Application and Nomination Process

Forms and Application Instructions
Value and Duration
Institution Application Limits
Review Process and Selection Criteria
Equity and Diversity Practices
Allocation of Chairs
Contact Information


The Canada Excellence Research Chairs Program offers eligible Canadian degree-granting institutions the opportunity to establish highly funded research chairs in research areas that are of strategic importance to Canada.

The objectives of the program are to:

  • strengthen Canada’s ability to attract the world’s top researchers in order to be at the leading edge of breakthroughs in priority research areas expected to generate social and economic benefits for Canadians;
  • help Canada build a critical mass of expertise in priority areas identified by the government;
  • create a competitive environment to help Canadian institutions attract a cadre of world-leading researchers in their pursuit of excellence in their research; and
  • contribute to the branding of Canada as a location of choice for world-leading research, science and technology development along with other federal programs with similar objectives.

The program is committed to equity and diversity, and to promoting access for all qualified candidates. Equity and diversity will be given strong consideration and emphasis in Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the competition, consistent with the government's expectations for a more gender-balanced and diverse set of CERC awardees.

The Canada Excellence Research Chairs are identified through a highly competitive two-stage process:

Phase 1: Each eligible institution is allowed to submit a limited number of applications. To register for Phase 1, institutions had to submit a registration form by February 1, 2017, informing the Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat of the number of Phase 1 applications they will submit. For each planned application, institutions also had to provide the following information:

  • the thematic research area (including secondary themes, as appropriate);
  • the priority research area with which the Chair will primarily align;
  • a list of keywords; and
  • an initial list of potential suggested reviewers using the Suggested Reviewers form.

In Phase 1, institutions compete for the opportunity to establish Chairs by submitting documentation that addresses the selection criteria described below. Only shortlisted applications are invited to Phase 2 of the competition.

Phase 2: Institutions that submitted successful Phase 1 applications are invited to nominate world-class researchers for the available Chair positions. Nominations must demonstrate excellence in the selection criteria, which focus on the world-class excellence of the nominee, the fit with the Phase 1 proposal and the expected outcomes of the proposed research.

All CERC recruitment and nomination processes at institutions must be transparent, open and equitable. In particular, these processes must include open advertising, with a statement of commitment to equity and diversity in the nomination process. Institutions are required to demonstrate exemplary recruitment and selection processes to ensure an inclusive and comprehensive candidate search and equitable selection process. The recruitment and outreach strategy of the nominating institution will be assessed in both phases of the competition at all levels of the review process.

Forms and Application Instructions

To be eligible to apply, institutions that submitted successful Phase 1 applications must first register by emailing by one of the registration deadlines. Institutions only need to register once. Each institution must indicate in its registration email to which application deadline it chooses to submit its nomination package.

Institutions must also upload a Suggested Reviewers Form to the CERC application portal when they register. Nomination packages must be uploaded to the CERC application portal by 9 p.m. (eastern) on one of the deadlines indicated below.

Refer to the Forms page for the list of mandatory documents to include in the nomination package.

For more information on how to fill out these forms, please refer to the Nomination Instructions.

Please note:

The information collected as part of this application will be used for evaluation, program administrative and accountability purposes. Budget information will be compared to financial information provided in subsequent annual reports.

Expert reviewers and the review panel will receive a copy of the Phase 1 application as part of the Phase 2 adjudication process. Information provided in the Phase 1 application does not need to be repeated in the Phase 2 nomination, but it can be referenced. The institution may update any pertinent information by including it in the Phase 2 application material.


Phase 1 registration: February 1, 2017 (closed)

Phase 1 application: May 17, 2017 (closed)

Phase 1 results announced: November 2017

Phase 2 registration and nomination deadlines (by invitation only):

  Application Intake #1 Application Intake #2 Application Intake #3 Application Intake #4
Deadlines for Registration and Suggested Reviewers Form January 30, 2018 April 13, 2018 October 5, 2018*

October 21, 2019*

Nomination Deadlines March 30, 2018 June 4, 2018 November 30, 2018

November 18, 2019

*Suggested Reviewers Form only; registration not needed.

Value and Duration

Canada Excellence Research Chairs awards are tenable for seven years and are not renewable. Chairs must be taken up on a full-time basis.

