Application Instructions


The Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERC) Phase 1 application consists of the following mandatory parts:

  1. CERC Phase 1 Application Form
  2. CERC Proposal (Attachment)
  3. Planned CERC Recruitment Strategy (Attachment)
  4. Biosketches (Attachment)
  5. Institutional Strategic Research Plan Summary (Attachment)
  6. Application Administrative Form
  7. Suggested Reviewers Form

These instructions provide details on preparing and submitting the above application components.

Phase 1 applications must be uploaded to the CERC application portal by 9 p.m. (eastern), May 17, 2017.

Reminder: To be eligible to apply, institutions must submit a registration form and an initial list of potential reviewers, using the suggested reviewers form, to the Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat (TIPS) by February 1, 2017.

If you have questions on the application process, please send an email to information@cerc.gc.ca.

Presentation Guidelines

  • Combine the Application Form and its four attachments listed above, and submit as one integrated, searchable PDF (not a scanned image).
  • Any extra pages or material other than what is requested will be removed. Either single or double column presentation of text, graphs or illustrations is acceptable.
  • Applicants are encouraged to include tables, charts, graphs, illustrations and references to help summarize information, but these will count as part of the page limits.
  • The institution’s name must appear at the top of each page and all pages should be numbered.
  • Use 12-point Times New Roman font or larger.
  • Paper must be 8 ½” x 11” (22 cm x 28 cm) and margins must be at least ¾” (1.9 cm) around.

Part 1: CERC Phase 1 Application Form

Complete each of the required fields (grey box) in the Application Form.

Research discipline(s) and keywords for the proposed Canada Excellence Research Chair

Provide the most appropriate primary and secondary discipline codes from the CERC Program Discipline Codes table (PDF, 34KB) and up to 10 keywords that describe the proposal.

Research Chair Proposal Summary

Provide a 300-word summary, written in lay language, describing the importance and appropriateness of the proposed CERC. This summary will be used in the application adjudication process, and for promotional and communications purposes.

Priority research area(s) of proposed CERC

Identify one primary priority research area and/or sub-area, and as many secondary priority research areas and/or sub-areas that are applicable.

Proposed Use of Funds

Provide estimates on how CERC and institutional / other funds will be used (total over seven years of award) according to the line items. Actual expenditures may deviate from planned expenditures as long as program guidelines on the use of CERC funds are respected. This information is requested for evaluation purposes, as well as for program administrative and accountability purposes.

For funding requested from the CERC program, a list of eligible and ineligible expenses can be found in the Chairs Administration Guide under “Use of Award Funds.”  Please also note that an amount of up to 25 per cent of the direct costs of research may be used to pay for indirect costs. The salary, benefits, and recruitment costs for the chairholder are not included in the calculation of direct and indirect costs. Refer to Indirect Costs in the guide for more details.

For funding from the institution and other sources, only secured funds (cash or in-kind) can be included in the table. Refer to Value and Duration for more information on matching funds.

Leveraging by Sector

For each sector listed (as applicable), provide the amount of matching funds (cash and in-kind) secured to support the CERC.

Existing Strengths and CERC Targets

For each of the summary tables (faculty and trainees), provide data for the existing / historical performance indicators and identify targets for the mid-term and end of the CERC award. Discuss and contextualize the information provided in these tables within the appropriate sections of the application attachments.


