In response to the need to develop knowledge about the North, INQ's founding partners (Université Laval, McGill University, and Institut national de la recherche scientifique) announced the first fundamental component of INQ's scientific program by creating three partnership research chairs. The purpose of the research chairs was to:
- Develop top-flight expertise in fields related to development of the North
- Spur the creation of northern research partnerships at each of the founding universities
- Promote synergy between partners around shared research needs
- Encourage innovation, training, and knowledge development
The three chairs overseen by INQ represent a broad range of research topics, covering renewable energy production, wildlife conservation, food security, and sustainable development of the North.