rather provide the evidence for future larger grants that will serve as “game-changers” in the way we approach cancer prevention and early detection, disrupting existing methods and displacing the status quo.

The objective of this funding opportunity is to harness the power of new technologies and interventions to prevent the onset of cancer and/or reduce its severity through early detection when the disease is at its most treatable, including the early detection of recurrence and metastatic spread.


Scientific focus of the program

Eligible research areas include, but are not limited to:

  • Novel Imaging/mammography technologies, including computational imaging and bioinformatic algorithms for risk stratification
  • Novel applications in AI, machine learning, nanotechnologies, robotics, software data science, and other promising technologies and systems
  • Applications of liquid-based cytology and biopsies for detection of pre-malignant conditions and secondary screening for recurrence and spread
  • Novel diagnostic biomarkers with clear disruptive potential
  • Development and testing of new wearable technologies, such as a UV radiation exposure monitoring device
  • Developing new mobile apps, such as virtual care delivery text messaging for screening follow-up, mobile apps/video games for health education and promotion, e.g. colonoscopy prep, mobile images to raise awareness about specific cancers, 
  • Creation of innovative web-based communications strategies, such as social media to target prevention in young adults, online decision support tools for symptom checking
  • New tools to integrate and correlate complex, heterogeneous biological and health-related data.

Funds available

Funding will be provided to support the direct costs of research, including supplies, salaries, and equipment associated with the proposed work. Indirect costs are not eligible. Grants will be funded in rank order within each funding pool.
Total budget *
up to $2.4M
One-year period
up to $150K
10% budget
Application score
≥ 3.5
* Additional partners or access to additional funds may increase this number.

Additional information

Projects that would be considered ineligible for this competition include:

  • Projects that focus on obvious next steps or incremental research associated with ongoing studies
  • Projects with no clear line of sight for useful application in the short-to medium-term
  • Projects not specifically focused on prevention and/or early detection

CCS, CIHR and BC are committed to equity, diversity and inclusivity and strive to promote inclusive excellence in our funding programs. We welcome all eligible applicants of diverse backgrounds to apply for our funding opportunities.

A multidisciplinary peer review committee will be assembled for this competition comprised of individuals recommended by CCS, CIHR-ICR and BC.

The mandatory abstract registration will be used to assess relevance to the competition and to inform the composition requirements of the review panel.

Grants will be funded in rank order within the two funding pools.
Abstract registration is mandatory and will include applicant details (Principal Investigators, Co-Applicants, Additional Authors), a public summary, a brief scientific summary, keywords, a clear description of how the proposed study, if successful, has the potential to disrupt status quo, and suggested reviewers and research tracking information. Specific guidelines for the abstract registration are available and should be closely consulted during preparation of the application.

For this competition, there is a limit of one application per nominated Principal Investigator or co-Principal Investigator. Please note that for those applications receiving funds from Brain Canada, a minimum of 2 Principal/Co-Principal Investigators are required, from different institutions (or distinct departments within the same institution).
Applications from Early- and Mid-Career Researchers (within 15 years of their first academic appointment) are strongly encouraged. In addition, researchers from non-traditional disciplines, outside the cancer field, are also strongly encouraged.

A relevance review of the abstract registration will be conducted to ensure alignment with the program description and scientific focus. Abstracts deemed relevant to the competition will be invited to submit a full application.

Any significant changes to the proposed project or applicant team after the Abstract Registration deadline should be communicated to the CCS ( as soon as they are known. Substantive changes that significantly alter the overall goals and aims of the proposal relative to the Abstract Registration are not permitted.

The proposal will contain no more than 5 pages of single-spaced text and 2 pages of figures/tables/charts and associated legends. Specific guidelines for the online application are available and should be closely consulted during preparation if the application.

Full applications include the following:

  1. A public summary of the proposed research that demonstrates how the research will lead to significant improvements in cancer prevention or early detection
  2. A scientific abstract that clearly states the aims of the overall proposal including any previous work done by team members in the area, experimental design(s), methods and analysis plans
  3. A clear description of how the proposed research represents a truly novel approach poised to dramatically improve the way we currently prevent or diagnose cancer
  4. A detailed proposal describing the work to be performed (including aims, previous work, experimental design, methods and analysis), and an indication of which member(s) of the research team will be responsible. Consideration of equity, diversity and inclusion principles in the composition of research team members must be evident.
  5. Considerations regarding sex and/or gender and/or diversity
  6. Relevance of the proposal to cancer prevention or early detection, including the impact that results will have on specific challenges in cancer prevention and early detection. 
  7. A detailed description of any products expected to result from this funding (if applicable).
  8. A detailed knowledge translation and mobilization strategy that chronicle potential next steps and which could include collaborations and partnerships with other research institutions, networks and/or sectors, as appropriate. 
  9. A detailed budget and justification for supplies, expenses, personnel and equipment to conduct the proposed research. This must include the number of personnel required to complete the work and a description of their experience and/or education level.
The review committee will prepare individual written critiques. The review criteria for the applications will include but not necessarily be restricted to the following:
  • the originality and feasibility of the proposed work and its relevance to cancer prevention and early detection
  • the potential for practical interventions in real world settings that will directly impact cancer prevention and early detection and disrupt the status quo
  • the background and scientific rationale for the proposed research
  • the qualifications and experience of the investigators leading and participating in the project
  • the appropriateness of the methods for the focus of the research
  • the appropriateness of the term and amount of support requested
  • the appropriate incorporation of sex as a biological variable and/or gender as a social determinant of health, where applicable
Applicants are reminded to review the eligibility and requirements page for details on scientific and financial reporting, funder acknowledgement, and Canadian Cancer Society policies. In addition, research applications may be related but cannot be identical to any other currently funded projects. It is the responsibility of the applicant to notify the funding Partners immediately should substantial overlap arise from new funding awards during the application and review process of this competition.

How to apply

Review application guides

Download our application guide for step-by-step instructions on how to apply for this grant as well as other important information that you need to know.


Click here to apply for this grant. Please ensure you have read our application guide and eligibility prior to applying.