Part 2: CERC Proposal (Attachment)

Describe your institution’s plans to establish a chair by submitting a detailed description based on the selection criteria (12 pages maximum). Information must be provided under the headings and sub-headings outlined below, addressing the selection criteria and any other relevant information. The information presented in each section will be assessed using the following rating scale:

  • Exceeds
  • Fully Satisfies
  • Mostly Satisfies
  • Partially Satisfies
  • Does Not Satisfy

Criterion 1: The institution’s research strengths in the proposed field, assessed against global standards of excellence

Heading 1: Current Position and Existing Strengths/Capacity

Describe the institution’s existing strengths/capacity, international position and reputation in the area of the proposed CERC. The following elements should be addressed:

Sub-Headings:

1. Level of Excellence of the Existing Research

Demonstrate that the existing research capacity in the area of the proposed CERC is world-leading, as evidenced by the institution’s degree of commitment to foster and enhance the proposed area over time and how the proposed CERC fits within confirmed strategic priorities of the institution (i.e., Institutional Strategic Research Plan). For example:

  • institutional investments in the research area over the past five years, such as the trend in the number of current faculty positions, Canada Excellence Research Chairs, Canada Research Chairs, prestigious industrial and endowed chairs and other similar positions devoted to this research area. Avoid subjective information (e.g., “have hired aggressively in this area”) and provide concrete data and comparison data to demonstrate the extent to which excellence in this area has been developed as a clear priority; and
  • internal research support from the institution (in particular, competitively allocated and externally reviewed).
    Describe how your institution’s level of research excellence in this area compares to others on a global scale, particularly the best in the field, and your institution’s unique advantages and complementary strengths.

2. Existing Faculty Research Strength

Outline the strengths of the institution’s faculty in the proposed area, including (for example):

  • key researchers involved in the research area. Identify their most important research contributions and any highly prestigious international prizes/awards;
  • significant research issues in this area where researchers at your institution have provided insights, contributions and advances in the last five years, situating your comments in a global context;
  • current involvement in major national and international collaborations in this research area, including role of key researchers and institutions; and
  • evidence of international leadership in the area, using indicators such as comparative citation data on institutional publications in the research area where bibliometrics are appropriate (not all research areas) and/or patents (in particular those that are being used), creation of novel products and processes, spin-off companies, etc.

Describe the strength of the faculty as a whole in the area of the proposed CERC, and not just the strength of individual, key researchers. Provide aggregate (e.g., department-wide) and multi-individual bibliometric data (for example, science watch ranking of an institution in a given field).

Note: This section should complement the biosketches provided. It should not duplicate information.

3. Quality of the Institution’s Relevant Research Facilities

Indicate the quality of the institution’s relevant research facilities, as evidenced by, for example:

  • institutional investment in the research facilities related to this area over the past five years (e.g., investments in space, infrastructure, labs, libraries, databases, data repositories, etc.; overhead; special administrative support);
  • recruitment of researchers and trainees that is based primarily on access to these facilities;
  • quality and suitability of current relevant research facilities (unique, leading-edge);
  • use by researchers from other national and international research groups; and
  • competitive / peer-reviewed allocation of access to these facilities.

4. Quality of the Opportunities and Environments for Research Training

Indicate the quality of the opportunities and environment for research training as evidenced by the following, for example:

  • institutional investments in training in the research area of the proposed CERC over the past five years, such as new graduate and undergraduate programs and courses, and innovative initiatives for enriched training environments (e.g., multidisciplinary, technician training, etc.);
  • mobility and hosting of trainees to experience other research groups (public and private) and facilities (national, international and remote access where applicable). To be cited, these initiatives should extend beyond cultural exchanges, study abroad or standard co-op placements. They should involve high value-added training that set trainees apart in their area (joint degrees, integrated modules of curriculum with partners, summer/winter graduate schools, unique facilities and know-how and joint supervision with world-leading groups, etc.);
  • in addition to the data on research trainees enrolled and graduated per annum for five years in the research area, provide information on highly prestigious student scholarships and awards offered by the institution or held by trainees recruited to the institution; and
  • data on placement of graduates (including employment) and recruitment of trainees both to and from other world-leading research centres and groups (public and private).

Criterion 2: The promise of the proposed field of research for the Chair, measured in the context of leading global research in the proposed field, and the likelihood that the work associated with the proposed Chair will be recognized as globally relevant and will advance the frontiers of research in the field globally

Heading 2: Future Potential and Impact

Describe the high-level research initiative for the proposed CERC over the duration of the award, addressing the elements described below, and others as appropriate.

