Canada Excellence Research Chairs play significant role in Canada First Research Excellence Fund initiatives

The recent announcement of the winners of CFREF has demonstrated the catalyzing effect CERCs are having in Canada’s universities.

On September 6, 2016, Minister Kirsty Duncan took the stage at the University of Waterloo’s Institute of Quantum Computing to announce the 13 winners of the second part of the inaugural Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) competition. In total, the Government of Canada awarded almost $1.25 billion over both parts of the competition to 18 initiatives.

Two things stand out about the winning CFREF initiatives: the sheer size of the awards and the number of CERCs involved.

The awards are designed to be game changers. Even so, the size of some of the awards is impressive. For example, in the first inaugural competition, the University of Toronto received $113,976,000 for its Medicine by Design initiative. And in the second inaugural competition, Dalhousie University was awarded $93,732,000 for the Safe and Sustainable Development of the Ocean Frontier initiative.

Of the 18 CFREF initiatives, 13 feature CERCs. What’s more, 20 of the 27 CERCs are directly involved.

Nowhere is this more noticeable than at Université Laval, where all four of its chairholders have joined for Sentinel North, a multidisciplinary initiative combining Arctic sciences, optics-photonics, and cardiometabolic and mental health.

“At first, it was a challenge to bring four extremely different research pillars into a single proposal,” says Marcel Babin, CERC in Remote Sensing of Canada’s New Arctic Frontier at the university and co-lead on the initiative. “But Laval has significant expertise in these areas and has developed a great capacity for international partnerships. Bringing them together has a multiplying effect on the benefits for northern communities.”

Among the other CERCs to lead CFREF initiatives are the following individuals.

  • Adrian Owen is heading up Western University’s BrainsCAN initiative, which was awarded $66 million to deliver evidence-based assessments and interventions for the diagnosis and treatment of brain disorders.
  • Howard Wheater will lead the University of Saskatchewan’s $77 million Global Water Futures: Solutions to Water Threats in an Era of Global Change initiative. The initiative aims to improve Canada’s national capability to predict the risks and severity of potentially catastrophic floods and droughts. It will operate out of the Global Institute for Water Security, which was set up through Wheater’s CERC position.
  • David Cory will lead the University of Waterloo’s Transformative Quantum Technologies, an initiative awarded $76 million that will integrate research in theoretical physics, computer science, experimental physics and device-engineering, to explore fundamental questions in quantum device design and control.

Below is the full list of CERCs participating in CFREF initiatives.

Name of CERC University where CERC is established Initiative

Marcel Babin

Université Laval

Sentinel North

Robert Boyd

University of Ottawa

Transformative Quantum Technologies

Steven Bryant

University of Calgary

Global Research Initiative in Sustainable Low Carbon Unconventional Resources

David Cory

University of Waterloo

Transformative Quantum Technologies

Vincenzo Di Marzo

Université Laval

Sentinel North

Luda Diatchenko

McGill University

Healthy Brains for Healthy Lives (HBHL)

Oliver Ernst

University of Toronto

Medicine By Design

Ian Gardner

University of Prince Edward Island

Safe and Sustainable Development of the Ocean Frontier

Gilles Gerbier

Queen’s University

Canadian Particle Astrophysics Research Centre

Leon Kochian

University of Saskatchewan

Designing Crops for Global Food Security

Andrea Lodi

Polytechnique Montréal

Data Serving Canadians: Deep Learning and Optimization for the Knowledge Revolution

Pierre Marquet

Université Laval

Sentinel North

Younès Messaddeq

Université Laval

Sentinel North

Adrian Owen

Western University


Graham Pearson

University of Alberta

Metal Earth

Bertrand Reulet

Université de Sherbrooke

From Quantum Science to Quantum Technologies

Fritz Roth

University of Toronto

Medicine By Design

Phillippe Van Cappellen

University of Waterloo

Global Water Futures

Doug Wallace

Dalhousie University

Ocean Frontier Institute

Howard Wheater

University of Saskatchewan

Global Water Futures

Learn more about the chairholders and the CFREF competition results.