Government of Canada announces new competition for 11 Canada Excellence Research Chairs

New competition will promote more women and underrepresented groups in the CERC program

October 12, 2016—Calgary, Alberta—Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat

The Government of Canada values the role scientists play in building a clean, innovative economy and supporting a strong middle class. The government also believes that equity and excellence in the sciences are not mutually exclusive. When all people, regardless of gender, race, age and ability are welcomed into the lab they can work together to create breakthroughs that will help Canada seize new opportunities and respond to grand, global challenges.

To further this inclusive approach to science, the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, announced the launch of a new competition for 11 Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERCs) today at the University of Calgary.

Established in 2008, the CERC program awards universities up to $10 million over seven years to support world‑class researchers so they can establish dynamic research programs. However, only one of the 27 CERCs is a woman. To address this imbalance, the Minister announced the new competition will require institutions to include detailed equity plans and recruitment strategies that promote the participation of women and other underrepresented groups in the CERC program.    

In addition to equity requirements, new chairs will also be awarded in priority areas; at least two chairs will be in fields related to clean and sustainable technologies, at least one chair will be designated for business sector innovation, and up to three chairs will be marked for open areas of inquiry that will benefit Canadians.

Among those that currently hold a chair are researchers such as Michael Houghton (University of Alberta), who identified and cloned the hepatitis C virus; David Cory (University of Waterloo), who is engineering the tools needed to navigate, control and exploit the quantum world; and Luda Diatchenko (McGill University), an internationally renowned specialist in personalized relief for pain.

For more details of the new CERC competition, deadlines for applications and a full list of priority areas, please visit


“I applaud the incredible research efforts of the distinguished scientists who currently hold CERC positions at some of Canada’s most renowned universities. With the support of their outstanding teams, the Canada Excellence Research Chairs have made remarkable advances that have yielded tangible results in areas ranging from climate change to medical research. I look forward to welcoming the next 11 research chairs and encourage institutions to consider the ways they can help increase equity and diversity within this prestigious program. Science, after all, is everybody’s business.”

The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science

“Canada Excellence Research Chairs are some of the best researchers in the world. Not only does their presence on Canada’s campuses significantly strengthen our country’s research capacity, their leadership, insight and mentorship helps train the next generation of Canadian researchers. This new competition will help ensure that this tradition of excellence continues well into the next decade.”

Ted Hewitt, President, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and Chair, Canada Excellence Research Chairs Program Steering Committee

“The CERC program is one of Canada’s great success stories. These inspirational research leaders have put Canada on the map and given our universities access to networks of elite researchers around the world. We can also strengthen these connections by fostering greater diversity in our research communities so they better reflect our country and our world.”

B. Mario Pinto, President, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council

“The CERC program has led to transformative advances in health research and has tremendous impact in all areas of science by allowing Canadian academic institutions to attract and retain the very best scientific minds. By building Canada’s capacity for world-class research, we are continuing to advance the scientific agenda in ways that benefit all Canadians.”

Alain Beaudet, President, Canadian Institutes of Health Research

“The Canada Excellence Research Chairs Program attracts the best researchers from around the world. The chairs energize Canadian universities with their ambitious fields of inquiry. In addition, they have a structuring quality, as well as a positive impact in our communities. Clearly, the chairs have begun to consolidate Canada’s scientific reputation and innovation leadership by complementing and reinforcing Canada’s research framework.”

Guy Breton, Recteur, Université de Montréal, and Chair, U15

“The CERC program has made it possible for our university to move quickly to strengthen our dynamic research programs that are fuelling Canada’s energy leadership. Since arriving in Canada in 2014, our Canada Excellence Research Chair, Dr. Steven Bryant, has begun applying his innovative research to the problem of lowering the resource intensity of Canada’s unconventional oil and gas reserves while attracting students, partners and collaborators from around the world.”

Elizabeth Cannon, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Calgary


  • There are currently 27 chairholders at 17 universities throughout Canada.

Additional Links

Backgrounder on the Canada Excellence Research Chairs Program

More about the Canada Excellence Research Chairs Program

Frequently Asked Questions

Application and Nomination Process


Véronique Perron
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Science
Tel.: 343-291-2600

Michael Adams
Communications Advisor
Canada Excellence Research Chairs Program
Tel.: 613-944-1758
Cell: 613-219-7523