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Chairs in Design Engineering

NSERC is launching the new Alliance Grant that will fund collaborative research projects between universities and partner organizations that have an active role in the project’s research activities, can utilize research results, or can take an active role in knowledge mobilization to achieve impact.

As a result, no further competitions of the Chairs in Design Engineering (CDE) will be held, and the 2019 CDE competition is cancelled. Commitments for previously awarded CDE grants will be honoured. Some of the research activities that were undertaken by the CDEs will be supported by the new Alliance Grants.

For the latest information, consult Alliance Grants.

Learn more about the Chairholders who are funded by this and other NSERC Chairholder grants by visiting the NSERC Chairholders Database.

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Duration Five years,
renewable once
Application deadline April 15 (Preliminary Application)
September 30 (Full Application – only if invited by NSERC)
How to apply See below
Application forms
  • Form 100 or CV
  • Form 101 (form-fillable) – Application for a Grant
  • Appendix A - Environmental Information Form (form-fillable), if required
  • Form 101 – Contributions from Supporting Organizations Form (form-fillable), if additional pages required
  • Form 183A Information Required from Organization Participating in Research Partnerships Programs
  • Terms and Conditions of Applying Form (form-fillable)
Contact Consult the Contact List

Important information


NSERC Chairs in Design Engineering (CDEs) were established to improve the level and quality of design engineering activity within Canadian universities. NSERC encourages a multidisciplinary view of design engineering and encourages applications from all engineering disciplines.

To help universities meet the growing demand for design engineering talent and to help develop innovative designs, concepts and tools, NSERC funding is available to establish up to 16 concurrent CDEs across Canada. Up to six Chairs are available in the current competition.

The NSERC CDE program has four interdependent and overlapping objectives:

Contribution to the training of highly qualified personnel (HQP): This objective involves

  • increasing the number and the quality of design engineers graduating from engineering schools;
  • providing high-quality education and training in design engineering to all undergraduate and postgraduate engineering students;
  • focusing on innovation in teaching and learning;
  • equipping engineering students with all of the hard and soft skills, knowledge and professional and personal attributes that the engineering profession and future employers require.

Design and development: This objective involves

  • incorporating design engineering research activities;
  • designing and developing new and improved products, processes, systems and technologies;
  • fostering innovation in design practice, tools, methodologies and approaches.

Collaboration: This objective involves

  • establishing effective design partnerships, teams and networks;
  • building productive and effective collaborations among industry, design faculty and professional staff within the university, and other CDE Chairholders and experts across Canada.

Design engineering is a multidisciplinary and multi-functional profession, and linkages to professionals and experts inside and outside the university are a vital aspect of a Chair’s work.

Promotion: This objective involves

  • disseminating innovative designs, design practices and design solutions;
  • acting as an advocate for design engineering, generating an increased awareness and appreciation in both the research and outside communities for all aspects of design engineering;
  • advancing design engineering knowledge through publications and presentations in both peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed publications.

Role of the Chairholder

Candidates for a Chair in Design Engineering position must be design engineers of significant stature, recognized in the design community, who can bring an innovative perspective to the university in carrying out and managing design-related projects and initiatives, as well as training HQP. They must hold a degree in engineering, have extensive design experience, be recognized as leaders in their field, and be considered distinctive in comparison with their peers. Furthermore, candidates are expected to have industrial collaborative experience, demonstrated ability in training design engineers, as well as all of the qualifications for a tenured appointment at the rank of full or associate professor.

The basic role of the Chairholder is to be a strong proponent of design education and training in the university. The Chairholder will be the champion and promoter of innovative and efficient design and the design conscience of the university.

Chairholders who meet NSERC's regular eligibility criteria applicable to university faculty members may apply for other NSERC grants and to other funding agencies for support for their research or for any other activities.

The Chair award provides funding for the Chairholder’s salary and/or the Chair’s Action Plan. Each Chair has a term of five years and may be renewed for one additional five-year term. NSERC will provide up to $1 million in funding over the first term of a Chair. NSERC will not be responsible for any salary increments provided to the Chairholder over the course of the award due to merit, progression through the ranks, or cost of living.

CDE Chair candidate attributes


  • have all of the qualifications for a tenured appointment at the rank of full or associate professor (cannot be an assistant professor or a recent PhD graduate);
  • hold a degree in engineering and either be licensed, or be eligible for licensing, as a Professional Engineer in Canada;
  • have an established track record as a design engineer or design engineering educator, be of significant stature, and be considered distinctive in comparison with their peers;
  • be aware of current design engineering and/or design education practices;
  • have demonstrated ability to interact with industry and nurture partnerships.


