Canada First Research Excellence Fund


The Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) helps Canadian universities, colleges and polytechnics to make breakthrough discoveries; seize emerging opportunities and strategically advance their strengths by implementing large‑scale, transformational and forward‑thinking institutional strategies that enable them to compete with the best in the world.

The Fund is governed by a steering committee comprising the presidents of the three federal research granting agencies—the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research—and the deputy ministers of Health Canada and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. The Canada Foundation for Innovation holds observer status on the committee. The Tri‑agency Institutional Programs Secretariat, housed within SSHRC, is responsible for the administration of the Fund.


Today, $900 million is being awarded from the Fund for the following 13 initiatives selected through a rigorous merit review process:

Lead Institution Initiative Title Amount of Funding over Seven Years
Dalhousie University Safe and Sustainable Development of the Ocean Frontier $93,732,000
Laurentian University Metal Earth $49,269,000
McGill University Healthy Brains for Healthy Lives (HBHL) $84,000,000
Polytechnique Montréal The "Montreal TransMedTech (MT2) Institute": An open‑innovation ecosystem for the development of next generation medical technologies $35,625,000
Queen's University Canadian Particle Astrophysics Research Centre $63,744,000
Université de Montréal Data Serving Canadians: Deep Learning and Optimization for the Knowledge Revolution $93,562,000
University of Alberta Future Energy Systems Research Institute $75,000,000
University of Calgary Global Research Initiative in Sustainable Low Carbon Unconventional Resources $75,000,000
University of Guelph Food from Thought: Agricultural Systems for a Healthy Planet $76,613,000
University of Saskatchewan World Water Futures: Solutions to Water Threats in an Era of Global Change $77,840,000
University of Waterloo Transformative Quantum Technologies $76,277,000
Western University BrainsCAN: Brain Health for Life $66,000,000
York University Vision: Science to Applications (VISTA) $33,338,000
  TOTAL $900,000,000

Selection Process

To respect the high international standards of research excellence established for the program, the selection process employed rigorous merit review. International experts from a variety of domains and disciplines with experience in large research endeavours and world‑leading research were recruited for Review Panels. The Panels provided detailed evaluations of the relative strengths and weaknesses of each application against the selection criteria and made observations on the budgets requested. The review panel reports were then transmitted to a prestigious, arms‑length Selection Board, composed of leaders from the academic, private and other relevant sectors. The Selection Board provided its recommendations to the steering committee.

First Inaugural Competition

The first round of announcements was made in July 2015. The five recipients of funding were:

Lead Institution Initiative Title Amount of Funding over Seven Years
Université Laval Sentinel North $98,021,000
Université de Sherbrooke From Quantum Science to Quantum Technologies $33,517,000
The University of British Columbia Quantum Materials and Future Technologies $66,539,000
University of Saskatchewan Designing Crops for Global Food Security $37,240,000
University of Toronto Medicine by Design $113,976,000
  TOTAL $350,000,000

For more information, visit the Canada First Research Excellence Fund website:

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