BMO Financial Group today announced a donation of $5 million to support the University of Toronto’s efforts to combine its world-renowned strength in Artificial Intelligence (AI) research and its globally recognized excellence in the arts and humanities.
The donation – the largest ever from BMO to a post-secondary educational institution in Canada – is part of the bank’s long-standing support for education, innovation, and helping ensure individuals are prepared for the future of work.
The donation will support the creation of the BMO Lab for Creative Research in the Arts, Performance, Emerging Technologies and AI within the University of Toronto’s Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies. The Lab will be the first in the world to engage international artists, researchers, scientists, and students in transdisciplinary collaborative research on AI as a means for creative, human expression. Students from across the arts, humanities, sciences, and engineering will explore the creative possibilities that AI and other technologies have to offer.
“With the advance of machine learning over the past 15 years, AI applications are rapidly changing how we work, create and live,” said Professor Meric Gertler, President, University of Toronto. “Thanks to this visionary gift from BMO Financial Group, the BMO lab will bring together researchers and students from across the university to explore the potential for human expression in AI and other advanced technologies. At the same time, it will empower a new generation of young leaders with the ability to apply this technology to solve problems and address new challenges.”
In the coming decade, businesses will be faced with unprecedented opportunities and challenges, with changing workforce demographics, the disruption of traditional business models, and rapid technology shifts.
Grounded in the Arts, the BMO Lab is focussed on emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, and recognizes theatre as a point of entry to a foundational inquiry of human experience in the rapidly changing world. All the activities in the Lab are firmly placed in human, social, and cultural space, committed to engagement with the broader public, and addressing the growing complexities of the lived world.
“Our partnership to launch the BMO Lab represents a unique convergence of technology and the humanities, providing opportunities for students to research AI and shift the paradigm of creativity,” said Darryl White, Chief Executive Officer, BMO Financial Group. “To strengthen competitiveness, companies must harness the full power and potential of technologies responsibly, while developing talent for the future – including investing in employee training and upskilling. At BMO, we’re seeing tremendous benefits from the integration of AI, freeing up capacity for employees to engage in valuable insight-driven work and creating benefits for customers such as significantly reducing time to open business accounts.”
Through its work, the BMO Lab will engage the broader public in high-profile artistic events, and create a new, global network of artists and researchers working at the intersection of art and technology.
“Ensuring that our culture remains centred around human values while benefiting from the possibilities of technologies such as AI will require an unprecedented degree of inter-disciplinary creativity,” said David Rokeby, inaugural Director of the Lab. “The uniqueness of the BMO Lab is that it is grounded in theatre, with a focus on human minds and bodies expressing ideas and emotions in real time and space. This will provide students a context in which to learn to work effectively with people of very different disciplines in a creative, collaborative, and challenging learning environment.”