  • be an internal or external candidate;
  • have design engineering experience in industry;
  • be recognized in the design engineering community;
  • incorporate design engineering principles into an established research program;
  • have presented papers and attended at the Canadian Engineering Education Association and/or other engineering education conferences;
  • have interactions and partnerships with non-profit organizations.

Structure of the Chair

Universities should design the specifics of their Chair to be in line with their particular needs, aspirations and circumstances. NSERC will entertain proposals for Chairs with a single Chairholder or two co-Chairholders.

The CDE Action Plan is expected to address the training of undergraduate engineering students. Proposals that include graduate student training must make the case that this level of education is required by industry. The Chair can support graduate students undertaking design engineering research activities, as appropriate.

The grant applicant should be the Dean of Engineering (or equivalent). The Dean is expected to provide a strong commitment to the Chair and the CDE Action Plan, including cash and in-kind commitments, and a direct reporting structure for CDE-related activities. NSERC expects the university to provide the necessary infrastructure support, facilities, space, technical support staff, cash support and any other resources the Chair will need to accomplish what is set out in its agreed-upon CDE Action Plan. There must be an ongoing commitment on the part of the university to provide support for the Chair (over the entire five-year term) at the levels agreed to when the Chair was approved.

Note that a university may hold more than one CDE award from NSERC from different competition years. However, the incremental benefit from awarding a second Chair must be substantial — the Chairs must be complementary and synergistic. Multiple applications from one university to a competition would tend to call the university’s design strategy into question.

Supporting organizations

NSERC will match cash contributions from private and public organizations, up to a maximum of $200,000 per year or $1 million over the five-year term of the Chair. These cash contributions may come from industry, government, the university, or any other private or public sector organizations, communities or individuals. NSERC may also consider matching in-kind contributions of staff time, salaries or equipment provided by the private sector partners of the Chair. Note that in-kind support provided by public sector partners (university, government) is not eligible for leverage. NSERC will not match the salary of an internal candidate; funding provided by the university must be in addition to this support.

Cash contributed to a CDE by industry is eligible to be considered as support, regardless of when it was actually provided, as long as the money was not spent before the application was submitted to NSERC. If the supporting organizations choose to contribute to an endowment as a means of supporting the Chair, the recognized contribution will be limited to the amount attributed to industrial sources that is directly allocated to the cost of the Chair over the term of the award.


The establishment of a CDE must increase the design engineering capacity of the university by creating additional design-engineering-related positions. Candidates for the Chair may be internal or external. In the case of an external candidate, the Chair is considered to be the incremental position. Universities proposing an internal candidate must agree to use the candidate’s released salary funds, or an equivalent amount, for a salary commitment to hire additional design engineering positions attached to, or collaborating with, the Chair. The new position(s) must be appointed following the approval of the Chair, and the university must undertake to fill these positions promptly. Any leftover funds must be allocated to the direct costs of the CDE Action Plan. Annual grant payments will be contingent on confirmation that the university has met all of its obligations.

Equity, diversity and inclusion

NSERC is acting on the evidence that equity, diversity and inclusion strengthen the scientific and engineering communities and the quality, social relevance and impact of research. Increasing diversity and gender equity in the research enterprise are key priorities in our current strategic plan, NSERC 2020, and are highlighted in the strategic goal of “Building a Diversified and Competitive Research Base.”

The CDE Action Plan should indicate how it incorporates considerations of equity, diversity and inclusion. Applicants should refer to the Guide for Applicants: Considering equity, diversity and inclusion in your application for more information.

Application procedures

The person submitting a CDE proposal (the “Applicant” on Form 101) must be the Dean of Engineering (or equivalent) with direct or ultimate management responsibility for the proposed Chairholder. The applicant cannot be the Chair candidate.

Preliminary application: Those interested in applying for a Chair in Design Engineering must first submit a preliminary application to NSERC by the deadline. Successful applicants will be invited to submit a full application.

Previously, many CDE applications have been unsuccessful because the proposed Chairholder(s) did not have the expected design engineering expertise or experience. Therefore, a clear description of the design engineering background of all potential Chair candidates and how they match the CDE Chair Candidate Attributes must be included in the preliminary application.

Full application: There is a form-fillable specific application form for the full application. Use Forms 101 and 183A, and follow the instructions for preparing a CDE application. You must print out and mail one signed paper version, and provide an electronic version of the application. For all applications, the NSERC On-line Presentation and Attachment Standards must be followed.

Review procedures

The preliminary applications will be reviewed by the CDE Selection Committee, which is composed of design experts from academia and industry. If the excellence of the candidate(s) is not clearly demonstrated at the preliminary application stage, the university may not be invited to submit a full application. All full applications will be evaluated through a two-stage process consisting of an on-site visit, followed by review and ranking by the committee. The CDE Selection Committee will make the final funding recommendations to NSERC.

