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Spark Grants – Novel Technology Applications in Cancer Prevention and Early Detection

Research Admin Offices:

  • HRS

Funding Type:



A total of up to $2.4M over one year to jointly fund Spark Grants at up to $150K each

There will be two funding pools: Breast cancer, and Other Cancers

Grants will be funded in rank order within each funding pool. Only those applications scoring equal or greater than 3.5 will be considered for funding. Projects with a focus on brain cancer will be co-funded by CCS and BC.

  • Up to $800,000 is available from CIHR-ICR to support Spark grants focused on breast cancer
  • Up to $800,000 is available from BC, subject to availability of funds from CCS, to support Spark grants focused on brain cancer
  • Up to $800,000 is available from CCS to support Spark grants on any cancer type


  • Health Sciences
  • Natural Sciences and Engineering



Internal Deadline:


Sponsor Deadline:



Spark Grants will 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. These grants are intended to support research that will 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.


Internal Notice of Intent

Draft Application

14 August

02 October

Sponsor Registration

Final Application

28 August

16 October

Additional Program Information:

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.

Specifically, the goals of this funding opportunity are:

  • The development and/or application of a truly novel “out-of-the-box” technology to prevent cancer, or improve the sensitivity and/or specificity of primary diagnosis or detection of recurrence
  • The novel repurposing of existing technologies from other research fields or sectors, that could be applied to cancer prevention or early detection 
  • Establishment and development of new multidisciplinary collaborations, including those that bring together individuals with skill sets not generally applied in the cancer field to address prevention or early detection
  • Projects that, if successful, would disrupt existing methods and replace the status quo for cancer prevention and early detection

Funding can contribute towards generating pilot data for a new and exciting idea, establishing and developing new collaborations, testing a new technology or using an existing technology in an innovative way. We envisage that data generated or collaborations established through a Spark grant will form the basis for a more extensive future project within cancer prevention 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.


For general eligibility and requirements, please view this page.

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

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

Application/Nomination Process:

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.


Program website


If you are applying from the Faculty of Health Sciences, please contact an Advisor from HRS.

For support please contact Virginia Viscardi, Senior Advisor, ROADS