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Minister's Message:

Leona Aglukkaq - Minister of Health

It is my pleasure to present to my parliamentary colleagues, and all Canadians, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research's (CIHR's) Report on Plans and Priorities for the fiscal year 2009-2010.

As an important member of the Government of Canada's Health Portfolio, CIHR supports nearly 12,000 health researchers and trainees in universities, teaching hospitals and other health organizations and research centres across Canada. This support is critical to the continued delivery of innovative health research. As a result of this work, CIHR will play a key role in helping Canada achieve the objectives of the S&T Strategy.

Health research plays a pivotal role in improving health and saving lives. It provides key evidence about the effectiveness of current treatments and health-care practices, information critical to optimize Canada's health-care system.

Health research is producing insights and discoveries that will provide the foundation for breakthrough drugs and strategies for tackling chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

For example, in 2008, CIHR-supported researcher Dr. Tony Lam of the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute reported his discovery of a communications channel between the gut, the brain and the liver. When this channel is activated, the body is able to lower its blood sugar. But, in experiments with animals, just three days of a high-fat diet was enough to shut down the channel. The discovery creates the possibility of a new target for diabetes treatments.

Increasingly, research is also helping Canada to address some of our most pressing health issues in the North. For example, through the support from CIHR, The Nasivvik Centre based at l'Université Laval supports innovative training and research on Inuit health. This Centre is one several that are part of a network of centres of excellence set-up across the country to address Aboriginal health research and training.

Investments in research also help build Canada's international competitiveness and economic well-being. Canada, for example, has achieved world-wide recognition for its expertise in neurosciences research. To build on this expertise, CIHR recently signed an international co-operation agreement with the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec (FRSQ) and the Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale (Inserm) in France to fund research on the diagnosis, treatment and management of patients with Alzheimer's disease.

I applaud the work that CIHR is doing on behalf of Canadians.

Leona Aglukkaq, P.C., M.P
Minister of Health

Section I — Departmental Overview

Raison d'être

CIHR is the Government of Canada's health research funding agency. It was created in June 2000 by the CIHR Act (Bill C-13) with a mandate "to excel, according to internationally accepted standards of scientific excellence, in the creation of new knowledge and its translation into improved health for Canadians, more effective health services and products and a strengthened Canadian health care system".

CIHR was designed to respond to evolving needs for health research, and this is reflected in its legislation, which gives it a mandate very different from than that of its predecessor, the Medical Research Council of Canada, thereby transforming health research in Canada by:

  • funding more research on targeted priority areas, and not just "open" basic biomedical research;
  • placing a greater emphasis on the strength of the research community by building research capacity in under-developed areas and training the next generation of health researchers; and
  • focusing on knowledge translation which facilitates the application of the results of research and its transformation into new policies, practices, procedures, products and services.

CIHR's legislation authorizes the creation of institutes and thirteen have been established. These institutes are not "bricks-and-mortar" buildings but communities of experts. In its topic area, each of CIHR's 13 Institutes supports a broad spectrum of research: biomedical, clinical, health services and systems, and population and public health. Institutes form national research networks linking researchers, funders and knowledge users across Canada to work on priority areas. CIHR's innovative structure has been recognized around the world as a global best practice for supporting a problem-based, multidisciplinary and collaborative approach to health research.

CIHR reports through the Minister of Health and, as such, plays a key role in the Health Portfolio, which is the focal point for the Government of Canada's health related activities. As Canada's health research funding agency, CIHR makes an essential contribution to the Minister of Health's overall responsibilities by funding the research and knowledge translation needed to inform the evolution of Canadian health policy and regulation. This is achieved through an extensive and growing set of linkages with Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, providing decision-makers with access to high quality and timely health research knowledge.

CIHR works closely with NSERC and SSHRC, the two granting Councils of the Industry portfolio, to share information and co-ordinate their efforts, harmonize practices, avoid duplication and give a consistent message from the government of Canada. The three Councils also try to make it easier for researchers and others to communicate with them, by providing single-window access whenever possible.

Strategic Outcomes and Program Activity Architecture (PAA)

CIHR's Departmental Report Program Activity Architecture (PAA), as approved by Treasury Board, is shown in Figure 1 below. The PAA consists of three Strategic Outcomes and the key program activities that support CIHR's Strategic Outcomes. The performance information presented in Section II is organized according to this PAA structure.

