Arctic and Northern Challenge program plan

The Arctic and Northern Challenge program team engaged widely with Northern and Indigenous partners to define and refine program parameters and build off important Northern policy documents, such as the Government of Canada's Arctic and Northern Policy Framework and submissions to it such as the Gwich'in Tribal Council submission and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami National Inuit Strategy on Research.

Engagement involved 3 different phases (thematic focus groups, online survey and technical sessions) across more than 20 formal engagement sessions, with hundreds of invitations sent to participate. Engagement was carried out virtually due to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Feedback from Northern peoples included advice on priority research areas, program mechanics, and the importance of cross-cutting themes such as capacity building.

Program vision

Guided by Northerners, the daily lives of Arctic and Northern peoples will be improved through applied technology and innovation.

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If you are interested in collaborating, making investments in this area, attending a workshop or engagement activity, or if you have any questions, please send an email to NRC.Arctic&Northern-Arctique&

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Program outcomes

The program's 2 ultimate outcomes are:

  • Arctic and Northern peoples participate in the design, governance, delivery and dissemination of applied research to address challenges identified by Northerners
  • Increase Northern R&D capacity (individual, organizational and community) to solve pressing issues confronting Northerners

Program objective

The objective for projects selected for funding under the Arctic and Northern Challenge program is that they will improve the daily lives of Northerners through technology and innovation.

The program was officially launched in February 2022 and will run until March 2029. Calls for proposals will be solicited on several occasions throughout the life of the program.

Research themes










Under this theme, applied research is conducted and/or technology developed and applied to improve the adequacy, suitability and affordability of Arctic and Northern homes. A household is considered to be in "core housing need" if 1 or more of the following 3 pillars are not met: adequacy (i.e., housing conditions do not require any major repairs), suitability (i.e., there are enough bedrooms for the size and makeup of resident households) and affordability (i.e., less than 30% of before-tax income is being spent on housing costs).

Adequacy: Research into quality construction and robust infrastructure.

Suitability: Research to support buildings that meet the cultural and functional needs of Northern communities.

Affordability: Research in construction, maintenance, materials, energy efficiency, transportation and other means to support affordable housing.

See the consultation summaries for the program theme of housing


Under this theme, applied research is conducted and/or technologies are developed and applied to improve the accessibility, comprehensiveness and appropriateness of Arctic and Northern health resources. A holistic view of health encompasses physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. In a Northern and Indigenous context, this definition is deeply connected to one's culture, and such a holistic view of health is dependent on a system focused on person-centred care that is accessible, comprehensive and appropriate. Cultural safety, which refers to both an environment free of racism and discrimination, where people feel safe while receiving health care, as well as rate of human error (e.g., due to mismanagement of information) is an important factor that underpins this definition of health.

Accessibility: Research examining remote, rapid and local care.

Comprehensiveness: Research supporting detection, management and treatments for health and wellness, and its data, locally.

Appropriateness: Research into culturally appropriate care and communication.

See the consultation summaries for the program theme of health


Under this theme, applied research is conducted and/or technologies developed and applied to improve the accessibility, availability and quality of Arctic and Northern food resources. Food security exists when individuals have adequate economic and physical access to food and consistent availability of quality foods that are safe and nutritious, at all times. Food sovereignty is defined as an extension of food security that allows for production, distribution and consumption of food in a way that is consistent with one's culture and supports self-sufficiency. In an Arctic and Northern context, this includes access to traditional or country foods, which remain an important source of nutrition and energy intake for Northern communities, especially for Indigenous populations. Self-determination is vital to both food sovereignty and food security because it presupposes local and community agency for decision making around food.

Accessibility: Research addressing access to traditional food sources and food system infrastructure deficits.

Availability: Research examining impacts of climate change, shipping reliability and other considerations on the availability of food.

Quality: Research studying food safety, processing, storage, preservation and labour requirements.

See the consultation summaries for the program theme of food


Under this theme, applied research is conducted and/or technologies developed and applied to improve the availability, accessibility and quality of Arctic and Northern water resources. Clean, fresh water is fundamental to the survival and prosperity of communities and ecosystems in Canada's North. The social, economic, cultural and spiritual wellbeing of Arctic and Northern communities is dependent upon water security. Water availability, accessibility and quality are key factors to ensuring water security in the North.

Availability: Research to address climate change, population growth and other factors impacting the ability to source water.

Accessibility: Research that addresses infrastructure, operations and maintenance to support water and wastewater management and distribution.

Quality: Research that examines contaminants within wastewater or quality of fresh water, and the treatment or monitoring of those, point source pollution or other impacts on water quality.

See the consultation summaries for the program theme of water

Cross-cutting aspects

Capacity building

Capacity building

Traditional Knowledge

Indigenous Knowledge

Projects must also address the 2 cross-cutting aspects of Northern capacity building/training and braiding of Indigenous Knowledge and Western science. Research projects will:

  • demonstrate how they will aim to increase Northern and Indigenous R&D capacity (individual, organizational and community), to address pressing issues confronting Northerners
  • show how they will braid Indigenous Knowledge with the study design, data collection, project implementation, training and/or technology advancement, with at least one Indigenous Knowledge holder involved in the project.

Arctic and Northern Challenge program guiding principles

Foster Indigenous self-determination

Follow the "nothing about us, without us" principle by enabling the leadership of Northern First Nations, Inuit and Métis in research, recognizing that Indigenous peoples have been and continue to be excluded from research governing bodies and, in turn, from realizing the benefits of research.

Uphold data sovereignty and research ethics

Protect the rights of Northerners and Indigenous peoples living in the North to control and/or influence research conducted in their communities, adhering to the ethical research guidelines established by the Tri-Council, Northern First Nations, Inuit and Métis. It should be noted that the NRC has strict protocols to help protect the health and safety of research participants. As such, the program will abide by Tri-Council policies on ethical conduct when working with Indigenous communities, as well as local and regional research requirements.

Nurture collaboration

Build true partnerships based on mutual recognition, trust and transparency by showing confidence in—and building upon—the capacities brought into the partnership and providing support, as needed.

Explicitly respect and include Indigenous Knowledge

Respect and include local Indigenous Knowledge and epistemologies in the design, execution and interpretation of research, as the mobilization of both Indigenous and Western knowledge systems often leads to mutual benefits for Indigenous and non-Indigenous societies.

Encourage sustained benefits

Be flexible and adapt to the unique circumstances of the North and its residents to ensure the program and resulting projects lead to positive and lasting environmental, social and economic outcomes.

Strengthen diversity and equity

Elevate the diverse voices and competencies of Northerners and Indigenous peoples in research by removing or lessening systemic barriers that prevent the full participation of peoples of marginalized identities (considering identity factors such as sex, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, age and mental or physical disability).