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RBC invests in machine learning through partnership with the University of Toronto

TORONTO, October 20, 2016 -  RBC today announced two new initiatives in collaboration with the University of Toronto designed to ensure Canada remains a leading centre of development in machine learning and artificial intelligence. RBC Research in Machine Learning will be a state-of-the-art research practice working to push the boundaries of the science around machine learning. RBC is also partnering with the Creative Destruction Lab at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, becoming a Founding Partner of the Lab’s Machine Learning Initiative focused on artificial intelligence-enabled companies.

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

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

“This has really never been done before in Canada,” says Dr. Agrafioti, who was named “Inventor of the Year” in 2012 by the University of Toronto for inventing HeartID. “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.”

Under the leadership of Dr. Agrafioti, the RBC Research in Machine Learning team will collaborate with academics from the University of Toronto and other institutions, publishing new research in the fields of machine learning and artificial intelligence. They will also be connected to the teams within the bank working on artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide expertise and help solve business challenges.

RBC also extends its close collaboration with the University of Toronto through a new partnership with the Creative Destruction Lab, a seed-stage program for massively scalable, science-based companies. The Lab employs an objectives-based mentoring process led by highly accomplished entrepreneurs and angel investors with the goal of maximizing the equity value creation of its ventures. As part of the agreement, RBC is contributing to the Creative Destructions Lab’s programming fund and will assume a role on the Lab’s Advisory board.

“We’re thrilled to partner with RBC on this initiative,” says Rachel Harris, director of The Creative Destruction Lab. “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.”

“RBC is part of a thriving ecosystem of entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers and market visionaries,” says Gabriel Woo. “We share a strong commitment to the study and advancement of artificial intelligence with the University of Toronto, one of the world’s leading institutions in this space. Our partnership with the university and the Creative Destruction Lab is an extension of our ongoing support of the Canadian digital ecosystem.”

Universities and colleges play a key role in driving innovation and fostering entrepreneurship, and the University of Toronto has emerged as a leading institution in creating startup companies based on research ideas. Earlier this year RBC and the University of Toronto announced the creation of ONRamp, a startup accelerator for students, entrepreneurs and startup companies to support them in developing commercial ideas.

Innovation at RBC
Innovation is core to our thinking at RBC. We’re not only building a digitally-enabled relationship bank, we’re changing how we work, collaborating with a diverse set of partners to explore new technology, and we’re investing in the wider Canadian digital ecosystem to drive the future prosperity and economic success of the country. Here are a few of the ways we’re innovating:

  • We launched an industry-leading mobile wallet in 2015, and introduced our new mobile banking app in 2016. In RBC Personal & Commercial Banking, 60% of all financial transactions, excluding cash withdrawals, are through digital and mobile channels.
  • In September 2016, RBC became a member of the Global Payments Steering Group, the first interbank group for global payments based on blockchain technology.
  • In 2015, RBC introduced the first fully cloud-based payment solution by a North American financial institution, using Host Card Emulation.
  • RBC Capital Markets’ patented smart order router THOR technology, which is designed to counter predatory strategies deployed by High Frequency traders, has been key in making RBC a leader in the electronic trading space.
  • We have built innovation labs in Toronto, London, Luxembourg, New York, Orlando and San Francisco. Our lab in Orlando has generated numerous commercial patent filings.
  • We're working with leading universities to partner with the best, brightest and boldest minds that we can find. This includes building a $3M start-up accelerator at the University of Toronto for student and graduate entrepreneurs to develop commercial ideas.

About RBC
Royal Bank of Canada is Canada’s largest bank, and one of the largest banks in the world, based on market capitalization. We are one of North America’s leading diversified financial services companies, and provide personal and commercial banking, wealth management, insurance, investor services and capital markets products and services on a global basis. We have over 80,000 full- and part-time employees who serve more than 16 million personal, business, public sector and institutional clients through offices in Canada, the U.S. and 36 other countries. For more information, please visit‎

RBC helps communities prosper, supporting a broad range of community initiatives through donations, community investments, sponsorships and employee volunteer activities. In 2015, we contributed more than $121 million to causes around the world.

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For further information, please contact:
Andrew Swartz, Corporate Communications, RBC, 416-955-7395
Ken McGuffin, Media Relations, Rotman School of Management, 416-946-3818