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A four-year, $400,000 partnership with Ontario’s University of Waterloo (UWaterloo) will support artificial intelligence (AI) research in disability claim prediction as well as fraud detection and natural language comprehension in customer service, Toronto-based Manulife Financial Corp. announced Tuesday.

“Customer expectations are evolving and are increasingly driven by the power of technology,” says Cindy Forbes, executive vice president and chief analytics officer, Manulife. “This partnership with Canada’s top university in computer science and engineering is well matched with Manulife as we transform into a digital, customer-centric leader.”

In addition to funding research, the partnership will help build the next generation of intelligent systems through the university’s Waterloo Artificial Intelligence Institute partnership program. It will also fund two AI prizes — for each year of the partnership — to undergraduate students who have excelled in either their studies, research or leadership in AI fields.

“AI is proving to be one of the most important technologies of our time and will have a significant impact on our economy and the lives of Canadians,” says Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice chancellor, UWaterloo, in a statement. “The University of Waterloo is committed to working with industry leaders like Manulife to ensure that we understand and benefit from the opportunities and impacts of this technology.”