Sub-Headings:

1. Originality of the Proposed Research and Potential for Impact on a Global Scale

Outline the future research directions that will be enabled by the recruitment of a CERC to your institution, including:

  • originality of the research directions for the CERC and how this CERC has the prospect of leading transformative or paradigm shifting research activities and results; and
  • how the recruitment of a CERC in this particular research field is critical and timely for the development of Canadian research in this area, in the context of international knowledge and activity.

Identify, as much as possible, the measurable research outcomes and impacts on which you would report at the mid-term and after the initial seven years of the Chair, other than those already provided within the summary tables found in the application form.

2. Potential for the CERC to Demonstrate Global Research Leadership in the Proposed Area

Describe the specific institutional expectations that will accompany the CERC’s appointment, including:

  • the CERC’s role in the institution, group, and/or centre in relation to existing faculty;
  • the CERC’s role nationally and internationally;
  • the CERC’s expectations in training graduate students (consider competencies and demand for highly qualified personnel (HQP) in this research field);
  • how the institution will enable connections with users of the research outputs and outcomes;
  • the space, infrastructure, research facilities and other support that the institution will provide; and
  • how your institution will seek to position itself in a stronger leadership position in this research area (within a time horizon of five to seven years).

3. Equity Plan

Include an equity plan that:

  • outlines how the career and training benefits derived from the opportunities of the CERC initiative will be made available to designated groups (women, members of visible minorities, Aboriginal Peoples and persons with disabilities);
  • includes performance measures with indicators, targets, and a monitoring and course-correction process; and
  • describes to what extent the institution is meeting its institutional equity targets for the Canada Research Chairs Program (if the institution is not meeting its targets, plans for course-correction should be described).

Criterion 3: The extent to which the proposal fits in one or more of the priority areas identified and/or addresses other issues of benefit to Canada

Heading 3: Alignment of the Proposed Initiative with the CERC Priority Research Areas

  • Describe how the proposed CERC aligns with the program’s priority research areas;
  • describe the extent to which the proposed CERC aligns with provincial and territorial priorities; and
  • explain what other Canadian groups and organizations (all sectors) are active in this research area, the focus of those activities and how your institutional initiative will relate to those activities.

If the research area does not align with one of the priority areas identified, a case should be made for the strategic importance of the proposed area of research for Canada.

Heading 4: Benefits to Canada

  • Explain how the proposed CERC will, as appropriate:
    • improve Canada’s social, cultural and economic prosperity and resilience;
    • improve the health and quality of life of Canadians; and
    • result in economic advantages (e.g., the extent of: knowledge transfer to the marketplace, a culture of innovation being developed in business, wealth generation from commercialization, etc.);
  • describe how the CERC will improve Canada’s position and influence in the world;
  • indicate how the CERC will improve Canada’s research capacity (e.g., the extent to which a critical mass would be built in the area, the competitive advantage that would be developed, how Canada’s reputation as a magnet for talent and centre of research excellence would be strengthened); and
  • other benefits to Canada.

Criterion 4: The ability of the institution to sustain the research advantage created by the proposed Chair after the seven-year term of the Chair expires

Heading 5: Sustainability

The CERC program is one of the most prestigious and generous research awards in the world. It creates exceptional opportunities for Canadian universities to build expertise in fields of strength, innovation and relevance to Canada, and has helped to position Canada as an international leader and destination of choice for research. Given the one-time only nature of CERC awards, ongoing sustainability of the research program is highly important. An integral part of the competition process is the requirement that institutions elaborate on plans to sustain the research advantage created by the CERC after the seven-year term of the Chair expires.

