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Business Schools Are Accelerating Artificial Intelligence And Machine Learning Startups

Rotman School becomes the latest institution to bank on robotic ventures

Thu Oct 20 2016

RBC, Canada’s biggest bank, has struck a deal to foster artificial intelligence and machine learning start-ups at Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.

RBC will contribute to the fund at Rotman’s Creative Destruction Lab, a seed-stage program for massively scalable, science-based companies that is home to 50 AI ventures.

RBC will also assume a role on the Lab’s advisory board.

“With their support we are able to scale our program. We are now home to 50 AI companies. To our knowledge, this is the greatest concentration of AI companies in any program on Earth,” said Rachel Harris, director of The Creative Destruction Lab.

Meanwhile, RBC will launch the RBC Research in Machine Learning practice, which seeks to push the boundaries of the science around machine learning.

RBC Research in Machine Learning will be housed at the Banting Institute at the University of Toronto, and will be headed up by Dr Foteini Agrafioti, the co-founder of Nymi, the first wearable device to authenticate users using the biometric technology HeartID.

Gabriel Woo, vice-president of innovation at RBC, said: “RBC Research in Machine Learning is part of our commitment to the advancement of machine learning and artificial intelligence in Canada.

“We are 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.

“We’re working with leading universities across Canada like the University of Toronto to partner with the best, brightest and boldest minds in the country.”

It’s the latest in a series of deals struck by schools to develop commercial ventures in the fields of AI and machine learning.

Universities and business schools play a key role in driving innovation and fostering entrepreneurship.

And while most initiatives have so far focused on the science behind AI and machine learning, such technologies are increasingly driving widespread commercial change across industries.

That explains recent business school projects, including:

  • In August Harvard Business School penned an $8.4 million deal with Tata Group to harness the power of robotics and accelerate the development of novel technologies.
  • In July NYU launched an accelerator with ff Venture Capital to support and launch AI start-ups in New York City.

As a result, business schools are bringing technologies such as AI and robotics, plus machine learning and data analytics, into their MBA programs, which are traditionally focused on broad management skills.

Jonathan Trevor, associate professor at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, believes the so-called “fourth industrial revolution”, in which a slew of technologies like AI are disrupting sectors, demands a different set of cross-disciplinary leadership skills.

He said: “Business students need to understand the major industrial and information technologies being developed and how they are shaping business in future.”