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Chairs in Design Engineering

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 10 (Preliminary Application)
May 26 (Invitation to submit full application)
August 28 (Full Application – only if invited by NSERC)
How to Apply See below
Application Forms To create or access an application, select On-line System Login. To view forms and instructions, select PDF Forms and Instructions.
Contact Consult the Contact List

Important Information


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. Funded Chairs are expected to:

  • increase design education and training for all engineering students;
  • design and develop innovative products, processes and technologies;
  • establish productive and effective collaborations between industry, design faculty and professional staff within the university and other CDE Chairholders, faculty and experts across Canada;
  • advance design engineering knowledge through publications and presentations in both peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed vehicles;
  • integrate research activities into the CDE action plan
  • actively participate in the Canadian Engineering Education Association;
  • establish effective multidisciplinary design partnerships, teams and networks; and
  • act as advocates for design engineering, generating an increased awareness and appreciation in both the research and outside communities for all aspects of design engineering.

Definition of Design Engineering

Design engineering is an enabler of innovation. It is the activity that creates the concepts and designs, and develops the new and improved products, processes and technologies that are needed in industry and in other sectors of the economy.

Design engineering integrates mathematics, basic sciences, engineering sciences and complementary studies in developing elements, systems and processes to meet specific needs. It is a creative, iterative and often open-ended process subject to constraints which may be governed by standards or legislation to varying degrees depending upon the discipline. These constraints may relate to economic, health, safety, environmental, social or other pertinent factors.


The Chair award provides funding for the Chairholder’s salary and design-related activities, including costs associated with training, partnerships and promotion. Chairholders must have significant design capabilities, industrial collaborative experience, and demonstrated ability in training design engineers.

NSERC's goal in setting up the Chairs is to expand and improve Canada's capacity and performance in all aspects of design engineering, including environmental design. Universities, either independently or jointly with other universities and educational institutions, are invited to submit proposals in partnership with industry, federal and provincial governments, and other private or public sector organizations.

To help universities meet the growing demand for design engineering talent and to help them create and develop new and innovative designs, design concepts and design tools, NSERC is working to establish a total of 16 concurrent CDEs across Canada. Up to four Chairs are available in the current competition.

A CDE grant provides funding for the salary of the Chairholder, infrastructure, design tools and instruments, and general expenses related to the Chair’s program of activities and research. Each Chair has a term of five years and may be renewed for an additional five-year term. NSERC will provide up to $1 million 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 inflation.

Structure of the Chair

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.

Beyond that, the universities should design the specifics of their Chair to be in line with their particular needs, aspirations and circumstances. Please note that the design training anticipated should be at a level relevant to Canadian receptor industries. Thus, a significant component of a proposed Chair in Design Engineering is generally expected to address the training of bachelor’s-level engineers. Proposals that concentrate on graduate student training must make the case that this level of education is required by industry.

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 action plan. There must be a strong and 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.

NSERC will entertain proposals for Chairs with single or multiple Chairholders. Universities are encouraged to propose creative solutions in response to the challenge of designing the best possible Chair, in line with their needs and aspirations.

Chair Eligibility

Candidates for a Chair in Design Engineering position must be designers 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 be recognized as leaders in their field, hold a degree in engineering and be considered distinctive in comparison with their peers. Furthermore, candidates are expected to have extensive design experience and all the qualifications for a tenured appointment at the rank of full or associate professor.

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.

CDE Chair Candidate Attributes

Must May Should not
have all of the qualifications for a tenured appointment at the rank of full or associate professor be an internal or external candidate be an assistant professor
hold a degree in engineering and either be licensed, or be eligible for licensing, as a Professional Engineer in Canada have design engineering experience in industry be a recent PhD graduate
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 recognized in the design engineering community  
be aware of current design engineering and/or design education practices incorporate design engineering principles into an established research program  
have demonstrated ability to interact with industry and nurture partnerships 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  

CDE Dean Attributes

Should May Should not
provide strong and ongoing commitment to implement the Chair’s action plan, including cash and in-kind contributions Link to the university’s/faculty’s strategic plan/vision hold an interim position
provide a clear mandate of the Chair to the faculty, and support the integration of CDE activities into the faculty provide alternative promotion and tenure possibilities for engineering design work associated with the Chair  
provide a direct reporting structure for all Chair-related activities   delegate reporting of the CDE to the department Chair or other administrative position


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 for an equivalent salary commitment to additional design engineering positions attached to, or collaborating with, the Chair.

