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IC-IMPACTS (Canada), RHI (Canada), and ISIC (India) have partnered to launch a grant competition to fund innovation and research in the treatment and care of people living with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) and secondary complications in India and around the world.

Photo of Honourable Kirsty Duncan speaking with a woman in a wheelchair at ISCI in New Delhi, India, February 2018 In Canada, 86,000 people live with SCI, which costs an estimated $2.7 billion per year in health and associated care and also historically leads to mortality rates two to five times higher than for people with no SCI. For under-resourced and more populous nations like India, millions affected by SCI have a poorer prognosis and fewer available supports.

1. Background

The competition seeks to attract innovators, medical practitioners and researchers in Indian and Canadian universities/institutes to work collaboratively across borders, develop and commercialize innovative technologies in the treatment and care of people who are living with SCI and associated secondary complications.

Photo of Honourable Kirsty Duncan signing agreement with other dignitaries in New Delhi, India, February 2018Following the February 2018 visit in New Delhi of the Honourable Kirsty Duncan during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to India, an agreement was signed by IC-IMPACTS, the Rick Hansen Institute (RHI), and the India Spinal Injuries Centre (ISIC) to develop a grant competition that will bring about innovative solutions in the treatment and care of millions of people in India and Canada who live with SCI and secondary complications. The grant (Canada-India SCI Innovation Award – Getting Solutions to Market) will be awarded in December 2018 in New Delhi.

SCI is a medically complex condition associated historically with very high mortality rates. The prognosis for people with SCI can vary widely depending on a country’s economic status. In high-income countries, with the availability of new techniques, facilities, and proper utilization of resources, people with SCI can now anticipate longer, fuller, and more productive lives. In low-income countries, traumatic SCI can be a terminal condition. In the past, the availability of resources was limited: medical and rehabilitation services were minimal and there were few opportunities for community and social participation. However, the situation is changing in India with newly available resources and medical facilities such as the Indian Spinal Cord Injuries Centre (ISIC). With the right collaborative arrangements and use of resources, it should be possible for people with SCI to live, thrive, and achieve fuller, more productive lives.

A recent survey confirmed that international collaboration can have a positive impact with technology or knowledge transfer and commercialization from high- to low-income countries, resulting in seven of the top 10 barriers in SCI modified by an international initiative.

An example of a successful international collaboration between researchers from high- and low-income countries is a joint collaborative program with the University of Pittsburg, USA and Human Engineering Research Lab, Department of Biotechnology (Government of India) at the Indian Spinal Injury Centre, New Delhi, India. This project resulted in the development of a low-cost motorized wheelchair (LOCOMO-WC) that was designed to meet the needs of individuals in low resource settings (Press release dated January 28, 2016, from the Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India—Make-in-India initiative: Inauguration of low-cost motorized wheelchair [PDF]).

2. Competition Grant: Title & Amount

Title: Canada India SCI Innovation Award – Getting Solutions to Market:

An amount equivalent and up to CAD $50,000* will be granted to the successful proposal(s) for research and development. This amount may be supplemented by cash or in-kind support by host institutes or other agencies associated with the researchers.

* If GST is applicable, the award amount will be reduced to include GST. For example, a $50,000 award might be reduced if the maximum GST (18%) is applied; it would change the amount of the award to $42,372.88 + 18% GST. A concessional GST rate of 5% may apply in qualifying cases.

3. Project Objectives

The objectives of the innovation competition are to:

  1. Encourage the sharing of technology and knowledge resulting from India-Canada research and technology development partnerships towards addressing unmet needs in SCI care including
    1. innovations in functional improvements (e.g. mobility, communications);
    2. prevention and management of secondary complications (including neuroprotection and regeneration of neurons, retraining CNS circuits and plasticity)
    3. community inclusion
  2. The social impact of the proposed project should be visible, measurable, monitored, and documented and quantified such as:
    1. A user-friendly web application that may serve the community of inured patients;
    2. Results in measurable social impact such as increased mobility of SCI patients in a certain community or dissemination/public awareness assessment and graphic display of access points in a building for patients with spinal cord injury or mobility complications.
  3. Accelerate the pace of adoption of technology deployment that has the potential to benefit people with spinal cord injuries in India;
    1. Work in conjunction with other regulatory and research agencies to provide innovative solutions;
  4. Foster Canada-India collaborative research and trade development activities;
  5. Demonstrate the effectiveness of innovative technologies for the Canadian and Indian marketplace.