Preliminary applications

NSERC must receive the preliminary application by the deadline date.

The purpose of the preliminary application is to provide the vision of the proposed Chair, in relation to the goals and objectives of the NSERC CDE Program, present the Chair candidate, and outline the proposed Action Plan activities and their anticipated impact. The CDE Selection Committee will review the preliminary applications and recommend which applicants should be invited to submit full proposals.

The preliminary application should be up to eight pages in length (freeform), not including the budget and CV pages. All relevant citations are expected to be incorporated into the preliminary proposal. The preliminary application should include the following sections:

  • Title page;
  • University Design Strategy;
  • Proposed Action Plan and anticipated impacts;
  • Chair candidate(s);
  • Budget,
  • Candidate’s CV(s).

Title page

The first page of the application should contain:

  • the Chair title (the title must begin with the word “NSERC” and may contain the names of other supporting organizations, if appropriate);
  • the names of the applicant and proposed Chairholder(s);
  • the amounts requested from NSERC (in a summary table, indicate the total dollar amount requested from NSERC for each year of funding);
  • signatures from the applicant and candidate(s).

University design strategy

The application should present the current state of design at the university; discuss the rationale for establishing the proposed Chair(s); the motivation of the university and partners to join forces; their long-term commitment to design, and their respective expectations; and introduce the university’s overall vision for the proposed CDE, and describe what will be achieved during its first term.

The Dean of Engineering has a significant role to play in ensuring the success of the CDE, if awarded. The Dean is the recipient of the salary portion. In addition, the support of the Dean for the Chairholder and the proposed program is of paramount importance to champion the role of design engineering at the University. Clearly describe the actions the Dean will undertake to fulfill this role. Describe the expectations for interactions with other individuals, departments and disciplines, as well as the overall impact on the university's design capacity.

Proposed action plan and anticipated impacts

Introduce the proposed Design Chair’s philosophy and proposed Action Plan for:

  • the training of highly qualified personnel
  • design and development
  • collaboration
  • promotion

Provide a description of the anticipated impacts of the proposed Action Plan on the university and the supporting organizations, and on the design engineering community.

Chair candidate(s)

Describe the nature of the position(s) to be created: the candidate(s)’ qualifications, background and personal qualities, and how these match the requirements of the position(s). Describe the background of each Chair candidate(s)’ design expertise and experience and clearly outline how the proposed candidate(s) meet the CDE Chair candidate attributes and thus have the competencies to take on the role of the Chairholder. In addition, specify their experience that is relevant to the proposed Action Plan. Indicate each Chairholder's anticipated tenure status, appointment level, and teaching and administrative responsibilities.


Include the estimated annual budget expenditures and sources of funds (e.g., requested from NSERC and estimated cash and in-kind contributions from the potential participating organizations). The application will be strengthened if details are provided about the types of in-kind contributions anticipated and the partner(s) offering them.

Candidate’s CV

In this section the proposed Chairholder(s) should include a CV that clearly demonstrates their contributions to design engineering, design engineering training and design-oriented research. It is not necessary to use the standard NSERC Form 100 to present the candidate’s CV. All the relevant information, including publications, details of the paper (conference, journal, refereed, etc.), must be listed. Information on other relevant grants, including the funding amount, should be included.

The full application

Applicants must be invited to submit a full application.

A full application includes:

  • an Application for a Grant (Form 101) – form-fillable;
  • the Chair candidate(s)’ CV or Form 100;
  • a Form 183A (Information Required from Organizations Participating in Research Partnerships Programs form) and a letter of support from each industry or government partner, detailing how the proposed Chair will benefit their organization and the amount of cash or in-kind contributions they will make to aid Action Plan activities. (Refer to the instructions for completing Form 183A for details.)

Refer to the CDE – Guide for Applicants.

Selection criteria

CDE applications are evaluated on the basis of the following criteria:

Excellence of the candidate: The Chair candidate(s) must have extensive design experience, be recognized as leaders in their field, hold a degree in engineering and be considered distinctive in comparison with their peers. The CV or Form 100 should demonstrate the stature, design competence, experience and record of accomplishments of the proposed candidate(s). Furthermore, candidates are expected to have industrial collaborative experience, demonstrated ability in training design engineers, as well as all of the qualifications for a tenured appointment at the rank of full or associate professor.

University design strategy: The application should outline the rationale for establishing the proposed Chair(s), the nature of the Chair structure, the motivation of the university and partners for joining forces, their long-term commitment to design, and the expected impact of the Chair on them. How does the proposed Action Plan fit in the Faculty Design Strategy or Strategic Plan? How does the university view the Chair in terms of university priorities? What support will the University Administration/Dean of the Faculty of Engineering provide to the Chairholder and/or towards the proposed Action Plan?

