Competition year : 

Deadline (application) : 
March 21st, 2022 at 16:00 (EST)

Announcement of results : 
June 2022

Amount : 
CA$1,400,000 maximum budget (4 years) (one cluster will be funded)

Duration : 
4 years, non-renewable

Important note

The principal investigator who represents the AI and health cluster and receives funding under this program must comply with certain conditions and particularities detailed in the grant letter.


In fall 2019, Chief Scientist Rémi Quirion and the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé (FRQS) proposed a research program focused on artificial intelligence (AI) and health and digital health to the Ministère de l’économie et de l’innovation (MEI). The program is rooted in these findings:

  • AI in health and digital health is a prerequisite to the absolutely necessary transformation of health care and services to more effectively support the population;
  • The technological, organizational and societal shift is already underway and here to stay;
  • Québec is a hub of recognized expertise in basic AI research in a range of sector (e.g., finance, logistics, transport) but needs experts capable of working in both data science and health research. This lack of bilingual experts limits our capacity for discovery and innovation, especially in the health sector.

The AI and health and digital health program of the FRQ therefore aims to create a robust and bilingual ecosystem to foster the development of research and innovation in digital health.


The artificial intelligence and health cluster aims to promote the interest and development of students, post-doctoral fellows and emerging researchers in AI into the health sector in an effort to create an AI and health research community. The AI cluster seeks to be a unifying structure for researchers at various stages in their careers. The program will therefore spark interest in basic research in AI and health by enabling the student community and new emerging researchers in AI to collaborate with individuals in their field or the life sciences field on joint projects and benefit from the support of experts who have already developed and acquired knowledge in both sectors. In doing so, the cluster will make the AI in health research ecosystem more dynamic and foster the emergence and consolidation of an interdisciplinary and interinstitutional research group. It will also enable the establishment of an inclusive environment conducive to discovery and innovation.

Specific program objectives:

  • Create an AI and health community and support network between members of the AI and health research communities (students, post-doctoral fellows and researchers);
  • Facilitate mentorship by integrating students, post-doctoral fellows and emerging researchers into large-scale initiatives;
  • Foster the development of basic AI research in sectors that will help improve health;
  • Encourage scientific activities, for example through the creation of AI summer/winter schools and other activities that will spark interest;
  • Develop unifying joint initiatives;
  • Create a dynamic and inclusive collaborative space;
  • Support the joint funding of student awards (including awards for post-doctoral fellows) with partners in target areas.

Specific mandates of the AI cluster

  1. Identify current thematics in AI and health allowing significative challenges and major advances for this area. The cluster must detail its scientific planning in the application;
  2. Be a key player in the generation of significant outcomes in AI through the development of high-risk, high-reward projects in AI and health;
  3. Be among the stakeholders in the organization of a national (in year one) and international (in the following years) conference on AI applied to health, whose subjects should be oriented towards AI (e.g., algorithm development approach). The cluster will be responsible for the conference’s scientific agenda. The event must be organized in partnership with co-sponsors.



Priority themes:

All relevant topics for which the expansion of artificial intelligence (AI) knowledge represents an added value to the development of drugs, products, tools, interventions or applications in the health sector. Topics include (but are not limited to):

  • imaging;
  • omics;
  • neuroscience;
  • new molecules;
  • others


A.   Cluster configuration

  • 8 to 12 researchers with status 1, 2 or 3* under the CGR (*Status 3: minimum M.Sc., any field of research);
  • The cluster must be led by two (2) individuals with status 1 or 2 under the CGR: one co-director in AI and one co-director in life sciences;
  • Cluster researchers must represent at least two Québec universities;
  • The managing institution that oversees the grant must be the home institution of one of the cluster’s co-directors;
  • AI researchers must make up at least 50% of the team;
  • It is strongly recommended that emerging researchers join the cluster.

An unlimited number students and post-doctoral fellows may also join the cluster.

B.    Multiple applications

An individual may be included on up to two (2) applications to the program as a cluster member.

However, a researcher (status 1 or 2) may only submit one application to the program as a co-director.

C.    Support from the managing institution and partners

In its letter of support, the managing institution must describe how the cluster fits into its AI research development plan and detail the support it will provide. The cluster must also rely on contributions from partner institution. Any financial commitment or commitment in-kind provided to the cluster in the grant period will be considered a contribution.


1. Duly completed application form;

2. Cluster members (co-directors and co-researchers)

  • Canadian Common CV (funding version for the FRQS – last updated between June 2020 and the competition deadline);
  • Detailed contributions (last updated between June 2020 and the competition deadline);

3. Letters of support from the host universities (home institutions of the two co-directors) detailing their commitments to the AI cluster. When both co-directors are affiliated with the same university, the cluster must also include a letter of support from another affiliated university (home institution of a co-Investigator that is not the home university of the co-directors). Please merge the 2 letters into one document when submitting your application (3 pages per letter and a total maximum of 6 pages);

4. Letters of support from partners, if appropriate. If necessary, please merge the letters into one document (1 page per letter, total maximum of 10 letters);

5. Schedule of proposed activities of the cluster (maximum 2 pages).



Maximum annual budget


Maximum budget (4 years) (one cluster will be funded)


Grant period

4 years, non-renewable

Start date

June 2022


  • Compensation salaries for coordination and administration (up to 15% of the amount of the annual budget);
  • Student and post-doctoral fellow awards and supplements;
  • Support for research projects;
  • Compensation for status 3 researchers (college researchers) with teaching duties: the sum must be taken from the total grant. It may be up to 20% of the gross salary and represent salary compensation for the hours dedicated to research activities, not teaching. The payment must be made by the managing institution to the college;
  • Costs to organize activities and workshops (including fees for speakers, guest researchers, consultants, specialized firms and event planners);
  • Consulting fees (related to the organization of the annual conference);
  • Costs to disseminate and transfer knowledge.

