7 Research Excellence Themes
5 Core Commitments
4 Strategic Objectives


For close to two centuries, McGill University has attracted some of the world’s brightest researchers and young minds. Today, McGill remains dedicated to the transformative power of ideas and research excellence as judged by the highest international standards. The Strategic Research Plan (SRP) expresses McGill’s commitments to fostering creativity; promoting innovation; problem-solving through collaboration and partnership; promoting equity, diversity and inclusion; and serving society through seven identified Thematic Areas of Research Excellence.

Research Excellence Themes

The seven Research Excellence Themes group McGill researchers into broad areas of strategic importance. Together the themes will be used as a roadmap for setting institutional-level objectives and supporting both disciplinary and interdisciplinary research. Our classification is designed to help generate and reinforce novel linkages that address issues of local, regional, and global importance.

The Research Excellence Themes are, by necessity, broad ways of grouping areas of strength and strategic importance and so our researchers have written a few emblematic examples of research areas that fit within the themes. These examples are by no means exhaustive - they are intended to allow the reader insight into some of McGill's varied research endeavours within the themes. Click on the images or text below to explore the seven Research Excellence Themes. 

A robotic arm in the Centre for Intelligent Machines


1. Develop knowledge of the foundations, applications, and impacts of technology in the Digital Age



Scientists representing theme 22. Understand the potential of the human brain and nervous system




Man conducting research on seabird colony ledge representing theme 33. Design and create sustainable materials, technologies, landscapes, and communities




Woman conducting research in a lab with pipette.4. Advance biomedical and health sciences for healthy populations




McGill flies the Hiawatha Wampum Belt Flag from the Arts Building. 5. Strengthen public policy and organizations, and create a deeper understanding of society and social transformation




Southpole telescope representing theme 66. Explore Earth's biological and physical systems and the universe




musicians representing theme 77. Examine fundamental questions about humanity, identity, and expression





Lab mates hold safe solvent chemical vials to a light. The Unique Character of McGill

McGill's researchers are known around the world for their discoveries and innovations. Learn more about McGill's vision, commitments, and objectives for sustained research excellence in the Strategic Research Plan (SRP). McGill is a large, diverse institution with research activities spanning two campuses, 10 Faculties, multiple hospitals, research centres and institutes. It is home to more than 1,700 tenured or tenure-track faculty members. Defining Research Excellence Themes that cut across these entities is a difficult but necessary challenge to promote areas of collaboration with partners, attract people and resources, and envision a research future emerging from existing strengths. To that end, we have identified seven Research Excellence Themes. 

The SRP lays the groundwork for McGill to reach into the future by enhancing its research capabilities, building and strengthening its strategic relationships, and growing its societal impact through knowledge mobilization beyond academia. The SRP also aims to promote exciting and creative responses to new challenges and opportunities as the research landscape and the social, cultural, economic, and technological realities of our world change. 

Image: In the lab of Professor Tomislav Friščić (Normand Blouin)

Students in a classroomOur vision, goals and culture


McGill is a world-class research-intensive, student-centred university with an enduring sense of public purpose. We are guided by our mission to carry out research and scholarly activities that are judged to be excellent by the highest international standards. Our researchers ask important questions and contribute within and across disciplines to address the most pressing and complex challenges facing humanity and the natural environment in the 21st century.

Fundamental to realizing this vision is the expansion of a culture that nurtures and facilitates research excellence, enabling faculty and student researchers to explore rich intellectual pursuits, respond to new global realities and co-create knowledge with partners that will have impacts at local, national, and global scales.

This Strategic Research Plan (SRP) expresses McGill’s core commitments to research, identifies ongoing Research Excellence Themes, and outlines our implementation strategy and objectives over the next five years.

Image: The McGill Space Institute (Olivier Blouin)

Achieving Our Goals

McGill has a strong history of achievement, consistently ranking as one of the top universities in the world across a wide range of disciplines and subject areas. We are renowned for attracting some of the brightest researchers and young thinkers, who contribute immensely to the advancement of knowledge.

This SRP reaffirms our dedication to the transformative power of ideas and research excellence. To these ends, we commit to:

  • Fostering creativity
  • Promoting innovation
  • Problem solving through collaboration and partnership
  • Promoting equity, diversity and inclusion
  • Serving society

This document goes on to describe the scope and reach of McGill’s research enterprise through each of seven Research Excellence Themes. The Research Excellence Themes describe ongoing research but they are also forward looking and imbued with aspirational goals, for example, of advancing technology to improve the human condition, reducing disease burden and building sustainable societies. Under each of the Research Excellence Themes the reader will find examples, provided by our research community, that are intended to bring the Research Themes to life. The final section identifies strategic objectives designed to enhance McGill’s ability to provide distinctive contributions to research, teaching and training, and community engagement, both locally and beyond. These objectives build on the University’s ongoing and continued efforts to streamline administrative procedures, increase opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration, and explore new organizational models for strategic research teams.

Overall, the SRP aims to extend the global impact of our research activities, encourage new and stronger partnerships, deliver quality research experiences for trainees, and help McGill tap into the worldwide pool of knowledge while contributing to its advancement.

