The establishment of AHFMR in 1980, so early in the timeline of innovation agencies, has given Alberta an undeniable competitive advantage over other jurisdictions in Canada. At the time of AHFMR’s founding only one other provincial health funding agency existed—the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec. The Manitoba Health Research Council followed in 1982, the BC Health Research Foundation in 1991, followed by the establishment of other provincial research funding agencies in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s.

In the interim, Alberta became one of the few centres in Canada that offered scientists the funding and infrastructure to support their research. The province became a destination for scientists and we saw almost two decades of unfettered “Capacity Building” with little competition within the rest of Canada. It was a crucial headstart to innovation.


1964: Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec established

Established under the name Conseil de recherches médicales by Québec’s health department. A pioneer in both Québec and Canada, the FRSQ advised the health minister in matters of medical research. More than forty years later, the FRSQ allocates $90 million annually to health research in Québec.

1980: AHFMR trainee programs established to support students and post-doctoral fellows

1981: First competitions offered

1981: First issue of AHFMR Newsletter launched

1982: Manitoba Health Research Council established

Promotes and assists basic, clinical, and applied research and provides funds for research in the health sciences in Manitoba.

1984: Clinical Investigator Program established

Links research to patient care by allowing clinically qualified investigators to further their research experience through mentorship by competitively funded researchers.

1985: Technology Commercialization Program established

Established to assist Alberta innovators to develop health-related ideas and scientific findings into health improvement technology. Since its inception, the program has invested more than $24 million to support technology-commercialization activities. The program was renamed ForeFront in 2005 to better reflect the more comprehensive and pioneering nature of the program’s support for people, projects, and industry.

1991: Media Fellowship Program established

Provides summer opportunities for Alberta university students with biomedical science backgrounds to work as reporters, researchers, and production assistants with mass media organizations in the province. The program aims to strengthen the relationship between scientists and the media. Thirty-five students have completed the program as of 2009.

1994: Health Investigators Program established

Encourages recruitment and establishment of trained investigators in Alberta. Applicants are recent graduates of an M.D. or Ph. D. program who wish to pursue research and be mentored.

1995: Health Research Collaboration initiated

A formal agreement between AHFMR and Alberta Health and Wellness to support: quality health research focused on government priorities; activities and programs focused on research capacity development and knowledge exchange; and evaluation of the collaboration to gauge success.

1995: Health Technology Assessment Program established

An independent unit, established under the Health Research Collaboration, that conducted assessments of tools, technologies, and therapies used in health which were provided to clinicians, policy makers, and government to help inform decisions. In 2006, the HTA unit moved to the Institute of Health Economics.

1996: SEARCH Program established

Established to strengthen provincial capacity for developing, disseminating, and using research to improve health outcomes. From 2005 until 2010, SEARCH Canada operated independently as a non-profit organization governed and funded by member organizations including AHFMR, Alberta’s nine health regions, and the University of Calgary.

1997: Community Research Ethics Board of Alberta (CREBA) established

The first Canadian community-based research ethics board of its kind, CREBA was created to review human subject research protocols proposed by practice-based researchers without access to research ethics boards. It is constituted in accordance with, and adheres to, Canada’s Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Human Subjects in assessing the scientific and ethical soundness of research involving Alberta’s communities and citizens.

1997: Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) launched

The Government of Canada created the CFI as an independent corporation to fund research infrastructure. Since its creation, the CFI has committed $5.27 billion to more than 6,600 projects at 130 research institutions in 65 municipalities across Canada.

1997: Canadian Health Services Research Foundation (CHSRF) established

Brings researchers and decision makers together to create and apply knowledge to improve health services for Canadians. The organization is an independent, not-for-profit corporation, established with endowed funds from the federal government and its agencies. The CHSRF Executive Training for Research Application (EXTRA) Program was modeled on AHFMR’s SEARCH Program.

1998: Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation established

Fosters health research throughout the province through funding and collaboration.

1999: AHFMR Research Prize introduced

Created to maintain and improve AHFMR personnel awards as vehicles for recruitment and retention of competitive investigators at Alberta institutions. The prize is awarded annually to all investigators receiving unconditional AHFMR personnel awards.

