Vector aims to build an AI supercluster
April 5, 2017
TORONTO – The Vector Institute – an organization dedicated to R&D in artificial intelligence – was launched at the end of March with pledges of $50 million in funding from the provincial government, up to $40 million from Ottawa, and $80 million over 10 years from a group of 31 corporate donors.
The companies include Google and NVidia, which have signed-on for contributions of $5 million apiece, and Telus, which has committed to a $2.5 million investment.
The Vector Institute intends to become an AI ‘super-cluster’ by developing and promoting technologies like neural networks and deep learning – technologies that are now sweeping across nearly every industry.
Vector will collaborate with academic institutions, incubators, accelerators, start-ups, scale-ups and established companies to advance AI research and drive the adoption and commercialization of AI technologies throughout Canada.
According to a news release, Vector intends to produce more masters, applied masters, PhDs and post-doctoral graduates in deep learning and machine learning than any other institution in the world, attracting top talent, investment, and researchers from around the world and contributing to a more vibrant start-up and spin-off ecosystem.
Researchers in Toronto and Montreal are credited with being pioneers in AI; however, much of the momentum in AI of late has occurred in the United States and abroad.
The investments in the Vector Institute are designed to restore Canada’s leadership in AI and to ensure the country plays a prominent role in the commercialization of the technology.
“We can own this space. This is who we are,” Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne told a crowded room filled with University of Toronto researchers, officials from all three levels of government and top Canadian companies who are supporting Vector.
Dr. Geoffrey Hinton (pictured), an AI pioneer who splits his time between the University of Toronto and working for Google, has been appointed chief scientific advisor.
Dr. Hinton is also manager of the new Brain Team Toronto, which is part of the Google Brain Team and is located at Google’s Toronto office. Brain Team Toronto does basic research on ways to improve neural network learning techniques.
At U of T, Dr. Hinton was one of the Canadian researchers who pushed Canada toward global leadership in AI, developing some of the science’s breakthroughs in the 1980s.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau joined Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Toronto Mayor John Tory at the launch of the Vector Institute, and noted that the federal government’s Budget 2017 will provide $125 million to launch the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy, delivered through the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR).
The Strategy will promote collaboration between Canada’s main centres of expertise in Toronto–Waterloo, Montréal and Edmonton and will position Canada as a world-leading destination for companies seeking to invest in AI and innovation.
CIFAR will work with the Vector Institute to support its core activities, including the Canada CIFAR Chairs in AI Science, graduate training, and the participation of the Chairs and trainees in national AI activities.
The board of directors at the Vector Institute includes many high-profile figures who are active in the healthcare sector. They include:
- Professor Vivek Goel, Vice President, Research and Innovation of the University of Toronto. He is also Vice-Chair of the Canadian Institute for Health Information and Chair of the Toronto-Central Local Health Integration Network.
- Mary Jo Haddad, who was President and CEO of the Hospital for Sick Children from 2004 to 2014. A champion of research and innovation, she led the creation of the Peter Gilgan Center for Research and Learning, building capacity and commitment to discovery, research and commercialization and served as the Founding Chair, MaRS Innovation.
- Chaviva Hosek, President Emeritus of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR). She was President and Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for 11 years until her retirement in 2012. Chaviva is a Professor in the School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto.
- Stephen Lake is a mechatronics engineer, inventor and the co-founder and CEO of Thalmic Labs, a hardware and software company building wearable technology that is shaping the future of human computer interaction.
- Terrence Sullivan plays a range of governance and advisory roles in health services management and policy. He serves as the Board Chair of the Canadian Agency for Drugs & Technologies in Health (CADTH), chairs the quality committee of the Board at the Hospital for Sick Children, and the board governance committee for Exactis Innovation (business-led federal NCE), targeting new therapeutics in cancer.
“The Vector Institute is an unprecedented answer to an unprecedented opportunity and represents an exceptional partnership between independent researchers, academic institutions, government, private industry and entrepreneurs,” said Ed Clark, Chair of the Vector Institute Board of Directors. “The Vector Institute will confirm Canada’s world-leading position in the field of deep learning artificial intelligence. Consequently, it will spur economic growth in Canada by attracting talent and investment, supporting scale-up firms and enabling established firms to be best-in-class adopters of artificial intelligence.”