4. Project Duration

18 to 24 months

5. Project Scope

The competition will seek to fund proposals in three categories in the deployment-ready stage of development related to spinal cord injury (SCI) prevention and management (treatment & support).

These may include:

  1. Technology Indigenization or Product Adaptation: Proven technology being adapted to meet country and region-specific regulations or standards, different market price-points, unique community requirements such as differences in access to care and affordability.
  2. Technology or Research Validation: Validation of proven laboratory research into the community context, including functionality, performance, quality, usability, and community uptake potential.
  3. Technology Replication in New Community Context: Proof of scalability and transferability of proof of concept to different settings. [i.e. secondary deployment of technology into a different context with new parameters to assess scalability and reliability]; symmetrical projects that take the technology into the opposite country are of particular interest (i.e. if first tested in Canada, then a deployment in India or vice versa).
  4. Other Areas of Social Benefit with Well-defined Assessment of Social Impact: Measurable proof of social impact must be monitored and documented.

6. Implementing Agencies

IC-IMPACTS Centres of Excellence is a not-for-profit organization, established by the Federal Government of Canada through the Centres of Excellence Program to serve as a pan-Canadian agency responsible for the delivery of research programs in the areas of sustainable infrastructure, integrated water management, and public health, disease prevention, and treatment between Canada and India. IC-IMPACTS is the only Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) with a mandate focused on research collaborations between Canada and India.

RHI (Rick Hansen Institute) is a Canadian-based not-for-profit organization that drives innovation in spinal cord injury research and care. RHI strives to improve the lives of people living with SCI in Canada and around the world. RHI is committed to accelerating the translation of discoveries and best practices into improved treatments for people with spinal cord injuries. Headquartered in Vancouver, BC, RHI facilitates an international network of researchers, healthcare professionals, entrepreneurs, investors, and people with SCI and their supporters in order to find solutions to one of the most debilitating, costly and life-altering health conditions.

ISIC (Indian Spinal Injuries Centre) is the most advanced Spine, Orthopedic and Neuromuscular Surgical centre in India with the latest state of the art diagnostics and surgical equipment and a highly qualified team of specialists recognized internationally who have been trained in leading institutes of India and abroad. Indian Spinal Injuries Centre provides state of the art facilities for the management of all types of spinal ailments. The goal is to reach the lives of thousands of newly spinal injured every year by providing medical excellence through scientific expertise and to optimize self-sufficiency and independence for the rehabilitation patient.

7. Contents

7.1 Timeline

  • Launch of the Call for Letters of Intents: Friday, August 24, 2018
  • Deadline to submit Letters of Intent: Sunday, September 30, 2018
  • Shortlisted Letters of Intent for final applications: Saturday, October 20, 2018
  • Deadline for final submissions: Thursday, November 15, 2018
  • Declaration of winner: Tuesday, December 11, 2018
  • Projects need to be launched as soon as approved, and no later than Sunday, March 10, 2019

7.2 Eligibility

1. Indian applicants:

All Indian researchers normally eligible to apply for DST/ICMR funding opportunities are eligible to apply as Principal Investigators from India.

Subject to the following guidelines, we also welcome proposals from NGOs, graduate students, medical practitioners, entrepreneurs, and for-profit corporate entities who have a proven track record in the care and treatment of Spinal Cord Injuries and secondary complications:

a.  NGOs, graduate students, medical practitioners, and entrepreneurs: These applicants are not expected to make a cash contribution.

b.  For-profit corporate entities: For-profit organizations such as industries or corporations will be expected to make a cash contribution and, if successful, will receive matching funding. For example, a medical equipment manufacturer that aims to assess the effectiveness of new processes or innovations can submit a letter of intent; if successful, they will receive matching funding from the grant.

2. Canadian applicants:

All Canadian researchers normally eligible to apply for DST/ICMR funding opportunities are eligible to apply as Principal Investigators from Canada.

Subject to the following guidelines, we also welcome proposals from NGOs, graduate students, medical practitioners, entrepreneurs, and for-profit corporate entities who have a proven track record in the care and treatment of Spinal Cord Injuries and secondary complications:

a.  NGOs, graduate students, medical practitioners, and entrepreneurs:  These applicants are not expected to make a cash contribution.

b.  For-profit corporate entities:  For-profit organizations such as industries or corporations will be expected to make a cash contribution and, if successful, will receive matching funding. For example, a medical equipment manufacturer that aims to assess the effectiveness of new processes or innovations can submit a letter of intent; if successful, they will receive matching funding from the grant

7.3 Application Instructions

Please note following important application instructions:

  1. Research projects of one (1) or two (2) years in duration are eligible for funding.
  2. Funding beyond the first year of the project will be contingent upon successful progress being made in the previous year as determined by the review processes in place for each funding organization.
  3. Applicants are not required to have pre-existing partnerships with counterparts in both countries. RHI, IC-IMPACTS, and ISIC will help identify partners for promising applicants in their respective countries. The Letter of Intent/project proposal along with supporting documentation must be submitted online on IC-IMPACTS’ portal. All documents and forms required for a project application are accessible at the bottom of this web page.
  4. The online application will be automatically sent to the Selection Committee constituted by IC-IMPACTS, RHI, and ISIC together with all funding organization specific documents submitted as part of the online application process.