The Unique Character of McGill

Founded in 1821, McGill is a research-intensive university with a history of producing important contributions to the arts and humanities, science and technology, and health. The University both belongs to the world and is firmly rooted in Montreal – a global destination for scholarship and a city where different languages, cultures, and perspectives not only co-exist, but come together to create a unique community that is stronger because of its diverse parts.

McGill University is located on land, which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange among Indigenous peoples, including the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabeg nations. McGill honours, recognizes, and respects these nations as the traditional stewards of the lands and waters on which we stand today.

McGill benefits immensely from its place at the centre of a vibrant hub of intellectual, cultural, and scientific activity. In addition to Montreal’s many academic institutions, major government laboratories and research-intensive industry are situated in the city. These organizations anchor research clusters in life sciences, sustainable resource utilization, aeronautics, and artificial intelligence.

The intellectual and cultural vitality of Montreal contributes to McGill’s ability to attract the very best faculty members and students from Quebec, Canada, and around the world. It is telling that McGill consistently recruits undergraduates with the highest entering grades in the country and has the largest percentage of international students among Canada’s top research-intensive universities. McGill nurtures this talent by placing a special emphasis on the nexus between research and education, recognizing that top students at all levels are inspired by novel ideas and practices and are the leaders of the future. McGill has a comparatively high ratio of graduate to undergraduate students, a metric fitting of a research-intensive university that prioritizes the training of the next generation of researchers. It simply cannot be overstated that graduate students and postdoctoral researchers are fundamental to the University’s research enterprise and that their support and training are vital to the University’s research mandate.

Purpose of the SRP

The SRP informs the University’s strategic distribution of Canada Research Chairs (CRC), applications to Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERC), and Canada Foundation for Innovation investments. It is also a reference for promoting our world-class researchers and students to our public and private supporters. For a summary of McGill’s current CRC allocation and projections, see Appendix 1.

The spirit of the document aligns with the President’s Priorities, the Strategic Academic Plan 2017-2022, the Final Report of the Provost’s Task Force on Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Education 2017, the University’s Vision 2020 Climate and Sustainability Action Plan 2017-2020, as well as strategic research priorities from our Faculties and affiliated hospitals. Finally, implementation strategies included here rely on institutional commitments to increase efficiency and connectivity across a broad spectrum of University endeavours.

The SRP provides McGill Faculties, departments, centres, institutes, and individual researchers with the freedom and flexibility necessary to pursue their specific goals in the context of the University’s strategic vision.

Lab equipment Core Commitments

The following five core commitments illustrate McGill’s dedication to the pursuit of research excellence. We believe that fundamental research extends the boundaries of knowledge so that it can inform problem-focused research and equip us to respond to new challenges as they emerge. There is no single metric that effectively measures the success of research and its impact on society. We recognize that all forms of research outputs advance knowledge and affect society, either directly or indirectly, and contribute to social, economic, environmental, or cultural benefits.

Image: The McGill Nanotools Microfac (NMN) facility (Olivier Blouin)

Fostering Creativity

Universities are grounded in a long history of reflection and inquiry in all aspects of the arts and humanities, science and technology, and health. Wherever research may ultimately lead, all advances begin with creative ideas. McGill has been an active participant in this tradition for almost two centuries, and we strongly believe that universities must continue to be spaces where leading minds are free to pursue discovery and create new knowledge.

Promoting Innovation

Increasing the emphasis on innovation in all its forms – social, pedagogical, and organizational as well as through the development of new products and processes – allows us to play a leading role in a knowledge-based society. We invent and we increase the impact of research by translating the results into social and commercial applications. This translation can take many forms - communicating research discoveries to decision-makers, transferring knowledge and know-how, protecting ideas and inventions, licensing discoveries, and creating new spin-off companies or non-profit organizations.

Problem Solving Through Collaboration and Partnership

McGill is dedicated to facilitating mutually-rewarding research partnerships across academic fields, both on our campuses and with external partners. Our researchers collaborate with community organizations, citizens’ associations, as well as with government and industry partners. Partnerships and team approaches often require extra organizational effort and special institutional support. These efforts are necessary to deliver benefits of partnerships which may include enriched research endeavours and outputs as well as new opportunities for applied learning experiences for students. Bringing together leaders – regardless of discipline, background, or affiliation – can generate new ideas and approaches. At home and abroad, our faculty and students build bridges with colleagues from other leading research institutions, governments, private industry, and community-based organizations.

Promoting Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Research excellence and equity go hand in hand. The underrepresentation of voices among our researchers and students is an unacceptable loss of human potential that we are striving to overcome. True and full inquiry into all aspects of the arts and humanities, science and technology, and health happens when the visions, experiences, knowledge, traditions, and epistemologies of multiple peoples are embraced.

Serving Society 

McGill researchers apply their ingenuity and creativity in service to society. Drawing on the strengths and expertise of different stakeholders, they co-create and apply evidence-based research to address shared challenges; guide and develop policies, practices and products; provide innovative learning environments and professional experiences for students at all levels; improve professional practices; and seek out and support initiatives that result in tangible improvements for individuals and communities.




Strengthen the Innovation and partnership agenda


Steward research trajectories toward collaborative, large-scale initiatives and international partnerships


Promote and draw on diversity in all aspects of research


Lead in open science and Data management


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