The Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) was created in 2014 to support Canadian postsecondary institutions in their efforts to become global research leaders. The Fund helps Canadian universities, colleges and polytechnics compete with the best in the world for talent and partnership opportunities. It also supports them to make breakthrough discoveries; seize emerging opportunities and strategically advance their greatest strengths on the global stage; and implement large-scale, transformational and forward-thinking institutional strategies.

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.


The inaugural CFREF competition was split into two parts, with a first competition awarding some $350 million to five initiatives. This second competition, announced today, has awarded $900 million to 13 initiatives.

The successful proposals were selected through a rigorous merit review process. This ensured that the high international standards of research excellence established for the program were respected. Review panels provided detailed evaluations of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the applications, based on the related selection criteria, and made observations on the budgets requested. The review panel reports were then transmitted to the selection board, which made final recommendations to the steering committee.

The review panels comprised international experts with broad expertise representing a variety of domains and disciplines. These experts had experience in the administration of large research endeavours, and in the development of world-leading research capabilities. The prestigious, arm’s-length selection board, composed of leaders from the academic, private and other relevant sectors, ensures that the Fund supports initiatives on the basis of the highest international standards of research excellence, and that funding decisions take into account areas of strength, opportunity, and relevance to Canada.


The 13 recipients of funding from the second inaugural competition are:

Lead Institution Initiative Title Amount of Funding over Seven Years

Dalhousie University

Safe and Sustainable Development of the Ocean Frontier


Laurentian University

Metal Earth


McGill University

Healthy Brains for Healthy Lives (HBHL)


Polytechnique Montréal

The "Montreal TransMedTech (MT2) Institute": An open-innovation ecosystem for the development of next generation medical technologies


Queen's University

Canadian Particle Astrophysics Research Centre


Université de Montréal

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


University of Alberta

Future Energy Systems


University of Calgary

Global Research Initiative in Sustainable Low Carbon Unconventional Resources


University of Guelph

Food from Thought: Agricultural Systems for a Healthy Planet


University of Saskatchewan

World Water Futures: Solutions to Water Threats in an Era of Global Change


University of Waterloo

Transformative Quantum Technologies


Western University

BrainsCAN: Brain Health for Life


York University

Vision: Science to Applications (VISTA)





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


Université de Sherbrooke

From Quantum Science to Quantum Technologies


The University of British Columbia

Quantum Materials and Future Technologies


University of Saskatchewan

Designing Crops for Global Food Security


University of Toronto

Medicine by Design





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