Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the major federal agency responsible for funding health research in Canada.

Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the major federal agency responsible for funding health research in Canada. It was established by Act of Parliament in April 2000 to create new knowledge according to internationally accepted scientific standards and translate this into improved health for Canadians, more effective health services and products, and a stronger Canadian health care system. It replaced the Medical Research Council of Canada, which had overseen Canadian medical research since 1969. The CIHR reports to Parliament through the minister of health. Relationships with the private sector are supported through initiatives that bridge research outcomes in an academic setting with opportunities in the marketplace. The governing council consists of a full-time president and up to 19 council members.

Canadian Institutes of Health Research spends 94 cents of every dollar in its budget to fund Canadian health research by developing human resources and training the next generation of health researchers. It employs a multi-disciplinary approach through a framework of "virtual" institutes, each with a specific research focus, connecting and supporting researchers pursuing common goals. Instead of confining CIHR-funded research to centralized facilities, the institutes electronically link researchers located in universities, hospitals and research centres across Canada. The governing council appoints a scientific director for each institute, as well as a chair to head an advisory board to assist each of the scientific directors.

These institutes provide thematic focal points for health research activity and become sources through which the federal government, researchers and partners can determine Canadian research priorities and translate research findings into practice. Research disciplines involved include basic biomedical research, applied clinical science, health services and systems, and society, culture and the health of populations.

Canadian Institutes of Health Research is responsible for supporting research and research training in health sciences through a competitive peer-review system that allocates grants in aid of operating and equipment requirements. It also provides support for symposia, scientist exchanges and international scientific activities. Currently 70% of the research budget is reserved for successful applicants in the competitions, while the remaining 30% is targeted for strategic initiatives developed by the institutes to respond to major health challenges, but also determined by peer review. Following a $37-million increase to its base budget for 2007-08, 498 new grants were awarded in March 2007, an increase over the previous year when only 331 grants were awarded, the lowest number in CIHR history. The increased funding also made possible an additional 70 to 75 one-year grants of up to $100,000 and an 8% rollback of cuts to grants awarded in September 2006, bringing spending for grants that year in line with previous competitions. On average, CIHR awards 400 to 475 grants per competition or 800 to 950 grants each year. In 2005-06 Ontario received the largest proportion of funding with $269 million in grants, followed by Quebec with $191 million, the Prairies with $97 million, British Columbia with $82 million and $21 million to the Atlantic Provinces.