For the purposes of the CERC program, the sustainability of the research advantage is understood as the maintenance of a critical mass of researchers that continue to advance research and build on the CERC’s legacy, taking advantage of the momentum built during the CERC award and contributing to the institution’s international reputation. It is expected that this will be reflected in the number of faculty, students and postdoctoral fellows in the CERC’s area, as well as the quantity and quality of publications by faculty in the area.

Prepare a sustainability plan that identifies the level of funding and key elements that are required to sustain the research advantage that will be gained through the CERC. The plan should include any targets for growth and long-term funding prospects, and provide firm financial commitments (salaries, infrastructure, etc.) where possible. As appropriate, the plan should also include a discussion on how the following elements will be addressed near the end of the seven-year award:

  • ability to maintain state-of-the-art infrastructure, equipment and research spaces;
  • retain a critical mass of outstanding tenured and non-tenured key researchers, HQP, and highly skilled professionals, including plans for continued salary support for positions created as part of the CERC team;
  • ability to retain the chairholder at the institution and plans to support the chairholder’s salary; and
  • ability to maintain the programs of research and projects led by the chairholder and core team (i.e., plans for continued support of the direct costs of research related to the CERC).

Criterion 5: The ability of the institution to leverage additional resources

Heading 6: Leverage

Outline the institutional plans to leverage matching and additional resources, cash or in-kind, during and after the tenure of the CERC. Together with the CERC program, additional resources leveraged will enable the institution to adequately support the direct and indirect costs associated with a world-class program of research. Provide evidence that the CERC and the associated team will have the appropriate resources to enable a leading-edge program of research.

Support your plan with the following information, as appropriate:

1. Past success in leveraging funds for the institution as a whole and in the research area of the proposed CERC, including:

  • externally sponsored research over the past five years;
  • external partner funding for the capital costs of relevant CFI projects acquired over the past five years; and
  • endowed chairs and centres at your institution.

2. Prospective leverage in the proposed CERC’s research area, including:

  • key partners and collaborators who have committed to supporting the program of research;
  • federal (e.g., tri-agency and CFI) and non-federal funding sources and programs that will be accessed to build and strengthen the overall program of research (note: tri-agency and CFI funds do not count toward the required matching funding);
  • other funding sources; and
  • overall expectations of leveraged funding for the CERC.

Note: In the context of the CERC program, collaborations and partnerships are defined as follows:

  • A collaborator is an individual (from academia or from other sectors) who plays an active role in the CERC core team’s research and research-related activities.
  • Partnership refers to the involvement of an external organization (i.e., partners are government, industry, associations, not-for-profit or other institutions) that have contributed or committed in-kind or cash contributions to support the CERC core team’s activities.

Criterion 6: The potential to apply the research results from the Chair to advance public policy and/or the potential to commercialize research discoveries from the Chair

Heading 7: Potential for the Research Results to Foster Innovation

  • Provide information on the knowledge mobilization strategy—including plans for innovation and commercialization, expected contributions to public policy, etc.—to create or build on commercial endeavours, advance public policy or otherwise mobilize research discoveries;
  • outline how benefits will be realized, and provide information on the institution’s track record. Provide the following information:
    • describe the plans to engage with knowledge users at all stages of the research, from formulation of research questions to design of research projects to transfer of results;
    • identify the key receptors (firms, not-for-profits and governments) of the innovations and insights resulting from the research, and describe existing institutional partnerships and linkages with these receptors;
    • identify current challenges and barriers to, as well as opportunities for, enhancing the impact and use of research findings in the area. Please comment on factors specific to the area, to this institution and its major partners. Discuss the institution’s plans to mitigate these challenges, overcome these barriers and seize these opportunities; and
    • provide information on your institution’s track record in knowledge translation, knowledge mobilization and/or technology transfer in the research area. Describe the structures and policies that exist to facilitate knowledge translation, knowledge mobilization and/or technology transfer to external receptors. Outline the institution’s intellectual property policy, and its application in this area.