7.4 Evaluation Criteria

The research project funded in this call is expected to lead to a technology or solution directly impacting the lives of Indian and Canadian citizens.

India-Canada joint projects must be based on meaningful stakeholder engagement, include a common project plan, a realistic budget, and involve at least one researcher from Canada and one researcher from India. Student and HQP (Highly Qualified Professional) training is a mandatory component of all funded projects.

Letters of Intents submitted for funding through this call will be evaluated against the following selection criteria:

  1. Direct relevance to and emphasis on patients with Spinal Cord Injuries including treatment and support;
  2. The proposed innovation is expected to result in tangible benefits (value proposition) for patients such as reduced treatment time or cost, increased access to treatment for patients across Canada and India;
  3. The potential for research outcomes to be deployed in remote and low-resource settings in India and Canada;
  4. Quality and originality of the research program;
  5. Qualification and excellence of the research team and proven record of successfully delivering prior research project objectives;
  6. Expected results and outcomes and appropriateness of budget strategy to achieve them;
  7. Potential for successful commercialization and/or community adoption of research outcomes;
  8. One or more local partner organizations, which can include a company willing to participate and share costs and benefits and that can potentially carry forward the research to application stage. The local partner can also be in the form of a hospital, public health agency, or an educational or not-for-profit institute that is willing to invest significant cash and in-kind support. Applicants should submit a Letter of Support(s) from the partner organization(s) with details of potential funding commitment;
  9. The inclusion of multidisciplinary aspects of the research program; and,
  10. Engagement of partners from academic, industrial, government, SCI consumers, and community sectors. (Note: it is not a requirement to have non-academic partners on the research project, however, multisector partnerships will be evaluated more favourably. All partners participating in a research project must demonstrate meaningful engagement and commitment to the project.)

7.5 Review Process for Evaluation of Applications

  1. All applications will be handled in the strictest of confidence.
  2. A Selection Committee comprised of independent external reviewers from Canada and India will thoroughly examine the proposals and reach consensus to identify the winner within the overall budget framework.
  3. The consensual decision will be declared during an official function being planned in December 2018 in New Delhi.

7.6 Intellectual Property

The funded project participants shall agree upon the ownership, access rights, and exploitation of the intellectual property generated during the cooperation. The agreements shall be made in writing. The guidelines of the funding organizations should be followed when making the agreements. At a minimum, a letter of intent between the collaborators should be included in the application stating the desire for cooperation and acknowledging that each participant has understood the general terms and conditions of the other project parties.

7.7 Questions?

For Indian participants:

Dr H S Chhabra
MBBS, MS (Orthopaedics)
Chief of Spine Services and Medical Director
Indian Spinal Injuries Centre
Sector C, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, India
Tel: 011-42255243
Email: drhschhabra@isiconline.org

For Canadian participants:

Mr. Shapoor Marfatia, MBA (UBC), MTech (IIT Bombay), BTech (IIT Bombay)
Chief Operations Officer
IC-IMPACTS Centres of Excellence
Unit 305–6190 Agronomy Road, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC  V6T 1Z3
Tel: 604-827-1522
Email: shapoor@ic-impacts.com

Phalgun Joshi, Ph.D.
Managing Director, Program Operations & Support
Rick Hansen Institute
Blusson Spinal Cord Centre
6400-818 West 10th Avenue, Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9
Tel: +1 604-827-1673
Email: pjoshi@rickhanseninstitute.org

7.8 To Apply, Complete and Submit These Documents

To apply, please download and complete the following documents:

In addition, please ensure you submit the following with your letter of intent:

  • Short CV of main applicant (and CVs of other applicants, if any)
  • Letter(s) of Support from Community or Testing Site Partner(s) (if any)
  • IP Agreement/Letter of Intent between Collaborating Partners and Researchers (if any)

Once you have completed your letter of intent and supporting documentation, submit them online.