Ineligible expenses

  • Salaries of cluster researchers with status 1 or 2;
  • Equipment fees, costs to lease or renovate premises, heating and electricity costs and other indirect costs related to research activities.

Indirect costs of research

  • The grant does not cover the amounts paid by the FRQS to cover the indirect costs of research incurred by institutions.


Applications will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

1.    Composition of the cluster

  • Originality of the cluster’s proposal;
  • Optimal integration and impact of synergies linked to the range of expertise to foster a more dynamic AI and health ecosystem;
  • Quality and dynamics of the proposed governance structure;
  • Inclusion of students and post-doctoral fellows in the cluster and its governance.

2.    Program

  • Relevance and adequacy of the proposed scientific plan and mechanisms to select the projects that will be funded;
  • Development of basic research and innovation in AI;
  • Detailed description of anticipated benefits in AI and health;
  • Added value of pooling infrastructures (human and material) and services;
  • Feasibility and realism of the proposed timeline to create the cluster, initiate the research program and organize the annual conference and proposed activities and initiatives;
  • Contribution to the attainment of one or many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

3.    Collaborations between cluster members

  • Quality, diversity and scope of collaboration activities and suggested networking between emerging researchers, students and users;
  • Level of involvement of all experts, including students and postdoctoral fellows, in the new cluster’s proactivity.
  • Demonstration of the synergy potential between researchers to foster the development and integration of large-scale initiatives (regional, national, international) and the cluster’s reach.

4.    Host institutions setting

  • Originality, scope and richness of activities to attract, integrate, train and support the career development of students and future professors;
  • Quality of proposed mentorship;
  • Contribution of students and future professors to the development of excellence within the cluster and the cluster’s recognition.

5.    Equity, diversity and inclusion

  • Implementation of concrete actions to support equity, diversity and inclusion within the cluster;
  • Contribution to EDI awareness and training of the cluster’s experts, beyond the composition of the team:
  1. Training: specific actions (undertaken and/or planned) to foster EDI in the students and postdoctoral fellows’ training (recruitment, training, career development practices, etc.);
  2. Research: when relevant, account for diversity in the design and development of research projects (research topics, methodology, etc.), as well as in knowledge dissemination and mobilization to diverse audiences;
  3. Involvement: specific actions (undertaken and/or planned) to foster EDI in the research setting, sector or research in general (committees, inclusive scientific events, awareness-building activities, etc.).

Weighting of evaluation criteria

Evaluation criteria

1. Composition of the cluster

Points (out of 100)

25 points

Evaluation criteria

2. Research Program

Points (out of 100)

45 points

Evaluation criteria

3. Collaborations between cluster members

Points (out of 100)

10 points

Evaluation criteria

4. Host institutions’ setting

Points (out of 100)

15 points

Evaluation criteria

5. Equity, diversity and inclusion

Points (out of 100)

5 points


Representatives from the cluster, FRQS and MEI will meet once a year to follow-up on the grant and report on the development, advancement and impacts of the research.

The cluster will invite FRQS representatives to its knowledge transfer activities (symposium, conference, etc.).

Progress report:

By accepting the grant, the managing institution agrees to submit a progress report by the deadline determined by the FRQS.

Final report:

By accepting the grant, the managing institution agrees to submit a final report at the end of the grant period by the deadline determined by the FRQS.

Financial report:

By accepting the grant, the managing institution agrees to submit an annual financial report by the deadline determined by the FRQS.


Individuals and institutions that receive a grant must demonstrate the highest standards of research ethics and scientific integrity. Refer to the Common General Rules and research ethics and scientific integrity document of the FRQS for further details Standards en éthique de la recherche et d’intégrité scientifique.

That includes the declaration by the principal investigator and managing institution that there are no real or apparent conflicts of interest that could influence the evaluation process. This applies to all the individuals mentioned in the application (e.g. suggested experts) or in any of the required documents related to the application.

Refer to the Policy on the Responsible Conduct of Research of the Fonds de recherche du Québec for more information on research ethics, confidentiality, intellectual property and the protection of academic freedom.


In contrast to other research fields, in AI research, the dissemination of negative results can prove very beneficial and have a significant impact on research quality and improvement.

In accordance with the Open Access Policy for the Dissemination of Research of the Fonds de recherche du Québec, all cluster members agree to provide open access to their scientific results in the 12 months following their publication. For more on the FRQ’s requirements, refer to the Open Science page.


The Fonds de recherche du Québec aim to support a research ecosystem based on equity, diversity and inclusion. Measures have therefore been implemented to further the integration of those principles. Award and grant holders are encouraged to give priority to equity, diversity and inclusion in the context of their research activities. For further details, refer to the FRQ’s statements on equity, diversity and inclusion.


Award and grant holders and the institutions with which they are affiliated own intellectual property rights over the original raw data, interim research and results of the funded projects, in accordance with the intellectual property rules of the respective institutions.