Frequently Asked Questions


1. What is a Challenge?

A challenge is an incentive-based approach that offers a reward to the first or best solution to a specific problem, based on a set of pre-determined criteria. In a staged approach, they can use structured, open competitions to solicit proposals and provide funding for idea and prototype development, before selecting the final prize recipient.

Challenges have been helping to solve complex problems for hundreds of years, and have led to innovations in a wide range of industries, including food, agriculture, aviation, space travel, environment, and health.

2. What is drug checking?

Drug checking is a harm reduction measure where people have their illegal drugs tested to find out what is in them (and in what quantity if possible), including if they contain toxic contaminants or unexpected and potent substances, like fentanyl.

3. What is the purpose of this Challenge?

This Challenge would seek to develop a new technology, or improve upon an existing technology, for drug checking. The aim is to allow the community of people who use drugs and those who support them to make more informed decisions based on the composition of a drug sample. The Challenge will fund the most accurate, easy to use, and low-cost solutions, that require minimal training and sample preparation.

Current drug checking technologies come in different forms, with varying levels of accuracy, sensitivity and specificity. The most accessible testing methods are not always accurate, and the most accurate methods can be large, expensive, and require specialized training in order to perform the tests and interpret results correctly.

4. Why are we launching this Challenge?

The Government of Canada is looking to use all available tools, including exploring innovative ways to address the opioid crisis. This Challenge will explore how opioid detection and drug checking technologies could be improved for use as harm reduction tools. Although there are several different types of products and equipment currently being used, none appear ideal for people who use drugs and those who support them.

5. Who is eligible to apply to the Challenge?

Eligible entities include for-profit and not-for-profit organizations such as companies, industry associations and research associations, as well as post-secondary institutions. Canadian Federal Government Departments and any legal entity that would receive Substance Use and Addiction Program (SUAP) funding in excess of $15 million per fiscal year after being awarded the Challenge prize amounts are not eligible to apply.

6. I am an international organization, can I apply to the Challenge?

International applicants will have to be incorporated in Canada in order to be awarded the prize funding and will need to be able to operate in Canada for the pilot phase. The outcomes/results of the contribution funding will need to be of benefit to Canadians. Preference may be given to Canadian entities.

7. Can applicants with projects currently receiving funding from other government sources apply to the Challenge?

Yes, funding can be obtained from different government sources as long as you are not seeking to cover the same project costs multiple times.

The total government sources of funding for a single project may not exceed the total project costs. For this reason, applicants are required to disclose in their application any additional funds received.

8. Can a single applicant submit multiple applications?

Yes. A single applicant can apply to the Challenge to develop different projects. However, only one project per applicant may be selected. Multiple applications should not be submitted for the same project. If you have a technical issue and need to update a previously submitted application, please contact us.

9. How do I apply?

Applications are only accepted online.

10. If I apply, how will the information I submit be used?

The use and distribution of data collected under this Challenge will comply with both the Privacy Act and the Access to Information Act. Pursuant to the Privacy Act, Health Canada will keep confidential any personal information it may collect and will not disclose or transmit said information without the applicant’s written consent.

Pursuant to the Access to Information Act, Health Canada will protect from disclosure any information of a financial, commercial, scientific or technical nature it collects from applicants so long as the applicants treat said information as confidential in their own establishments. If the applicant chooses to send the proposal or other confidential information to Health Canada electronically, Health Canada will respond to the proposal by e-mail.

Information from your application will also be shared Statistic Canada and Privy Council Office for program evaluation purposes. Applicants to the Challenge will also have the option of allowing Health Canada to share submitted information for the purposes of the Challenge with other organizations who provide funding and support for innovation, such as other Government of Canada departments and initiatives; provincial, territorial or municipal governments; and not-for-profit organizations. Consent will be requested at a later date.

11. Do I need an exemption from the provisions of the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act to work with controlled substances, such as fentanyl and other opioids?

In Canada, the unauthorized possession of controlled substances is prohibited under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). Authorizations may be obtained from the Office of Controlled Substances at Health Canada. For information on how to apply for a research exemption, please contact and include the information that your application is to support your participation in the Drug Checking Technology Challenge. In other countries, please consult the applicable drug laws.

12. How can I obtain samples of controlled substances for testing a prototype of a drug checking technology?

For early stage prototype development, a laboratory testing environment is likely to be suitable for product testing. Reference standards of controlled substances can be purchased from commercial suppliers for this purpose.

For later stages of prototype challenge testing, you may wish to acquire samples that are representative of the illegal drug market. This could be accomplished through partnerships with law enforcement, with drug testing laboratories, or with supervised consumption sites or overdose prevention sites that are authorized by Health Canada to conduct drug checking activities on site. If you are unable to obtain a testing panel to further product development, contact us and we will assist with making connections.

13. What are supervised consumption sites and overdose prevention sites?

A detailed description of supervised consumption sites and overdose prevention sites can be found at:

14. Is there a screening process to ensure that the technology is not infringing on other patented technology?

It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure projects do not infringe on patented technologies.

15. Are technologies developed through the Challenge expected to achieve commercialization?

Commercialization is not required by the end of the Challenge. However, the selection committee will consider a project’s potential for future scale-up as a part of the award selection process.

16. Are projects evaluated on an ongoing basis?

The assessment of projects by a selection panel, according to the judging criteria, will begin once the application deadline has closed. Applications will be administratively checked for completeness, but will not be reviewed against the judging criteria prior to the deadline.

17. What do you mean by an illegal drug?

For the purpose of this challenge, an illegal drug is a controlled substance that is produced, sold, provided, or imported in a way that is not authorized as per the under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). A controlled substance means a substance included in Schedule I, II, III, IV or V; (as per the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act).

If I have other questions, who can I contact?

If you have additional questions, please contact us.