Following in the footsteps of the University of Toronto and the University of Alberta, the University of Waterloo has launched an artificial intelligence (AI) research institute of its own.

Officially opened on April 6, 2018, the Waterloo Artificial Intelligence Institute will have a broad mandate, including foundational research into statistical learning, deep learning, game theory, and data science; and operational research into secure, scalable solutions for a variety of industries including healthcare, environmental protection, urban planning, manufacturing, autonomous systems and human-machine interaction.

Led by co-directors Fakhri Karray, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Peter van Beek, a professor of computer science, and sponsored by multiple high-profile companies including General Motors Canada, Huawei Technologies, Loblaw Companies Ltd., Shopify, and Magna International, the Institute aims to give researchers easy access to both experts and industry, whether for solutions development or what its founders called a “reverse co-op” program.

“We would like the Waterloo AI Instititute to be the bridge between the partner companies and the University of Waterloo,” Karray said in a video posted Friday. “They could channel to us some challenging problems, and faculty members, students, work on those problems, they cooperate with each other to solve these types of problems, and benefit the society at large.”

Reverse co-op, meanwhile, would involve setting up workshops and inviting employees of Waterloo AI partners to become experts in one or more aspects of the field.

A joint venture of the University of Waterloo’s Faculties of Engineering and Mathematics, Waterloo AI will also include researchers from the school’s Arts, Applied Health Sciences, Environment, and Science departments.

“The launch of Waterloo AI enhances Canada’s leadership in foundational and operational AI as it brings together world renowned researchers with industry to accelerate innovation and prepare for future disruptions,” Waterloo president and vice-chancellor Feridun Hamdullahpur said in an April 6 statement. “By connecting research talent with industry expertise, Waterloo AI will identify problems and produce solutions that will actively benefit our society.”

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