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. This initiative awards Canadian institutions up to $10 million over seven years (non-renewable) to support world-renowned researchers and their teams in undertaking ambitious research programs. CERC awards are among the most prestigious and generous available globally.

CERCs are selected through a highly competitive and rigorous two-stage 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 peer review of applications to uphold the program’s focus on research excellence, followed by strategic review and recommendations by an independent selection board, with final decisions made by a tri-agency steering committee.

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. Institutions must ensure that the $10 million 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. These new CERCs are being awarded in the priority areas of the federal government’s science, technology and innovation strategy, as well as in other fields of research that institutions have demonstrated to be of strategic benefit to Canada.

The holder of the first of these chairs, Dr. Luda Diatchenko, CERC in Human Pain Genetics at McGill University, was announced in September 2013.

With the current announcement, Erik Snowberg, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Data-Intensive Methods in Economics at The University of British Columbia, becomes the 26th Canada Excellence Research Chair holder.

Here are examples of current Canada Excellence Research Chairs and their ground-breaking work.

  • Jennifer Hoffman—Canada Excellence Research Chair in Quantum Materials and Devices Based on Oxide Heterostructures at The University of British Columbia—is combining atomically precise synthesis and imaging techniques to develop new superconductors, with the ultimate aim of conducting electricity without power loss in room temperature applications.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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). It is administered by the Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat, which is housed within SSHRC.

More information on the CERC program and current chairholders is available on the CERC website.