For Interns: Getting started

 

Step 1: Finding a partner company

Here are suggestions as to how to go about finding a partner company to support your research project:

Ask your Academic supervisor

Your Academic supervisor may already have connections within industry or completed a Mitacs research project in the past. (S)he might be able to point you in the right direction and recommend you to some companies willing to support your project.

If you are a graduate student, members of your thesis advisory committee might also have some contact with industry.

Contact your Career Services Office or co-operative department

Your Career Services Office and Co-op department are constantly in contact with companies interested in hiring students or offering internships. They usually have a list you can consult and might be able to guide you in your search. They should also be able to advice as to how to go about approaching a company.

If you have undertaken a co-op placement in the past with a company they might be interested in working with you again.

Alumni Office

Depending on your University, the Alumni Office can be a good place to look for support. Former students can activate their network to help you find a company or even offer you to complete your internship in their own company.

Check the opportunities listed on our website

Due to the large number of potential interns seeking industrial partners Mitacs cannot offer individualized matching to a particular company. However, Mitacs works to connect industry with the most appropriate university expertise to solve challenges identified by the company.  To view projects Mitacs is in the process of matching and see if the project suits your area of expertise, please click here.  

Target potential companies

Identify which companies might be interested in your project and contact them directly. When contacting a company start off by asking what some of their key problems are, focus on those that are related to your research and then explain (and it is important that you avoid too many technical terms) your research project and the benefits it could bring to their company. As well, some of the following points may be of interest to potential companies:

  • They might be able to earn valuable government research tax credits through the federal Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) program.
  • It is a great way for them to expand the company’s R&D environment for a nominal investment of $7,500.

Network

Sometimes it can be challenging to find a partner company on your own. Talk around with your friends, family, former co-workers or employers and see if they can introduce you to a company willing to support your project. You can also use popular networking websites to increase your chances of being referred. If you wish to improve your networking and communications skills to help you meet companies and to promote your research expertise to them you might wish to attend a Mitacs Step workshop. For more information of workshops in your area click here

 

Step 2: Writing your Mitacs Accelerate internship Proposal 

A few things to consider before you begin your application

Who is the audience?

Your proposal is going to be reviewed by one or more experts in your field, such as a professor at a different university.  While they may not be doing work in exactly the same area as you, they will be chosen to review your proposal because they are well qualified to make a judgment on the quality of the proposed research project.  Therefore, you want to give as much detail as possible in the first two sections of your proposal to adequately convey to the reviewer(s) that you have thought about this project and that you have the knowledge to carry it out. If your proposal is either misunderstood or misinterpreted, this is a clear sign it is poorly written. As the grant writer, it is your task to clearly make the case for the value and feasibility of the study.

What type of proposal is this?

This is a research proposal.  Before beginning to write this application make sure you clearly know what your research question is.  This isn’t a consulting proposal.  You are not simply helping your industry/organization partner to achieve a task.  You are looking to expand the knowledge base in an area which is relevant to both your industry/organizational partner and the academic community.

How long should my proposal be?

The answer depends on how many internships you are applying for.  For example, a proposal for a single, 4-month internship will be shorter than a proposal for a double, 8 month internship.  General page limits are given in each individual section based on single spaced text.

What is the format and style of the proposal?

Think about this proposal the way you would think about writing a scientific/academic paper or journal article.  The type of information, including citations and a reference list, that is appropriate in these types of papers is also appropriate to include in this application. Keep your statements concise, clear and orderly. Abbreviations should be explained the first time they are presented, and jargon should be avoided as much as possible. Improper spelling, poor grammar and punctuation will appear unprofessional and sloppy. Don’t rely solely on spell-check for proof-reading to avoid these pitfalls.

 

Writing your application

Section 1:  Background information

The background information sets the stage for your project. Describe the nature of the problem to be addressed and why it is important.  This section must contain references to past work on the subject you’re investigating, as well as any holes or gaps in the research – in particular, it should identify the gap(s) that you plan to address in your internship. References to academic journals and texts should be cited in the text in whatever style is typical in your field and listed at the end of either section 1 or section 2. Only list references that are cited in the text of your proposal. 

Section 2:  Proposed research

This is the most important section of your application, as it enables the reviewer to evaluate the quality of the proposed research project.  This section needs to clearly describe your research question and the objectives of the project.  You must also describe the methods you will use to achieve the objectives of the project, including citations to previous research in your field as needed. Make a case for the suitability of the methods. If the methods are established, convince the reviewers that you are familiar with them. If the methods are innovative, explain how they will offer an improvement.

In this section you should describe the computational, field or laboratory techniques (as relevant to your discipline) that you will use in the implementation of your objectives, as well as any equipment, procedures, or participants. For example, you might describe the experimental set up, what variables will be measured (and over what possible ranges), how will data be sampled, and how these data will be analyzed. If you will be conducting surveys or interviews, you should explain how many participants you will target, how you will select or recruit them, the length of the survey or duration of interview session(s), the design of the survey/interview questions, how the data will be analyzed, etc.

Tips:

  • You must provide enough detail and relevant references to enable a scientific reviewer to evaluate the proposed methods and techniques.
  • Do not assume that reviewers will be familiar with all the terminology and current methodology. Avoid statements like “We will use standard techniques to measure the soil composition.” Give detailed information about how the samples will be collected, exactly what techniques will be used, and what measurements will be taken.
  • Your proposal should demonstrate that you
  • Have an up-to-date knowledge of your field
  • Understand the complexity of the subject and the methods you will apply
  • Be sure to clearly describe how you plan to analyze the data you collect. The reviewers will be looking for this information.
  • Acknowledge any potential difficulties you foresee and how you might address them. There is always an element of uncertainty in a research project. Show the reviewers that you’ve thought about the uncertainties in your project and have some ideas about how you will proceed.

