$100 million donation to U of T will fuel AI
March 27, 2019
TORONTO – The University of Toronto has received its largest-ever donation, a $100-million gift to further the school’s research on artificial intelligence, biomedicine and how new technologies can disrupt and enrich lives.
The donation from the Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman Foundation will in part go to a new 750,000-square-foot complex to be built at the northeast corner of College St. and Queen’s Park starting this fall, school president Meric Gertler, the Toronto Star reported.
The school says the building will house the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence and the new Schwartz-Reisman Institute for Technology and Society.
Gertler said the gift will help spark Canadian innovation and examine how technology shapes people’s lives.
“It is a new collective endeavour that will turbocharge innovation,” Gertler said, calling the donation from Toronto billionaires Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman “unprecedented” in the school’s history.
The new complex, which U of T said will be constructed in two phases, will house the Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society, which will study emerging ethical issues surrounding the field of artificial intelligence.
Schwartz, who was born in Winnipeg, is the founder and CEO of private equity firm Onex Corporation. Reisman is the founder and CEO of bookseller Indigo.
“U of T is already a global leader in artificial intelligence, biomedicine and the intersections of society and technology,” the couple told the university’s website. “We’re immensely proud and excited to be part of an initiative that will further spark innovation, anchor talent and ideas in Canada, and illuminate the importance of socially responsible technology.”
The complex’s first phase, a 250,000 square-foot, 12-storey tower, will also house the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence.
The Vector Institute, founded in 2017, is an independent non-profit affiliated with U of T and devoted to artificial intelligence research.
The institute’s goals include leading “Ontario’s efforts to build and sustain AI-based innovation, growth and productivity in Canada” and working with Canadian industry and public institutions to foster talent in the field.
“This new complex will contribute enormously to innovation at U of T,” the institute’s chief scientific adviser and U of T professor emeritus Geoffrey Hinton told the school’s website. “It will help consolidate Toronto’s leading position in the AI world.”
The complex’s second phase will include a 500,000-square-foot, 20-storey tower which will house laboratories in regenerative medicine, genetics and precision medicine, the school said.
The complex is designed by WEISS/MANFREDI architects. Renderings of the new building show a pair of tapered white towers.
The largest previous donation in the university’s history was a $50-million gift in 2001 from the R. Samuel McLaughlin Foundation to the Faculty of Medicine.
Launched in 1952 by its namesake, then the leader of General Motors Canada, the organization sought to help finance the postgraduate studies of medical students.
The Ontario government, U of T, and four of its affiliated research hospitals matched that donation to a total of $150 million. The money was later used to launch a new virtual research institute to study diseases.