Supporting Organizations

NSERC will match cash contributions from sponsoring 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 partner contributions may come from industry, government, the university, or any other private or public sector organizations, communities or individuals. NSERC will also consider matching in-kind contributions consisting of staff time, salaries, equipment or any other resources provided by the business and industry partners of the Chair.

Industrial cash contributed to a CDE is eligible, 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.

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 candidate for the Chair.

Those interested in applying for a Chair in Design Engineering must first submit a preliminary application to NSERC by the date indicated above. Successful applicants will be invited to submit a full application. There is a Form 101 (form-fillable) specific application form for this grant, attached in the overview box. Use forms 101 and 183A, and follow the instructions for preparing a CDE application. You must print it out and mail two copies of the paper version, along with an electronic copy (e.g. on a USB key or compact disc) of the preliminary application. For all preliminary applications, the NSERC On-line Presentation and Attachment Standards must be followed.

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 CDE Grants, present the Chair candidate, and outline the expected impact. The CDE Selection Committee will use the preliminary application in its screening process in order to determine which applicants will be invited to submit full proposals.

The preliminary application should be up to seven pages in length, not including the budget and CV pages. The preliminary application should include the following sections:

  1. Title page;
  2. Background;
  3. Vision;
  4. Impact;
  5. Chair candidate(s);
  6. Budget; and
  7. Candidate’s CV.

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); and
  • signatures from the applicant and candidate(s).


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 the design, and their respective expectations.


Introduce the philosophy and the overall vision for the proposed CDE, and the Chair’s plans and objectives for what will be achieved during its first term. The vision that is presented should also present what will have changed when the first term of the Chair is completed.


Present the mechanism by which the Chair will be able to effect change and achieve the described vision. Describe the expectations for interactions with other individuals/departments/disciplines and the overall impact on the university's design capacity.

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 highlight the role of design engineering.  Clearly describe the actions the Dean will undertake to fulfill this role.

Comment on the four main objectives of the CDE Grants (that are listed below) and how the proposed Chair plans to address these criteria. All relevant citations are expected to be incorporated into the preliminary proposal.

Introduce the proposed design Chair’s philosophy and plans for:

  • the contribution to the training of highly qualified personnel: improving training in design engineering;
  • the design and development: facilitating the design and development of innovative products, processes and technologies;
  • collaboration: establishing effective multidisciplinary design partnerships, teams and networks inside and outside the university; and outline the involvement of potential participating organizations, including industry;
  • 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.; and
  • advancement:  plans for publications and presentations in both peer- reviewed and non-peer-reviewed vehicles.

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. Describe the Chair candidate’s design experience and relevance to the proposed plans for the Chair. 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 company(s) offering them.

Candidate’s CV

In this section the proposed Chairholder(s) should include a CV that clearly demonstrates the candidate’s 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; however, the following sections should be highlighted:

  • Demonstrated expertise/accomplishment in:
    • teaching
    • design
    • process
    • impacts
  • Additional design expertise/experience

All the relevant information, including about the publications—dates, details of the paper (conference, journal, refereed, etc.), must be be listed. Any relevant grant information, including the funding amount, must 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 applicant’s CV;
  • an Information Required from Organizations Participating in Research Partnerships Programs form (Form 183A) and a letter of support from each partner, detailing how the proposed Chair will benefit their organization and the amount of cash or in-kind contributions they will make to aid network activities. (Refer to the instructions for completing Form 183A for details.)

Refer to the CDE – Guide for Applicants.

Review Procedures

The preliminary applications will be reviewed by a selection panel composed of design experts from academia and industry. All full applications will be evaluated through a site visit. The selection panel will then rank the full applications and make the final recommendations to NSERC.