For each Chair awarded at the end of Phase 2 of the competition, the institution receives from the CERC program an amount up to $10 million over seven years, and must ensure 100 per cent in matching funds over the same period (excluding tri-agency and the Canada Foundation for Innovation funds). Institutions may request less than $10 million over the seven years.

Eligible matching funds

Matching funds must be new sources of support, either cash or in-kind, that are related to the Chair and do not represent the current state at the institution. The only exception to this is support received from the three federal granting agencies and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), which cannot be counted as matching funds. Support received from other Canadian government sources is eligible towards the matching funds requirement.

Matching funds are eligible to be counted as of when the institution receives notification of its CERC Phase 1 application result. This takes into consideration that the institution may wish to further build its strengths and capacity in the research area related to the CERC during the nomination phase, prior to the CERC being awarded. Matching funds counted prior to the CERC being awarded (after receipt of the Phase 1 application result) are expected to provide benefit(s) during the term of the CERC award.

It is important to ensure not only that the matching requirement is met, but that the budget is appropriate for the research proposed. While a budget will be submitted again with the Phase 2 nomination, it is expected that matching and leveraged funding in Phase 1 be firm commitments. Institutions will be asked to provide a rationale for any deviations between their Phase 1 and Phase 2 budgets. These will be examined throughout the review process and post award.

There is no limit placed on the amount of matching funds that can be used to support indirect costs of research.

Infrastructure support

As part of the Phase 2 review process, institutions may submit, at the same time as their CERC program nomination, a request for infrastructure support from the CFI. The CFI is an independent corporation established by the Government of Canada to strengthen national research capability through investments in research infrastructure in Canadian universities, colleges, hospitals and eligible not-for-profit organizations.

This request is a distinct funding request separate from the budget for the Chair. Through its John R. Evans Leaders Fund, the CFI will contribute 40 per cent of the total cost of the infrastructure project, and the institution and its partners are responsible for securing the remaining funding.

Institutions must submit the application for these infrastructure support requests directly to the CFI. Institutions must also inform their CFI liaison when they submit a nomination containing a CFI component.  The CFI will send the applications to the Secretariat so that it can submit them for external review. The Secretariat will then send the external reviews of the applications to the CFI for assessment.

The CFI's board of directors is responsible for the funding decisions related to the requests for infrastructure support for successful Chair nominations, including foreign nominations. Following its review process, the CFI will communicate the decisions directly to the institutions.


Eligibility of institutions

Canadian degree-granting institutions are eligible to participate in the CERC program only if they have received, annually, an average of $100,000 or more from the three federal granting agencies: the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

To be considered degree-granting, an institution must meet both of the following criteria:

  1. It must be authorized by a provincial or territorial government to grant its own university degrees. A postsecondary educational institution affiliated or federated with another degree-granting institution will be accorded its own independent eligibility if it receives its operating budget directly from the provincial government (ministry of education or higher education or equivalent) and has its own board of directors.
  2. It must have conferred degrees during the two calendar years prior to submitting applications to the CERC program, or have students enrolled who will receive degrees during the calendar year of application or within the three succeeding years. The institution must provide evidence of its authority to confer degrees and evidence that degrees were, or are expected to be, granted within the required time period.

Eligibility of nominees

Nominees must be full professors or associate professors who are expected to be promoted to the full professor level within one or two years of the nomination. Alternatively, if they come from outside the academic sector, nominees must possess the necessary qualifications to be appointed at these levels.

The program imposes no restrictions on nominees with regard to nationality or country of residence. Employment and Social Development Canada  and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada have established procedures to allow non-Canadian chairholders to work in Canada. Members of the Chair's team may also be eligible for an expedited work permit. For further information on the process, institutions should contact their local Temporary Foreign Worker Unit. The government of Quebec has established other procedures for foreign researchers taking up a Chair in this province.

Researchers who hold a tenured or tenure-track position at a Canadian institution are eligible to be nominated; however, they may not be nominated by the institution at which they hold the tenured or tenure-track position as of the Phase 2 deadline. They may take up a position at the nominating institution once the nomination is submitted.

If an institution nominates a researcher who is currently at a Canadian institution, the institution must demonstrate the net benefit to the country in moving the researcher from one Canadian institution to another.

