Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Common menu bar links

How NSERC Establishes Updated Target Areas and Research Topics

NSERC’s investments in Strategic Partnership Grants are guided by focused target areas that are intended to lead to innovations in industry (wealth creation) and to help set policy, standards and regulations (public policy). To ensure that these grants remain relevant for Canada, NSERC periodically conducts extensive reviews to determine strategic target areas, research topics and research challenges. Since partnership grants require the participation of end users in the research collaboration, the target area descriptions are developed in consultation with industry, academia and government. 

In June 2015, NSERC’s governing bodies approved the adoption of the following national priorities within NSERC’s mandate as the target areas for the next cycle of the Strategic Partnership Grants competition:

  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Environment and Agriculture
  • Information and Communication Technologies
  • Natural Resources and Energy

Important research topics for Canada identified within these priorities were the starting point for broad consultations within the research community to determine key research challenges in each of the target areas and the related research topics. Given the importance of the natural resources sector for the Canadian economy, previously identified research topics, specifically those related to forestry, fisheries, mineral deposits and water, were also included.

NSERC will continue to refine the research topics and challenges over the course of the next five years to ensure that they stay relevant in the context of Canada’s important research challenges. Projects that make a compelling case for research within the context section of a target area description, but are outside the research topics, will be considered “exceptional” and may be funded subject to the availability of funds. No more than 20% of the budget will be allocated to “exceptional opportunities.” 

Advice and input concerning the research challenges were solicited from the international research community, relevant government departments and the Canadian research community. In particular, over 6,500 individuals (including vice-presidents responsible for research and previous applicants to NSERC Research Partnership programs) were invited to complete an online survey identifying key research challenges in each of the areas and related topics. More than 1,200 responses were received and analyzed. 

An expert Strategic Target Area Renewal Committee was established for each target area. These four committees were tasked with recommending well-defined and focused research challenges for each research topic within a target area, keeping in mind the goals and timeframes of Strategic Partnership Grants, the input from the online survey, advice from other groups, and their own broad expertise and knowledge in their discipline. The successful conclusion of the review is in no small measure due to the dedication and commitment of the members of the Strategic Target Area Renewal Committees. They faced the daunting task of assimilating the large volume of information into tightly focused descriptions of key research challenges facing Canada. NSERC is particularly grateful for their contributions.

Members of the Strategic Target Area Renewal Committees

Advanced Manufacturing

Mary Wells (Chair)
Professor, Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering
University of Waterloo

Yusuf Altintas
Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering
The University of British Columbia

Mathieu Brochu
Associate Professor, Department of Mining and Materials Engineering
McGill University

Tapash Chakraborty
Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Manitoba

Paul Charpentier
Professor, Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering
Western University

Clément Gosselin
Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering
Université Laval

Anne-Marie Harte
General Manager
STANMECH Technologies Inc.

Glen Hibbard
Associate Professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering
University of Toronto

Mark Kozdras
Program Manager, Automotive Materials
Natural Resources Canada

Environment and Agriculture

Chandra Madramootoo (Chair)
Professor and Director of the Water Innovation Laboratory
Department of Bioresource Engineering
McGill University

Anne Blondlot
Coordinator, Scientific program in agriculture, commercial fisheries and aquaculture
Ouranos – Consortium on Regional Climatology and Adaptation to Climate Change

Richard Butts
Director General (Retired)
Cross Sectoral Strategic Direction
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Ravindra N. Chibbar
Professor, Department of Plant Sciences
University of Saskatchewan

Annemieke Farenhorst
Professor, Department of Soil Science
University of Manitoba

Seifu Gebremeskel Guangul
Associate and Senior Water Resources Engineer

Jay Parsons
Aquaculture, Biotechnology and Aquatic Animal Health Science Branch
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Navin Ramankutty
Professor, Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability
The University of British Columbia

Philippe Van Cappellen
Professor, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Waterloo

Information and Communications Technologies

Frank Maurer (Chair)
Professor, Department of Computer Science
Associate Vice-President (Research)
University of Calgary

David Cory
Professor, Department of Chemistry
Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology
University of Waterloo

Alberto Leon-Garcia
Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
University of Toronto

Stephan Jou
Chief Technical Officer

Karon MacLean
Professor, Department of Computer Science
The University of British Columbia

Peter Mason
Section Head, Cyber Operations and Signals Warfare
Defence Research and Development Canada

Réal Vallée
Director, Centre for Optics, Photonics and Lasers
Université Laval

Carolyn Watters
Professor, Faculty of Computer Science
Provost and Vice-President Academic
Dalhousie University

Natural Resources and Energy

David Eaton (Chair)
Professor, Department of Geoscience
University of Calgary

Cedric Briens
Professor, Chemical and Biochemical Engineering
Director, Research and Development, Institute for Chemical and Fuels from Alternative Resources (ICFAR)
Western University

Bruno Bussière
Professor, Research Institute on Mines and the Environment
Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue

Jean Hamel
Vice-President, Pulp, Paper and Bioproducts

Louise Laverdure
Director, Geological Survey of Canada, Calgary
Natural Resources Canada

Shane Pelechaty
Petroleum Geologist and Groundbirch Geosciences Advisor
Shell Canada

Martin Raillard
Vice-President, Science and Technology,
Chief Scientist (Canadian High Arctic Research Station)
Polar Knowledge Canada

David Sinton
Professor and Associate Chair of Research, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering
University of Toronto

Lloyd Visser
Vice-President, Environment and Sustainable Development
ConocoPhillips Canada