International Doctoral Clusters (IDCs)

The IDC program supports doctoral training through research engagement with international collaborators.

Building Global Research Partnerships: U of T and the World

Many colleagues at U of T engage in productive and impactful international collaborations. Many of these take advantage of philanthropic, foundation, corporate, and government funding, both from Canada-based supporters and from international sources.

Global research partnerships can include these benefits:

  • Align faculty and graduate and undergraduate student international engagement opportunities (both in-person and virtual) with priority global partners. This will create efficiencies in building and facilitating pathways with these partners.
  • Increase awareness among U of T faculty, alumni, and funding agencies around U of T’s engagement strategy with global peers to tackle complex challenges.
  • Leverage these alliances to recruit top students and PDFs from around the world.
  • Leverage internal seed support and the early successes it enables to fundraise through government, corporate, foundation, and philanthropic channels.

In some cases, there may exist opportunities to build on existing partnerships with key priority global partners to develop a larger Global Research Alliance (GRA)

A building block of GRAs: The International Doctoral Clusters (IDCs)

An International Doctoral Cluster (IDC) is a research and doctoral education arrangement in a well-defined area/topic of research that brings together, through in-person and virtual activities, a critical mass of complementary talent (PIs, PDFs and graduate students).  An IDC is a partnership between faculty and trainees at U of T and international partner institutions (academic/corporate/NGO etc.) in the form of an alliance that is more than the sum of its parts.

Taking into account the changing ways in which collaborative research is being conducted, the IDC program will give strong consideration to proposals that aim to develop robust international research and training opportunities and networks through a combination of in-person and virtual and other novel approaches to global collaborations.

An IDC will be driven first and foremost by an academic rationale. In proposing an IDC, a team of co-Principal Investigators (PI)s, with support from the co-PIs’ Divisions, will articulate an academic rationale and statement of commitment:

  1. Academic case. The team will articulate area(s) of complementary research strength. The team will identify which strengths reside at each institution, and why it is imperative that these be united into a single research cluster. The team will discuss how these strengths result in an alliance that is more than the sum of its parts

  2. Synergy and critical mass. The team will list and explain the expertise and synergy among co-PIs (preferably 6-12 per institution). The team will discuss complementarity among the co-PIs, and indications that the co-PIs are indeed committed to transforming the IDC into an active, co-supervisory collaboration.

  3. Divisional contributions. The team will describe cash and in-kind financial contributions that PIs, departments, institutes, and Faculty(ies) are committing to the IDC over its first 3 years. For example:
    • Institute, Department, Faculty contributions towards additional travel, accommodations, conference, and workshop fees that are critical to enabling this collaboration to succeed.

  4. Budget. The co-PIs will build a budget to support the cluster. Typically it will be for a first 3-year period, with the possibility of renewal for an additional 2 years (for a total of 5 years of seed funding) conditioned upon success based on a review led by the Office of the Vice-President, International (VPI). Typical total budgets may reach $100k/year annually, with approximately 2/3 of the annual cash contributions coming from PIs, departments, institutions, and Divisions taken together; and the remaining 1/3 coming from VPI and SGS taken together.

  5. Implementation plan. The case will include a description of the implementation plan for this IDC:

    • How will your Division and the Division at the collaborating institution raise awareness of, and participation, in the IDC?
    • How will you utilize the IDC to recruit new/highly qualified doctoral students into the program, benefiting each of the collaborating institutions?
    • What are the target numbers for the number of doctoral students participating in the IDC after 5 years?
    • Will doctoral students be co-supervised through a Joint Education Placement and or through exchange?
    • What kind of virtual and other novel approaches  will be utilized to sustain collaborations when research teams are working from their home institutions? How will the IDC incent the adoption of tools and resources that facilitate remote collaboration?

  6. Path to sustainability. The proposal will include key milestones at the 2, 3, and when applicable, 4th and 5th year anniversaries of the IDC focusing on securing external funding. The proposal will need to show a step-by-path to building a sustained funded partnership that leverages the seed funding requested in the IDC proposal to secure external funding.

Eligibility: U of T applicants must have a faculty appointment with U of T and be eligible to hold research funding.


Four annual competitions will be adjudicated:

  • Proposals must be received by February 15, May 15, September 15, and December 15
  • Please use the application template. This template should be used to develop the proposals and get the necessary internal divisional approvals. Once approved internally, please submit your proposal to OVPI’s online application portal. If you have previously received funding through OVPI, you might have an existing account in the portal. Please contact OVPI to help with submission.
  • Make sure to first consult your faculty/division (Vice/Associate Deans or Vice-Principal for Research/Graduate Studies) through your department Chair to ensure you follow any established internal processes for reviews and submission prior to engaging with OVPI.

    • The Faculty of Arts & Science (FAS) has an internal process to evaluate all IDC proposals led by FAS researchers. FAS researcher-led IDC applications will need to get approval from FAS, irrespective of whether the proposal is seeking FAS matching funding, before submitting the IDC proposal to OVPI. Learn more.
    • The Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering has a process for evaluation and potential matching funding. All FASE-led IDC proposals are expected to get FASE Dean’s Office approval before submitting the IDC proposal to OVPI. Please contact FASE Vice-Dean Research.
  • After submission to OVPI, proposals will be adjudicated by an interdisciplinary committee chaired by the Associate Vice-President, International Partnerships
  • For more information consult the FAQ
  • To submit your application or for any questions please contact OVPI with the subject title “IDC”