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Why Uber's new Toronto research hub is a big win for Canada: Op-ed by Meric Gertler

(photo by Christopher Wahl)

A thriving innovation ecosystem needs both homegrown startups and scale-ups, as well as knowledge-intensive multinationals investing locally in research and development, University of Toronto President Meric Gertler writes in The Globe and Mail.

“For too long, we have watched our best and brightest talent in burgeoning fields like artificial intelligence pack their bags to leave Canada and make their future elsewhere. That all changed a few weeks ago, when I joined a room crowded with some of our country’s leading researchers in deep learning to celebrate the opening of Toronto’s Vector Institute.”

The investment in AI is designed to establish Canada as a place “where our talent wants to build their careers and a place that attracts talent from around the globe,” he writes. 

“This week, that is exactly what happened. San Francisco-based Uber announced the establishment of a new Toronto research hub dedicated to the development of self-driving vehicles, to be led by renowned University of Toronto computer scientist Raquel Urtasun. Uber plans to hire researchers and engineers and will make a $5-million commitment to Vector.

“The best way to generate momentum and self-sustaining, clustered growth is to foster a rich mix of local and non-local firms, and to support spin-offs when budding entrepreneurs want to leave larger firms to start their own enterprise. Innovation hot spots worldwide all share these characteristics.

“Do we need a national strategy for scaling up homegrown firms? Absolutely. Do we need public policies that encourage more Canadian firms to invest in well-educated talent and R&D at home? You bet."

Read the complete op-ed at The Globe and Mail