1999: Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Applied Health Research established (NLCAHR)

Established with funding from the province’s Department of Health and Community Services, Memorial University of Newfoundland, and the Health Care Corporation of St. John’s. NLCAHR provides funding to support the development and the use of applied health research in the province.

2000: The Heritage Youth Researcher Summer (HYRS) Program established

Offers high school students with high academic standing the opportunity to spend their summer working on research projects supervised by AHFMR and other university research mentors.

2000: Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) established

The largest Government of Canada agency responsible for funding health research in Canada. CIHR administers the Networks of Centres of Excellence and Canada Research Chair programs. In 2008-2009, CIHR’s expenditures were $986.1 million.

2000: Canada Research Chairs (CRC) program established

A permanent program created by the Government of Canada to establish 2,000 research professorships (Canada Research Chairs) in universities across the country. The Canada Research Chairs program invests $300 million per year to attract and retain researchers.

2001: Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research created

Modelled on AHFMR, this Foundation was established by the government of British Columbia to develop leadership in health research through funding, programs, and support.

2001: Impact Analysis unit established

First established to coordinate and conduct analysis of the effects of the Foundation’s activities, the unit evolved into Performance Management in 2008. The focus of the Performance Management unit is to evaluate the relevance, effectiveness, and efficiencies of AHFMR’s strategies and service delivery, as well as the impacts of funded health research.

2002: AHFMR’s Research Transfer Network of Alberta (RTNA) launched

A network of more than 600 Albertans interested and engaged in health research transfer. The network aims to strengthen the use of research findings to improve health policy and practice in Alberta.

2002: Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) established

Funds and promotes excellence in health research in Saskatchewan.

2003: Alberta Research Ethics Community Consensus (ARECCI) Initiative

An AHFMR-initiated collaboration of organizations and entities working to enhance ethical oversight across a range of health projects (e.g., research, quality improvement, evaluation) involving people or personal information. ARECCI is unique in Canada and has developed numerous products (e.g., just-in-time screening process, education modules, review tools) to assist project leaders and organizations to protect the rights of participants in such projects.

2005: AHFMR Maternity Leave Policy introduced

While women and men have nearly identical success rates at entry levels of research funding, few women gain success at senior award levels, often because they choose to have families. The policy allows female researchers currently funded by AHFMR who take maternity leave to automatically qualify for a one-year fully paid extension of their Heritage award. This allows time for female scientists to regain their research momentum before applying for further funding.This policy was the first of its kind in Canada.

2005: Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation established

Provides funding and support to Ontario’s research activities through branches focusing on research, commercialization, outreach, promotion, business development and innovation policy.

2006: AHFMR restructures its awards program to new competitive levels

Awards program restructured to help Alberta attract and retain world-class researchers.

2006: AHFMR Connects Program established

Established to reconnect with AHFMR’s cohort of past funded researchers (6,000+ from 1981 to 2009) who can advise and mentor current awardees. Connects convenes an annual conference for connecting health researchers; delivers professional development workshops to trainees; and collects and analyzes data on the past thirty years of AHFMR funded researchers to show the organization’s impact on advancing health research.

2007: AHFMR Polaris Award established

Established to help Alberta universities recruit outstanding mid-career health researchers of exceptional international calibre to the province. The goal of this award is to accelerate research activity in key areas that are priorities for Albertans.

2007: AHFMR Interdisciplinary Team Grant Program established

This unique, multi-million dollar initiative provides opportunities for teams of researchers from different disciplines and institutions to address priority health issues in Alberta. Though other funding agencies also provide team grants, the AHFMR program boasts a broad, interdisciplinary aspect and requires its teams to plan ways to move their research findings into the health system.

2009: AHFMR Education and Community Outreach (ECO) Program established

Offers teachers and students hands-on experience of research through lab-based workshops and programs to help promote educational opportunities and careers in the field of health research. Public programming includes events where screenings of popular films are followed by presentations given by scientists about the accuracy of the science portrayed in the film.

2009: Manitoba Health Research Council Re-established

The MHRC provided $6 million in funding for 2008-2009.

2010: AHFMR succeeded by AIHS