Quality of the action plan: The application is evaluated on the merit, creativity, feasibility and relevance of the proposed program for achieving the CDE goals, with meaningful metrics, both quantitative and qualitative, for:

  • Training of highly qualified personnel: improving undergraduate training in design engineering; and opportunities for the training of students in areas relevant to industrial needs, including interactions with the supporting organization(s). The number of students directly impacted by the program, specific benefits, etc.
  • Design and development: integration of the Chair(s)’ design engineering research activities; level of innovation and opportunities for development of new design activities and design practices, tools, methodologies and approaches;
  • Collaboration: establishing effective multidisciplinary design partnerships, teams and networks inside and outside the university; the involvement of potential participating organizations, including industry; collaboration with other CDE holders, and the Canadian Engineering Education Association (CEEA), as appropriate; and relevance of the collaborations to achieving the Chair’s objectives.
  • Promotion: acting as advocates for design engineering, generating an increased awareness and appreciation in both the research and outside communities for all aspects of design engineering, including plans for publications and presentations in both peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed publications and specific plans (i.e., specialized courses and lectures) to promote innovative design and design practices.

Budget: The proposal must provide a detailed explanation and justification for each budget item. The proposed cost-sharing between NSERC and the supporting organization(s) must be explained and justified.

Industrial relevance and benefits: The application must detail the industrial relevance of the Action Plan and the potential benefits that will accrue to the supporting organization(s) and the Canadian economy.

Benefits to Canada: As well as the economic benefit to Canada described under the Industrial Relevance and Benefits criterion above, the proposal should outline any additional economic, social, and environmental benefits that could be realized in Canada within a reasonable time frame.

Benefits to the university and appropriateness of the setting: The application should demonstrate the growth of a sustainable activity that will enhance training, and stimulate academic collaborations and industrial interactions; and the adequacy of the physical environment and financial resources to support the Chair, from both the university and supporting partners.

Impact of the previous term (for Chair renewal applications): This involves a clear demonstration of the impact of the Chair to date, including the impact on the design research capacity and academic offerings at the university, and the new knowledge that the supporting organizations have translated into a payback for the Canadian economy.

Public announcements

Refer to the Requirements for the Public Announcement of NSERC Grants, Scholarships and Prizes in planning a public announcement of a successful CDE application. NSERC will approve a public announcement only after the Chairholder has formally accepted the position and after all conditions of the award have been addressed to NSERC's satisfaction.


The Chairholder must submit progress reports after 18 and 36 months of the first and subsequent five-year term. The Chairholder is required to submit annual financial statements (i.e., Form 300 – Grants in Aid of Research/Statement of Account). Continued NSERC support for the duration of the term is dependent on favourable reviews of the progress of the Chair Action Plan and the continued cash and in-kind contributions made by the supporting organization(s), which must be confirmed annually. All Chairholders meet twice a year to discuss issues of common interest and to present progress.

Three months after the completion of the Chair funding, the Chairholder must submit a final report on achievements with respect to the Chair objectives. Supporting organizations will be asked to evaluate the report. Grantees are informed of the requirements for such reports at the appropriate time. For Chairs intending to renew, an up-to-date progress report must be submitted as part of the renewal application during the final year of the term.


The decision whether to renew a CDE for a second term is based on a peer review conducted in the final year of the five-year term. In the case of particularly complex or large proposals, this review may involve a site visit. The evaluation will be based on an up-to-date progress report covering 48 months of the CDE, a new detailed CDE application for the next term (use Forms 100, 101 and 183A), increased commitments from partners and the continued support of the university. The renewal application should demonstrate how the second term will build and expand upon the first term’s work. It should be supported by statements from the University, partners and other groups impacted by the Chair(s). The CDE Selection Committee will make the final funding recommendation for all renewal applications. If the evaluation of the first term’s progress and the renewal proposal are positive, NSERC will contribute up to $200,000 per year in support of the Chairholder(s)’ salary and new Action Plan. The total funding provided by the sponsoring organization(s) during that same period must be equal to or greater than NSERC’s support.

If applicable, in the second term only, the maximum combined contributions to salary from NSERC and the supporting organizations(s) is decreased in each successive year to allow the university to gradually assume the cost of the Chair(s) salary. The remainder of the NSERC grant is contributed to the Action Plan activities. The maximum NSERC contribution to salary for each successive year will be: 45%, 37.5%, 25%, 12.5%, and 5%, respectively, of the value of the Chairholder(s)’ salary and fringe benefits at the beginning of the second term. If the sponsoring organization(s) chooses to contribute an amount greater than NSERC’s grant towards salary, NSERC will not recognize, for leveraging purposes, these additional sponsor funds allocated to Chairholder salary support. In-kind support from industrial partners (as a minimum) is required to demonstrate the industrial relevance of the program.