Figure 1: CIHR's Program Activity Architecture (PAA)

Figure 1: CIHR's Program Activity Architecture (PAA)

Planning Summary

Financial Resources (in millions)

2009–10 2010–11 2011–12
$ 980.3 $ 986.7 $ 973.7

Note: Planned spending is comprised of approved reference levels and adjustments, where known or reasonably anticipated, such as amounts expected to be received in Supplementary Estimates and pending policy and Treasury Board approvals.

Human Resources (Full-Time Equivalent—FTE)

2009–10 2010–11 2011–12
410 410 410

Summary Table:

Strategic Outcome 1: Advances in Health Knowledge
Performance Indicators Targets
  • Canada’s rank in the world in health research expenditures.
  • Changes in health practices, programs or policies informed by CIHR-funded research, improvements in service delivery or health informed by CIHR-funded research.
  • Research or research agendas informed by CIHR-funded research in Canada or internationally.
  • Canada’s rank in health research publications and patents.
  • Maintain or increase international ranking  in health research expenditures
  • Anecdotal evidence of changes in health practices, programs, policies, health service delivery, or health due to the work of CIHR funded researchers
  • Maintain or increase # of partnered funding initiatives in Canada and internationally
  • Maintain or increase international ranking in health research publications and patents
Program Activity Forecast Spending 2008–09 (in millions) Planned Spending (in Millions) Alignment to Government of Canada Outcomes
2009–10 2009–11 2009–12
1.1 Open Research $ 470.6 $ 455.8 $ 460.2 $ 460.2 An Innovative and Knowledge-Based Economy
1.2 Strategic Priority Research $ 146.9 $ 135.8 $ 139.1 $ 131.7 An Innovative and Knowledge-Based Economy
Total Planned Spending for Outcome #1 $ 591.6 $ 599.3 $ 591.9  
Strategic Outcome 2: People and Research Capacity
Performance Indicators Targets
  • Number and types of PhD graduates in Canada by year compared to other countries
  • Percentage of PhD graduates in Canada planning postdoctoral fellowship, research associateship or occupation in health/life sciences
  • Number and fields of investigators funded.
  • Rating by researchers as to adequacy of resources available for research (infrastructure, resources, hardware, software, people).
  • Maintain or increase international ranking
  • Maintain or increase % planning fellowship or associateship (60%) or in an occupation related to health (11%)
  • Maintain number and diversity (by Institute) of investigators funded
  • 70% or more of researchers rate resources adequate
Program Activity Forecast Spending 2008–09 (in millions) Planned Spending (in Millions) Alignment to Government of Canada Outcomes
2009–10 2009–11 2009–12
2.1  Researchers and Trainees $ 198.4 $ 214.9 $ 218.0 $ 212.5 An Innovative and Knowledge-Based Economy
2.2  Research Resources and Collaboration $ 52.1 $ 49.5 $ 49.5 $ 49.5 Healthy Canadians
2.3 National and International Partnerships $ 25.4 $ 24.7 $ 24.7 $ 24.7 Healthy Canadians
2.4 Ethical, Legal and Social Issues $ 3.0 $ 2.8 $ 2.8 $ 2.8 Healthy Canadians
Total Planned Spending for Outcome #2 $ 291.9 $ 295.0 $ 289.5  
Strategic Outcome 3: Knowledge Translation and Commercialization
Performance Indicators Targets
  • Changes in health practice, programs or policies informed by CIHR-funded research, improvements in service delivery or health informed by CIHR-funded research.
  • Commercial activity – products (IP), companies and employment generated as a result of CIHR-funded projects.
  • Changes in the health and quality of life of life of Canadians in areas of CIHR investment.
  • Anecdotal evidence of changes in health practices, programs, policies, health service delivery or health due to work of CIHR funded researchers
  • Anecdotal evidence of commercial activity due to work of CIHR funded researchers
  • Maintain or increase international ranking related to quality of life
Program Activity Forecast Spending 2008–09 (in millions) Planned Spending (in Millions) Alignment to Government of Canada Outcomes
2009–10 2009–11 2009–12
3.1  Knowledge Translation into Health Research $ 43.5 $ 44.1 $ 44.1 $ 44.1 Healthy Canadians
3.2  Commercialization of Health Research $ 33.7 $ 32.0 $ 27.6 $ 27.6 An Innovative and Knowledge-Based Economy
Total Planned Spending for Outcome #3 $ 76.1 $ 71.7 $ 71.7  
Internal Services
Program Activity Forecast Spending 2008–09 (in millions) Planned Spending (in Millions) Alignment to Government of Canada Outcomes
2009–10 2009–11 2009–12
Internal Services $ 0.0 $ 20.7 $ 20.7 $ 20.6 An Innovative and Knowledge-Based Economy
Total Planned Spending for Internal Services $ 20.7 $ 20.7 $ 20.6  
Total Planned Spending $ 980.3 $ 986.7 $ 973.7  

