Canada’s financial services sector “moving fast” on AI

Research into machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) in Canada will be getting a boost from Toronto-based Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), which announced on Thursday that it will build a research practice and contribute to a pre-existing separate lab dedicated to these technologies at the University of Toronto (U of T).

Dr. Foteini Agrafioti, a noted inventor, will lead the research project, called “RBC Research in Learning.” Agrafioti is the inventor and co-founder of Nymi, the first wearable device to incorporate biometric technology that can authenticate individuals based on their heart rhythm.

“RBC Research in Machine Learning is part of our commitment to the advancement of machine learning and [AI] in Canada,” says Gabriel Woo, vice president of innovation with RBC, in a statement. “We’re not only building our own capabilities, we’re also big believers in creating jobs in this space to retain the amazing talent we have in Canada.”

Research team members will collaborate with academics from the U of T and other institutions to publish new research in the fields of machine learning and AI. They will also collaborate with the teams within the bank working on AI and machine learning by providing expertise and helping solve business challenges.

“This has really never been done before in Canada,” says Dr. Agrafioti. “We’ve lost so much talent in this country to other companies and institutions, but RBC has both the scale and commitment to ensure Canada remains a centre of excellence in machine learning.”

In addition, RBC will contribute to the programming fund for the pre-existing Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) whose Toronto location is at the U of T. CDL is a seed-stage program for massively scalable, science-based companies and involves an objective-based mentoring process led by entrepreneurs and angel investors. RBC will also assume a role on CDL’s advisory board.

“We’re thrilled to partner with RBC on this initiative,” says Rachel Harris, director of CDL, in a statement. “With its support, we’re able to scale our program. We’re now home to 50 AI companies. To our knowledge, this is the greatest concentration of AI companies in any program [in the world].”

This most recent news is an extension of the partnership between RBC and the U of T. The two institutions created “ONRamp,” a startup accelerator for students, entrepreneurs and startup companies, earlier this year.

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