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CIFAR receives Creative Destruction Lab award for supporting deep learning research

by CIFAR Dec 7 / 15

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The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) is receiving an award from the Rotman School of Management’s Creative Destruction Lab for its support of artificial intelligence research.

On Dec. 15, the Creative Destruction Lab, which mentors entrepreneurs through a program to support technology-based ventures, will award CIFAR one of three new awards. CIFAR is being recognized in the Ideas category for its role in supporting research that greatly advanced artificial intelligence, in particular the approach known as deep learning pioneered by CIFAR fellows Geoffrey Hinton (University of Toronto, Google), Yann LeCun (Facebook, New York University), Yoshua Bengio (University of Montreal) and others.

“CIFAR is honoured to be recognized for our role in supporting the research into the emerging and unproven area of artificial intelligence in its early days,” says Dr. Alan Bernstein, President & CEO of CIFAR. “In creating this award, the Rotman School of Management is recognizing the important place that research and risk taking has in developing transformational ideas that lead to innovation, job creation, and the beginnings of an entirely new industry.”

The Ideas award recognizes a person or organization that has impacted Canada’s competitiveness through advancing new ideas in science and technology.

"Although there is now clear evidence that developments in this field are delivering significant economic impact and therefore research is able to attract broad support from a wide range of industries and government funding agencies, CIFAR provided critical support for many years when this line of scientific inquiry was considered peripheral, risky, and unexciting among experts in the field,” the award description says.

CIFAR support for deep learning began in 2004 with the creation of the program in Learning in Machines & Brains formerly known as Neural Computation & Adaptive Perception). At a time when deep learning was greeted with skepticism and was largely ignored, the CIFAR program brought together scientists from biology, computer science, electrical engineering, neuroscience and psychology to build on our understanding of how the brain perceives the world to advance the entire field of artificial intelligence. Today, CIFAR fellows work with companies such as Facebook, Google and IBM to advance the technology while continuing their fundamental research at CIFAR. Yoshua Bengio and Yann LeCun have co-directed the program since 2013.

The two other awards, given in the categories of Labour and Capital, are awarded respectively to the University of Waterloo’s Engineering and Co-op programs and Haig Farris, founder of two venture capital firms.

The awards will be presented during a conference Dec. 15 on the Economics of AI: “Machine Learning and the Market for Intelligence” at the Rotman School of Management. Speakers include CIFAR Distinguished Fellow Geoffrey Hinton and CIFAR Fellow Ruslan Salakhutdinov (University of Toronto). Barbara Stymiest, chair of CIFAR’S board of directors, along with Professor Mel Silverman, who previously led the program that funded research in deep learning, will accept the award on CIFAR’s behalf. Registration is open.

A Globe and Mail commentary published Dec. 15 by Tiff Macklem, dean of the Rotman School of Management, Ajay Agrawal, founding academic director of the Creative Destruction Lab and Scott Bonham, co-founder of GGV Capital, discusses Canada’s opportunity to be a leader in artificial intelligence.

About the Creative Destruction Lab awards

The Creative Destruction Lab at the University of Toronto was founded by economists, designed using economic principles, and named after an expression used by the first economist to emphasize the role of the entrepreneur in economic growth under capitalism. It is therefore perhaps unsurprising that the Creative Destruction Lab designed its three annual awards around the primary ingredients in the dismal discipline’s prevailing models for economic growth: labour, capital, and ideas.