Institution Application Limits

Applications to the CERC program have to be submitted through an eligible institution. Eligible institutions may submit a limited number of applications to Phase 1. Applications to Phase 2 nominations can only be submitted upon invitation.

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Review Process and Selection Criteria

Phase 1 applications and Phase 2 nominations to the program undergo a multilevel peer review. The selection is based on the highest standards of research excellence. To be successful, institutions must demonstrate and implement the highest standards related to equity and diversity practices.

Phase 1 Review Process

External expert reviewers, a review panel and the selection board will adjudicate each Phase 1 application using the selection criteria. External expert reviewers and the review panel(s) conduct a scientific review; the selection board conducts a strategic review.

Expert reviews
Experts will be asked to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the Phase 1 applications. The evaluations are then provided to the review panel, along with all application materials, for further evaluation.

Review panel(s)
Appropriate experts, selected both nationally and internationally, evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the proposals. The panel(s) may also conduct interviews with institution delegations as part of the evaluation. Next, the evaluations are provided to the selection board, along with all application materials, for further evaluation.

Selection board
A prestigious and distinguished arms-length selection board assesses the proposals to determine which ones represent the best strategic investment that can be made through the program. In the context of the CERC program, an investment is strategic when it:

  • supports excellence in research;
  • builds critical mass in the identified priority research areas or in other areas of benefit to Canada;
  • increases focus in areas of a demonstrated Canadian strength or advantage or enables Canada to lead global research in the proposed field; and
  • increases capacity to advance public policy and/or strengthen the competitive advantage of Canadian businesses.

In Phase 1, the selection board recommends the approval of up to 11 applications. These recommendations are provided to the tri-agency steering committee, which approves the successful Phase 1 applications.

Tri-agency steering committee
The steering committee is composed of the presidents of CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC and the CFI (as an observer), and the deputy ministers of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and Health Canada. The committee reviews the evaluation process to ensure that it was rigorous, objective, transparent and consistent with the objectives of the program. The steering committee approves Phase 1 applications based on the recommendations from the selection board.

Institutions that submit successful Phase 1 applications are invited to submit Phase 2 nominations.

Phase 1 Selection Criteria

The program is exclusively excellence-based. No special consideration is given to applications based on region, size of the applying institution, or factors other than those noted in the following criteria:

  • the institution's research strengths in the proposed field, assessed against global standards of excellence;
  • 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 on a global scale;*
  • the extent to which the proposal fits in one or more of the priority areas identified or addresses other issues of benefit to Canada;
  • the ability of the institution to sustain the research advantage created by the proposed Chair after the seven-year term of the Chair expires;
  • the ability of the institution to leverage additional resources that, together with the CERC program, will enable the institution to adequately support the direct and indirect costs associated with a world-class program of research; and
  • 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.

* The program has strengthened its emphasis on equity and diversity in Phase 1 of the competition. A detailed equity plan is required, and will be a component of the review process for this criterion. Once CERCs are established, the implementation of these plans will be rigorously monitored. For more details on the equity plan requirement, see Part 2 in the Application Instructions, as well as the section on Equity and Diversity Practices.

Phase 2 Review Process

Expert reviews

Appropriate experts, selected both nationally and internationally, evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the Phase 2 nominations in relation to the selection criteria. The evaluations are provided to the review panel, along with all nomination materials, for further evaluation.

Review panel

Members of the Phase 2 review panel are national and international experts, and may include members from the Phase 1 review panels and/or the selection board. The Phase 2 review panel evaluates the merit of the nominations in relation to the selection criteria, and ensures that the standards of excellence established for the program are respected, and that the nominations reflect the strategic priorities set out by the government.

The review panel provides recommendations to the tri-agency steering committee as it makes a decision.

Tri-agency steering committee

The steering committee reviews the evaluation process to ensure that it was rigorous, objective, transparent and consistent with the objectives of the CERC program. The committee approves up to 11 successful nominees, based on the recommendations of the review panel.

Phase 2 Selection Criteria

The selection of successful nominees is based on the highest standards of research excellence. Nominations are assessed based on the following criteria:

1. Quality of the nominees

The nominee should demonstrate that they:

  • are an outstanding and innovative researcher whose accomplishments have made groundbreaking impacts in their field, including the application of research findings for social and economic benefit;
  • are internationally recognized as a world leader in their field or are a rising star who has already shown exceptional potential to lead research in their field; and
  • have a superior record of attracting and supervising graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, taking into account practices in the relevant field or discipline.