Section 3:  Relevance to the partner organization

The partner organization is the company with whom you will be undertaking your internship.  Describe how this research project is relevant to this partner and what kind of benefit it will offer them. This may take the form of a new or improved product or service, new process, new information, etc. Ask your partner for information to include in this section.

Section 4:  Expected interaction with the partner organization

It is expected that for the duration of the internship you will be working on this project full time, or nearly full time.  If you have other commitments that will keep you from working on this project full time, it may be possible to do the internship part time over a slightly longer period of time. Please speak with your Business Development representative about how to organize this section appropriately.

It is expected that you will spend approximately 50% of your internship interacting with personnel from the partner organization, most likely at their site, or in the field, as appropriate to the project. The balance of the internship should be spent at the university. Variations from the 50% guideline are possible in certain cases, e.g., if a particular piece of equipment is only available at the university or at the partner site, you may spend more time at one location or the other. This should be justified in this section of the proposal; speak to your BD representative for more details about what is allowed.

In this section, state the number of hours or days per week, or the number of weeks full-time, that you will spend with the partner organization. Briefly describe the expertise that will be available at the partner site, and describe the types of activities you will undertake with the partner. Also describe the activities you will undertake at the university.

Section 5:  Research milestones and timeline

Provide estimated monthly, bi-weekly, or weekly milestones for your project.  This section can be organized by specific date or by month 1, month 2, etc.

Section 6:  Proposed budget

Each individual internship is valued at $15,000. For each individual internship, at least $10,000 must be listed as your stipend.  The balance of the funds can also be put towards your stipend or towards other research expenses such as travel costs, research costs, conference costs etc. Provide a list or table detailing these expenses, e.g., laptop, name/type of software to be purchased, specific travel expenses. For example:

Expense

$ Value

Stipend

$13,500

Computer Software

$1,000

Car rental

$500

Total budget

$15,000

Please speak with your professor and BD representative when preparing this section.

Section 7:  Relevance to other internships

This section only applies if you have done an internship yourself in the past or if someone else working on your project within your research group has done an internship with Mitacs in the past.  Please note the intern name and internship title in this section and explain in a sentence or two how the work being proposed for this internship relates to the previous one.

Section 14: Suggested arms-length reviewers

Provide the names and contact information for several people who would be qualified to review your proposal. Reviewers are typically faculty members, but can also be PhD-level scientists doing research in industry or government agencies. “Arms-length” means that they must be a different university, and that you and/or your supervisor must not have collaborated with them in the last 6 years.

Memorandum:  Overview

This section is a brief summary of your project. It should be written in plain language, as if you were explaining your project to a high school student. Avoid using acronyms and scientific jargon. Writing a good lay summary is a very important skill to have. Funding agencies may use the lay summary for press releases/annual reports and also to attract potential donors. Lay summaries must be simple and direct while giving the reader a reason to care. Explain why the research is significant to the general public (people who don’t do research for a living). Briefly explain the motivation for the project, the problem to be addressed, how you are planning to address it, and the anticipated impact to the partner. After you’ve written it, ask a non-scientist friend to review it.

 

Next Steps

  • Have your professor read your application and make suggestions for revisions.
  • Have your industry/organizational partner read your application and also make suggestions. 
  • Email your application to your BD representative for feedback, and consider any revisions they suggest. Please feel free to contact your BD representative earlier in this process if you would like some guidance on your proposal.
  • When instructed by your BD representative, collect all the required signatures at the end of the application template.  You may need to have your supervisor perform this part.
  • Email the final, electronic copy of your application to your BD representative. Send it in either PDF or Word format, and please use a file name with the following form: “supervisorlastname-studentlastname-partnerorganizationname.pdf”.
  • Send all the signatures via fax or email to your BD representative.

Frequently Asked accelerate Questions

I am a student with a project idea but no industry partner. Can Mitacs help me find a company?

Mitacs works to connect industry with the most appropriate university expertise to solve challenges identified by the company.  With the large number of potential interns seeking industrial partners, Mitacs cannot offer individualized matching to a particular researcher however, you can consult our suggestions as to how to go about finding a partner company.

Can I complete my full internship at the University and interact with the company virtually?

Normally interns are expected to spend at least 50% of their internship with the company at their site(s).  If your host company is in a remote location or there are other unique circumstances that challenge the interaction, you may request flexibility for a lower ratio of interaction with the company.  Please consult with your business development representative while writing your proposal.  

Can I hold both an Accelerate and a tri-council (or provincially) funded studentship or fellowship?

Although Mitacs does not have any restrictions, many other granting agencies do not allow fellowship and studentship recipients to hold certain grants concurrently.  Please check with the relevant council or agency for current information regarding your specific grant prior to applying.

Can I do an internship with a research lab, NGO, Municipality, or Government agency?

The vast majority of Mitacs Accelerate Internships are funded in part by the national IRDI program, which limits industrial partners to privately owned or incorporated for-profit Canadian companies.  In some regions, there may be additional funding from other sources to support a limited number of partnerships with not-for-profit or government  entities.  Please contact a Business Development representative in your region to determine if such funding is available.

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 The Mitacs-Accelerate internship program provided critical assistance toward my degree completion. To begin with, the due diligence of the Mitacs team inspired focus in my research. I believe being grounded in the business world, and the internship program not only enabled exposure to the limitations and complexity of live issues, it enabled further business contacts.

David Botta, Mitacs-Accelerate intern, SFU, with partner CrowdTrust Technologies Inc.

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