Note: Effective 2009-10, federal government agencies and departments are required for the first time to list in their Estimates planned spending for Internal Services. As such, forecast spending in 2008-09 is NIL given these costs are not being tracked separately in the Public Accounts but rather are distributed across the Program Activities supporting each of CIHR's three Strategic Outcomes.

Note: Internal Services do not include expenditures in support of CIHR's operations that can be directly allocated to any of CIHR's three strategic outcomes.

Contribution of Priorities to Strategic Outcomes

In 2003, CIHR developed its first strategic plan - Blueprint - to guide the newly created organization with future strategic directions. CIHR's Governing Council consulted numerous individuals and organizations, with roundtable meetings and individuals providing direct feedback through a web-survey. The second iteration of CIHR's five-year strategic plan will be issued in 2009. A similarly diligent consultation process will be the foundation of the second iteration. This second strategic plan will set out a high-level vision, strategic directions and objectives, as well as an evaluation framework.

Operational Priorities Type Links to Strategic Outcome(s) Description

Strategic Direction #1

Invest in world-class excellence


Advances in Health Knowledge


People and Research Capacity

Research excellence is one of the benchmarks that will allow Canada to sustain its place in today's knowledge-based economy.

To effectively do so, CIHR will sustain its health research foundation, enhance its standards of excellence and continue to foster a culture of ethical research.

Strategic Direction #2

Work with partners to translate knowledge into health and economic impacts

On-going Knowledge Translation and Commercialization

CIHR will engage in partnerships that maximize the collective impact of knowledge creation to improve the health of Canadians and our health care system by the introduction of new health products and services.

CIHR's efforts will emphasize knowledge translation, innovation and commercialization.

Strategic Direction #3

Set health research priorities

On-going Advances in Health Knowledge Canada must set priorities that capitalize on its strengths, reflect the priorities of the Government of Canada, respond to Canadian health and health system challenges, and help it contribute to international collaboration efforts.

Strategic Direction #4

Capture results

On-going People and Research Capacity AND Knowledge Translation and Commercialization CIHR has to improve documentation and communication of the results of its grant funding.

CIHR strives continually to strengthen its operations and programming while fostering a dedicated, well-informed workforce. The organization's leadership, responsible management, continuous improvement practices and high-quality work environment demonstrate an on-going commitment to organizational excellence. Moreover, CIHR has consistently ensured that the cost of its operations are at or below 6% of its total appropriations thus ensuring the vast bulk of its funding goes directly to support world-class health research and researchers.

Management Priorities Type Links to Strategic Outcome(s) Description
Improve Program Delivery On-going All This priority focuses on taking a holistic and integrated view of how CIHR delivers and manages programs across the organization with the aim of improving client service, increasing efficiency and effectiveness and reducing complexity while still ensuring transparency and accountability of program delivery. Two corporate initiatives are underway to improve standard operating procedures and peer review processes.
Strengthen ability to demonstrate the impact of health research On-going All This priority focuses on establishing the infrastructure and organizational capacity to support the dissemination and application of health research knowledge and to improve the ability to demonstrate the impact of health research. Three corporate initiatives are underway to establish a partnership strategy, develop a knowledge-to-action map and commence implementation of an end-of-grant reporting process for funded researchers.
Improve information for management decision making On-going Internal Services This priority will focuses on establishing integrated systems, processes and tools to ensure managers have available the management information required to make effective decisions. In 2009-2010 work will continue on documenting CIHR key business processes including the decision-making accountability, information requirements, risks and fundamental controls associated with each process.
Foster a motivated, committed and productive workforce On- going Internal Services This priority area focuses on implementing the CIHR Human Resource Strategy with additional emphasis on vacancy management, integrated planning and leadership development.