Selection Criteria

Applications will be evaluated on the basis of the quality of the candidate, the impact of the university design strategy, and the relevance and creativity demonstrated by the action plan in achieving the CDE goals. All relevant citations are expected to be incorporated into the proposal. The evaluation criteria involve quantitative and qualitative assessments of the specific results, contributions and impacts to be achieved by the university's design strategy, and the Chair's action plan in relation to each of the four (equally weighted) objectives:

  1. contribution to the training of highly qualified personnel;
  2. design and development;
  3. collaboration; and
  4. promotion.

The evaluation criteria also cover the Chairholder, the Chair structure and other arrangements that may affect the Chair's success and effectiveness.

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

  • Excellence of the candidate: the stature, design competence, experience and record of accomplishments of the proposed candidate(s).
  • Merit of the proposed work:
    • University design strategy: 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 the design, their respective expectations and the impact of the Chair on them respectively;
    • Quality of the action plan: the merit, creativity, feasibility and relevance of the proposed program for achieving the CDE goals, including the philosophy and the overall vision for the proposed Chair and the integration of research activities;
    • Work plan:  detailed plans and objectives for what will be achieved during the term, including meaningful metrics, both quantitative and qualitative; and
    • Advancement:  plans for publications and presentations in both peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed vehicles.
  • Training of highly qualified personnel: improving training in design engineering; and opportunities for the training of students in areas relevant to the industrial needs, including interactions with the industrial partner(s).
  • Design and development:  facilitating the design and development of innovative products, processes and technologies.
  • Collaboration: establishing effective multidisciplinary design partnerships, teams and networks inside and outside the university; and the involvement of potential participating organizations, including industry. Description of collaboration with the Canadian Engineering Education Association (CEEA) and with other CDEs.
  • 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.
  • Industrial relevance and benefits: the relevance of the action plan and the benefits that will accrue to the supporting organization(s) and the Canadian economy.
  • Benefits to the university: the growth of a sustainable activity that will generate results of industrial relevance, enhance training, and stimulate academic collaborations and industrial interactions.
  • Appropriateness of the setting: the adequacy of the physical environment and financial resources to support the Chair, from the university and supporting partners.

Public Announcements

Refer to the General Guidelines for the Public Announcement of Major NSERC Awards in planning a public announcement of a CDE. 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 is required to submit annual progress reports and financial statements (i.e., Form 300 – Grants in Aid of Research/Statement of Account). Private and public contributions to the Chair must be confirmed annually. The Chairholder submits annual reports. The Chairholders meet twice a year to discuss issues of common interest and present progress reports.

Three months after the completion of the Chair funding, the grantee must submit a final report on the Chair’s achievements with respect to its objectives. Each partner will be asked to evaluate the report. Grantees are informed of the requirements for such reports at the appropriate time.


Renewal of a CDE provides continued support for the Chair's design engineering program.  The decision whether to renew a CDE for a second term is based on a peer review conducted in the last 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 the up-to-date progress report covering 48 months of the Chair, a new detailed proposal for the next term (use forms 100, 101 and 183A), a continued commitment from partners and the support of the university. The CDE Selection Panel 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 design engineering program. The total funding provided by the sponsoring organization(s) during that same period must be equal to or greater than NSERC’s support.

In the second term only, the maximum NSERC contribution to salary for each successive year will be: 45 percent, 37.5 percent, 25 percent, 12.5 percent, and 5 percent, respectively, of the value of the Chairholder’s salary and fringe benefits at the beginning of the second term. The expectation is that the university will assume an increasing commitment toward the Chairholder’s salary. 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. The remainder of NSERC’s contribution is allocated to the Chair’s design engineering program.

For further information about the renewal of Chairs in Design Engineering, see the Renewal Policy on Chairs in Design Engineering.

Applicants needing clarification or additional information are encouraged to contact:

Linda Martin
Research Partnerships
350 Albert Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 1H5
Tel.: 613-944-7528
Fax: 613-992-5337

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