Canada Foundation for Innovation makes first awards under Hospital Research Fund; changes to program expected

Guest Contributor
December 7, 2004

The Canada Foundation for Innovation has announced the first winners under its new Research Hospital Fund (RHF) competition, awarding $61 million for 12 projects at eight institutions that successfully made the case for additional research infrastructure not typically covered by other CFI funds. The competition was open only to those institutions that were successful in the last Innovation Fund (IF) competition — a situation that could change as the CFI re-evaluates its overall program structure for the next five years of its mandate.

The RHF delivers on a key component of the 2003 First Ministers Accord on Health Care Renewal, which allocated $500 million in support of a broad range of research infrastructure in research hospitals across Canada. The funding was provided in response to calls by hospital CEOs to address a severe and growing shortage of medical research space (R$, February 18 & March 7/03).

The Fund provides 40% of a project’s value and is generally equal to the amount that the institution won in the IF competition, effectively doubling the size of the original IF award. The RHF supports large-scale projects that are integrated, translational and interdisciplinary. Hospitals have just 18 months to line up the remaining 60% of project costs – a task made more difficult by the reluctance of provinces to provide the funds to match the CFI contribution.

“It’s a challenge to be confronted. We only heard about the final decisions in late October” says Dr Bernie Bressler, VP research for the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority (VCHA). “The process seemed a bit awkward on this round, particularly as to how we have to position ourselves for the second round of applications. It drove a lot of our scientists crazy but we’re getting good at writing these applications.”

Adding to the complexity of the process is the funding cap placed on each institutions. The cap is based upon their record in attracting tri-council funding and each university developed internal processes for determining which projects move forward.


The RHF was conceived and launched in a relatively short period of time and changes are being contemplated for future rounds. CFI executive VP Carmen Charette says several options are being considered as part of a sweeping consultation and review process that took place over the past several months (see December 2 Update at

“The Innovation Fund competition added complexity to the design of the initial round. In the future we may integrate it to make it simpler,” says Charette. “I’m not sure if we will tie it to the Innovation Fund but we would like to look at it as a whole instead of pieces.”

For the first RHF round, the CFI received 18 requests worth $120 million and made 12 awards worth approximately half that amount. That leaves the RHF with slightly less than $440 million, while the traditional CFI programs have $750 million available. That funding cannot be released until the beginning of 2006, with no new funding decisions expected before summer 2006. Also set aside for future competitions are $156 million for the New Opportunities Fund and $35 million for a major international joint project.

Without the infusion of new funds through year-end allocations of budget surpluses —a more complex scenario in a minority government environment — the CFI is looking closely at how to stimulate new areas of research while protecting existing investments. That will have a direct bearing on how the RHF will be managed until 2008, when the funds should be fully committed.


The VCHA — the provincial body responsible for the Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) — was successful with two of three RHF proposals. It is now proceeding with plans to establish a Centre for Hip Health and Prostate Centre Translational Research Initiative for Accelerated Discovery and Development (PC-TRIADD).

With just $13 million in RHF funding, VCHA is proceeding with $65 million in construction and infrastructure expenditures, conditional upon provincial matching funds and the remaining 20% through the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation.

The proposal for the Centre for Hip Health was developed over an 18-month period under the direction of Dr Tom Oxland. The proposal incorporated the hospital’s arthritis research group and focused on hips, knees, bone and cartilage.

“It’s an extremely innovative proposal for our society as we age. We always had the CFI in mind and then the RHF appeared,” says Bressler. “Scientists dream of being competitive on the international scene to be the best (and) they need the best equipment to do it with.”

Bressler says both the Hip Health Centre and the Prostate Centre (under the direction of Dr Martin Gleave) aim to move science from the lab to the clinic. The VGH is already developing proposals for the next RHF round in the areas of health services policy, immunity infection in transplantation and the central nervous system.



($ millions)
InstitutionRHFIFRHF + IFProject Description
Centre hospitalier de Univ de Montreal4.55.810.3Diabetes Research Centre
Centre hospitalier de Univ de Montreal5.020.925.9Immunology, immunotherapy & vaccinology
BC Provincial Health Services Authority7.37.514.8Centre for Disease Modelling
IWK Health Centre (Halifax) for Vaccinology
IWK Health Centre (Halifax) & Drug Discovery Lab
Vancouver Coastal Health Authority7.77.715.4Centre for Hip Health
Vancouver Coastal Health Authority5.35.510.8Prostate Research Centre
Hospital for Sick Children (Toronto) Genomics for Health Research
University Health Network (Toronto) & Animal Support Infrastructure Enhancement
University Health Network (Toronto) & Biotherapuetics Facility
University Health Network (Toronto) Discovery & Clinical Impact in Cancer
Toronto Rehabilitation Centre6.37.313.6Labs and Workspace in Toronto Rehabilitation Institute

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