Backgrounder


Canada Excellence Research Chairs Program

Launched in 2008 by the Government of Canada, the Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERC) Program supports Canadian universities in their efforts to build on Canada's growing reputation as a global leader in research and innovation. Awards are made in priority government science and technology areas, as well as in other areas demonstrated by institutions to be of benefit to Canada. 

CERC awards are among the most prestigious and generous available globally. This initiative awards Canadian institutions up to $10 million over seven years to support world-renowned researchers and their teams in undertaking ambitious research programs. Institutions must ensure that the CERC award is matched by contributions from other sources, bringing the total investment in support of each CERC to at least $20 million over seven years.

CERCs are selected through a rigorous, two-phase selection process. In Phase 1, Canadian universities compete for the opportunity to establish chairs at their institution. In Phase 2, shortlisted universities nominate world-leading researchers for available CERC positions. The final selection of chairholders is based upon in-depth review of applications to uphold the program’s focus on research excellence. Final funding decisions are made by a steering committee based on recommendations from expert panel(s).

The first cohort of Canada Excellence Research Chairs was announced in May 2010. In June 2011, the Government of Canada announced new investments in the program to support the creation of 10 new CERCs.

There are currently 27 chairholders at 17 universities across the country.

Here are examples of current Canada Excellence Research Chairs and their groundbreaking work.

  • Luda Diatchenko—Canada Excellence Research Chair in Human Pain Genetics at McGill University—is helping Canadians cope with chronic pain. She is developing personalized treatments by identifying the critical genetic mechanisms at the roots of pain.
  • Michael Houghton—Canada Excellence Research Chair in Virology at the University of Alberta—is creating a vaccine against the hepatitis C virus (a virus he discovered and cloned). His work is already being touted as being worthy of a Nobel Prize.
  • Adrian Owen—Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging at Western University—has developed a system to communicate with some people in vegetative states, transforming our understanding of what consciousness means.
  • Howard Wheater—Canada Excellence Research Chair in Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan—has set up the Global Institute for Water Security to help us understand how changing climate, land management practices, and development of natural resources affect our water supply, and how we can work to manage it sustainably.

The CERC program is a tri-agency initiative of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

More information on the CERC program and current chairholders is available on the CERC website (www.cerc.gc.ca).