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Empowering thousands of Canadian researchers and students to push the boundaries of knowledge and innovation

Half a billion in funding for scientists and engineers means more opportunities for discovery, skills training and job creation.

General news Students

September 8, 2017

September 8, 2017 – Victoria, British Columbia

When Canada’s scientists and engineers have the opportunity to succeed, they’re able to make the discoveries that lead to ground-breaking innovations, sustainable economic growth and a stronger middle class. The hard work of these researchers also helps new generations of students master the advanced skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow.

That is why the Minister of Science, Kirsty Duncan, announced today $515 million in support for fundamental research through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) 2017 competition for the Discovery Grants program, scholarships and fellowships. This is NSERC’s largest annual investment, and it assists researchers by offering financial support though scholarships, fellowships, research supplements, and equipment grants. 

Today’s announcement was made at the University of Victoria. It was also announced that Dr. Stephanie Willerth, a prominent University of Victoria researcher and Canada Research Chair in Biomedical Engineering, will receive a Discovery Grant worth $120,000 over five years to support her work with stem cells.

Stem cells are identical biological cells that can separate into specialized cells and can divide to produce more stem cells. They can also act as a repair system for the human body, replenishing adult tissues. Dr. Willerth’s discovery research underpins her collaboration with Aspect Biosystems, a Vancouver-based company that produces 3D printing platforms for tissue engineering to find replacements for human tissue and organs that no longer function properly. By reprogramming a patient’s adult cells into their stem cell state, researchers will be able to develop any type of tissue, including heart, lung, skin and more. Ultimately, with the help of the 3D printing platform, a patient’s newly engineered cells can be used to test reactions to new drugs for diseases such as cancer.

This funding reflects the Government of Canada’s commitment to strengthen science by supporting the very people—our country’s remarkable scientists and engineers—who are working to build a better future for all.


“The Government of Canada is committed to investing in fundamental research and engineering that will improve and enrich our country’s knowledge economy. We believe in encouraging scientists’ cutting-edge ideas that will lead Canada to greater social and economic growth. I am particularly proud of the support offered to postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows who, thanks to today’s investment, will be exposed to advanced training experiences that will prepare them for the jobs and opportunities of tomorrow.”
- The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science

“At the core of every research project, every laboratory and every discovery, there are people. NSERC empowers these people to build an innovative, prosperous and inclusive society. NSERC Discovery Grants, scholarships and fellowships provide thousands of top researchers, students and fellows with the foundation they need to concretize their research ambitions and explore the unknown.”
- Dr. B. Mario Pinto, President, NSERC

“Our researchers and our institution as a whole benefit greatly from the NSERC discovery programs. These awards recognize that creativity and innovation drive research advances. We appreciate NSERC’s vital ongoing support for fundamental research and the training of the next generation of our leaders in natural sciences and engineering.”
- Professor Jamie Cassels, QC - President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Victoria

"NSERC funding has allowed me to conduct groundbreaking research in the field of tissue engineering and has connected with me several industrial partners, including Aspect Biosystems and Starfish Medical. It also helped me establish my lab when I was an early career researcher."
- Dr. Stephanie Willerth, Professor at the University of Victoria

Quick Facts

  • An investment of $515 million will be made in NSERC Discovery Grants, graduate and postgraduate scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships.
  • $376 million in support will go to NSERC’s flagship Discovery Grants Program to foster research excellence in the full range of science and engineering disciplines, from biology and chemistry to advanced materials engineering and astrophysics. These grants, which are subject to rigorous quality assurance, support ongoing research programs with long-term goals and build the foundation for innovation.
  • An investment of close to $86 million in Scholarship and Fellowships will launch a new generation of scientists and engineers who are at the early stages of their research careers, with support at levels of study from graduate to postdoctoral.
  • Researchers will share an additional $36 million in Research Tools and Instruments Grants to purchase new research equipment needed for world-leading discovery, innovation and training.
  • NSERC is also providing $15 million for resources to selected researchers to accelerate progress and maximize the impact of their promising research proposals through the Discovery Accelerator Supplements Program. At small universities, 54 researchers will receive Discovery Development Grants, totaling $1,080,000, to support their research.

Associated Links

List of Recipients

A Vision of NSERC in 2020

Follow Minister Duncan on social media:
Twitter: @ScienceMin
Instagram: sciencemin

Follow NSERC on social media:
Twitter: @nserc_crsng
Facebook: /nserccanada


NSERC invests over $1 billion each year in natural sciences and engineering research in Canada. Our investments deliver discoveries—valuable world-firsts in knowledge claimed by a brain trust of over 11,000 professors. Our investments enable partnerships and collaborations that connect industry with discoveries and the people behind them. Researcher-industry partnerships established by NSERC help inform R&D, solve scale-up challenges and reduce the risks of developing high-potential technology.

NSERC also provides scholarships and hands-on training experience for more than 30,000 post-secondary students and post-doctoral fellows. These young researchers will be the next generation of science and engineering leaders in Canada.


Ann Marie Paquet
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Science
Tel.: 613-404-2733

Lucy Lai
Media Relations Officer
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
Tel.: 613-996-2341

Media Relations
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
Tel.: 343-291-1777

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