Risk Analysis

CIHR continuously assesses opportunities, challenges and risks at three levels: strategic, programmatic and corporate. The major risks facing CIHR, as identified by the organization are as follows:

Research takes time and a sustained investment. A large portion of CIHR's budget is committed to grants and awards that extend over three to five years. CIHR is continually challenged by the need to provide this longer term funding while maintaining its capacity to fund new projects. To meet this challenge, CIHR has introduced investment modeling to better forecast the future impacts of funding decisions and the concept of "steady-state" dynamics to ensure relative stability in the number of applications funded and success rates, over time.

Finding the appropriate balance between strategic (i.e. targeted) and investigator-initiated research is critical to success in health research. The balance varies from one field of health to another so that no single formula exists. CIHR's Governing Council approves CIHR's budget including the strategic allocation of grant funding to its various programs. A single management committee, chaired by the President of CIHR, reviews the results of the grants and awards competitions, to ensure scientific excellence and coherence with Governing Council direction. Together these measures help ensure that CIHR achieves the appropriate balance.

There is a risk that CIHR may not be able to fulfill its knowledge translation mandate, which could result in the inability to demonstrate impact, and a lost opportunity to transform the results of the new knowledge created by CIHR funding into new health and health care practices, products or services for the benefit of Canadians.

This risk is being mitigated in two ways. The first is the establishment and planned expansion of knowledge translation programs that encourage researchers to synthesize and disseminate their results and work directly with knowledge users to find solutions. The second is the establishment of the infrastructure within CIHR to act as a convenor and to promote the synthesis and dissemination of specific research results.

The current level of operating funding limits CIHR's ability to implement some of its planned business transformation initiatives including the management priorities described above. This could result in an inability to attract and retain staff with the right level of skills and experience or delays in the development of processes, information and tools to support effective management and decision making. To mitigate this risk CIHR has implemented an integrated operational planning process which requires managers to plan activities and identify resource requirements or issues on an annual basis and a process to review progress against these plans on a quarterly basis. CIHR is also developing a five-year investment roadmap that plots the planned evolution of its programming and operating budget.

Expenditure Profile

CIHR expenditures have increased every year since its inception in 2000.

Expenditures increased to $843.3 million in 2006-07 from $800.9 million in 2005-06. This $42.4 million increase was the result of a permanent base budget increase of $17 million in 2006-07 and increases that year to several key strategic research programs including HIV/AIDS research, pandemic preparedness research, Fabry's disease and the Canada Research Chairs program.

Expenditures increased by approximately $130.8 million in 2007-08 from $843.3 million to $974.1 million due to several new government funding initiatives led by CIHR. During the 2007-08 fiscal year, CIHR incurred $73.5M in expenditures for the new Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research Program (CECR), a key element of Canada's S&T strategy that will create an environment that encourages innovation partnerships between the academic, private and public sectors. CIHR also received a $37 million base budget increase in the 2007 Federal Budget, and increases to its HIV/AIDS research program, the Canada Research Chairs Program, the International Polar Year initiative, and the pandemic preparedness research initiative.

Spending in 2008-09 is forecast to be $973.6 million, slightly less than actual expenditures in 2007-08, which benefitted from $73.5 million for the launch of the CECR Program. However, in 2008-09 CIHR will receive a $34 million base budget increase and funding for new programs such as the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships, Foreign Study Stipends and Business-Led Networks Centres of Excellence.

Departmental Spending Trend

Departmental Spending Trend

Voted and Statutory Items

(in millions)

Vote # or Statutory Item (S) Truncated Vote or Statutory Wording 2008–09
Main Estimates
Main Estimates
20 Operating expenditures $ 42.9 $ 43.2
25 Grants and contributions $ 881.3 $ 876.7
(S) Contributions to employee benefit plans $ 4.4 $ 4.4
Total $ 928.6 $ 924.3

CIHR's 2009-10 Main Estimates show a net decrease in funding of $4.3 million from 2008-09, virtually all of which in grants. This decrease includes scheduled reductions in the funding for programs such as Fabry's disease and the International Polar Year research program, which are partially offset by increases in funding to programs such as the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships Program, the Canada Graduate Scholarships Program, Pandemic Preparedness, Hepatitis C research and the Influenza Research Network.

Please note that forecast spending for 2008-09 is approximately $45 million higher then the 2008-09 Main Estimates due to additional funding approved for CIHR through the 2008-09 Supplementary Estimates. CIHR expects to obtain approval through the 2008-09 Supplementary Estimates for the on-going $34 million base budget increase announced in Budget 2008, as well as funding for the new Business-Led Networks of Centres of Excellence Program and a new round of funding for the Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research Program (CECR).