2. The nominee’s fit with the institution's proposal in Phase 1

The institution must demonstrate a strong fit between the proposal it submitted in Phase 1 and the nominee. When deciding whether to recommend a given nominee for an award, reviewers consider:

  • the institution’s research environment and commitment to the nominee;
  • the fit with the vision and commitments outlined in the Phase 1 proposal;
  • the benefits to Canada of the proposed research and the proposed researcher; and
  • the extent to which any concerns raised in the evaluation of the Phase 1 proposal have been addressed.

3. Quality of the institutional recruitment process

The institution should demonstrate exemplary recruitment and selection processes. Factors that will be assessed include:

  • the inclusiveness and comprehensiveness of the candidate search;
  • proactive measures taken to attract and encourage the participation of a broad and diverse pool of potential candidates;
  • strategies to engage researchers at a wide range of career stages;
  • the diversity of the pool of candidates considered; and
  • other outreach and inclusion strategies.

Each of the Phase 2 selection criteria will be assessed based on the information provided using the following rating scale:

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

Equity and Diversity Practices

The CERC program reflects the federal government’s commitment to equity and diversity in employment. The goals of research excellence can only be met when equity and diversity are integrated into the research initiative. The program will continue to work with participating institutions to ensure that all recruitment practices for CERC positions are open, transparent and equitable. In addition, the program aims to ensure equitable access to opportunities available within the CERC teams.

The expert reviewers, review panels and selection board will consider equity and diversity at all levels of the review process. This focus reflects the government’s expectations for a more gender-balanced and diverse set of CERC awardees.

Learn more about the program’s equity and diversity practices.

Allocation of Chairs

Chairs are awarded in the priority areas established by the Government of Canada. Proposals are invited from a broad range of disciplines in the social sciences and humanities; natural sciences and engineering; and health and related sciences.

For the 2016 competition, the 11 new Chairs will be allocated as follows:

  • environment, climate change, and clean and sustainable technologies (at least two Chairs will be awarded in fields related to clean and sustainable technologies**);
  • health and life sciences;
  • natural resources and agriculture;
  • information and communications technologies;
  • advanced manufacturing;
  • social inclusion and innovative society (at least one Chair will be awarded in business sector innovation***); and
  • open areas of inquiry to be of benefit to Canada (up to three Chairs), with the onus on the applicant to demonstrate the strategic importance of the research and the benefits to Canada. Note that this open category could include Chairs in fields relevant to the priorities established by the government, as well as to any other areas of benefit to Canada.

**Clean and sustainable technologies encompass a range of technologies, processes and services that reduce environmental impacts through the sustainable use of natural and other resources. They are also less energy or resource intensive than traditional industry or societal standards. When applied, clean technologies help propel Canada toward a low-carbon economy by reducing resource use, pollution and waste, while also contributing to clean growth and ensuring the future sustainability of Canada’s industries and communities. 

***A Chair in business sector innovation would lead research on aspects of Canada’s innovation and productivity performance challenges, such as, but not limited to:

  • factors influencing the willingness of large multinational companies to further invest in global research and development mandates, and build a greater portion of their global value chains in Canada;
  • the importance of management capacity, including how education, experience, exposure to competition, and regulations influence innovation-related business strategy development;
  • the development of strategies and use of new business models (e.g., open innovation, collaboration with research networks, etc.) focused on long-term growth, and the appetite for risk and tolerance of failure on the part of Canadian businesses;
  • the impediments and disincentives that prevent firms from growing to scale and competing in global markets;
  • the optimal use of tangible and intangible assets to create value, introduce social and business innovation, and increase productivity; and
  • the role of risk capital in Canada’s innovation performance, including mentoring of potential entrepreneurs and allowing experimentation with new processes and technologies.

A Chair in business sector innovation must consider Canadian economic and socio-cultural contexts as part of his or her research program. These Chairs are expected to establish domestic and international research collaborations that benefit the program, and involve other researchers, the private sector, and science and innovation policy-makers in governments.

Contact Information

For more information about the Canada Excellence Research Chairs funding opportunity, please contact:

Tel.: 613-995-8877