Note: In the context of the CERC program, knowledge / research users refer to individuals or organizations t who are using the CERC core team’s innovations and knowledge, and do not have an active role in the team’s research activities.


Part 3: Planned CERC Recruitment Strategy (Attachment)

Describe your institution’s strategies to ensure the breadth and diversity of the pool of qualified candidates that will be approached and considered (three pages maximum). Information must be provided under the headings outlined below.

As a resource, refer to Recruitment Best Practices (PDF, 211KB).

Heading 1: Proposed Strategy

At a minimum, ensure that your recruitment strategy addresses the following:

  • the inclusiveness and comprehensiveness of the candidate search;
  • the proactive measures taken to attract and encourage a broad and diverse pool of potential candidates to participate;
  • the strategies implemented to engage researchers at a wide range of career stages;
  • the plan to ensure a diverse pool of candidates are considered; and
  • the objectivity and transparency of the recruitment and hiring process.

Heading 2: Environmental Scan

An environmental scan and comparative data (when available) for faculty representation of the designated groups (women, members of visible minorities, Aboriginal Peoples and persons with disabilities) should be provided for the proposed area of the CERC at the institution, the institution as a whole, and the research area targeted by the CERC.


Part 4: Biosketches (Attachment)

You can include up to 10 biosketches with the CERC proposal to assist adjudicators with assessing the existing institutional strengths in the proposed area of the CERC. The biosketches represent individuals at the institution already involved with research related to the proposed CERC program, who may participate on the CERC core team. These individuals can be faculty members, trainees, technicians and/or research personnel.

Complete each of the required fields (grey box) in the Biosketch Template provided.

  • Each biosketch is a maximum of two pages. These do not count in the proposal page limit.
  • The biosketch should include the following information, as relevant to the proposal:
    • Key individual’s name
    • Education/training: Include only current and/or completed degree programs.
    • Employment/affiliations: List your current, primary position / appointment, and other academic and professional work experience, including administrative appointments.
    • Research funding: List sources of support currently held or applied for in the past four (4) years.
    • Most significant contributions (up to five): List your most significant contributions to research and/or practical applications over the last five (5) years. You can also include contributions from more than five (5) years ago for which the impact is being felt now. For each, briefly describe the significance in terms of influence on the target community, use by other researchers or end users. For collaborative contributions, briefly describe your role.

Please also include a cover page/index that briefly summarizes the following for each attached biosketch: the individual’s name, title, expertise and their potential involvement in the proposed CERC program (for example, "research collaborator in regard to X topic" or "expert on experimental procedures at Y facility”.


Part 5: Institutional Strategic Research Plan Summary (Attachment)

Please provide an up-to-date copy of the Institutional Strategic Research Plan Summary. This attachment does not have a page limit but should be submitted in its current form without any modifications.


Part 6: Application Administrative Form

Complete each of the required fields (grey box) in the Application Administrative Form.

The institution contact person should be a senior institutional representative who will be the main point of contact with CERC program staff and TIPS regarding the application.

The institution’s president, rector or principal or authorized representative must sign page 2 of this form. Include a scanned PDF copy of the completed and signed page with the application. The signed hardcopy should follow by mail.


Part 7: Suggested Reviewers

The institution must suggest at least five potential reviewers for this application by completing the Suggested Reviewers Form. Reviewers should be able to evaluate the nomination in the language in which it is written. The reviewers cannot:

  • be a faculty member at a Canadian institution (excluding adjunct professors);
  • be affiliated with the applicant institution (including hospitals and research institutes) or with an organization receiving financial support from the institution;
  • have held a position at the applicant institution in the last five years;
  • be involved in the proposed program of research;
  • be a potential nominee for this CERC; or
  • benefit from the outcome.

To request that TIPS not invite an individual/individuals to review a Chair application, send an email to information@cerc.gc.ca with a clear subject line referencing the application.

TIPS reserves the right to make the final selection of reviewers for any application and may opt not to use any of the suggested reviewers.