OMERS and Vector Institute sign five-year collaboration agreement

The pension plan organization OMERS and the Vector Institute of Artificial Intelligence are partnering on a five-year strategic agreement. OMERS is the first pension plan firm to collaborate with Vector. The collaboration will build on AI progress already underway within the pension plan company.

Toronto-based Vector brings technical professionals at different organizations together with the institute’s researchers to develop hands-on experience with AI models and techniques, and apply them to create business value within their organizations.

“Our work with the Vector Institute will enable us to more fully explore and act on opportunities to use machine learning and AI.”

OMERS will have the opportunity to access Vector’s advanced compute environment, AI engineering capabilities, diverse talent and recruitment services, and professional development and training programs to help accelerate the application of advanced AI within the organization and develop the AI expertise of its teams.

“In the last few years, we have made great progress in leveraging data and technology and there is strong appetite to continue to build on our ability to harness the power of data and insights to support growth and value for our members,” said Monique Allen, executive vice president, data and technology, OMERS.

“Our work with the Vector Institute will enable us to more fully explore and act on opportunities to use machine learning and AI more broadly to innovate and lead for the future that will ultimately benefit OMERS and our 526,000 members,” Allen added.

Established in 2017, Vector works with industry, institutions, startups, and government to advance AI research and drive its application, adoption, and commercialization across Canada.

Vector’s scientific network currently includes more than 600 active researchers and practitioners from across Canada with expertise in machine learning and deep learning, including many who specialize in applied AI and claim top prizes from the world’s most important conferences and journals.

In August 2020, Vector announced the establishment of a new AI engineering team meant to take the not-for-profit’s research and turn it into real-world products, signalling the institute’s intent to turn its research into viable applications and solutions.

And, in April 2020, Vector repurposed artificial intelligence computing infrastructure to help support data-intensive analysis and decision-making for Ontario’s Pandemic Threat Response project.

Founded in 1962, OMERS is a jointly sponsored, defined benefit pension plan, with 1,000 participating employers ranging from large cities to local agencies, and over half a million active, deferred and retired members. The pension plan’s members include union and non-union employees of municipalities, school boards, local boards, transit systems, electrical utilities, emergency services and children’s aid societies across Ontario.

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OMERS teams work in Toronto, London, New York, Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Singapore, Sydney and other major cities across North America and Europe, managing a diversified portfolio of investments in public markets, private equity, infrastructure and real estate. OMERS had net assets of $114 billion as at June 30, 2021.

The collaboration with the Vector Institute complements previous work done at OMERS. In 2020, OMERS established an internal AI Centre of Expertise to guide and drive development in this area. Existing work in AI and machine learning has led to portfolio insights, optimization of business processes, deploying AI in a responsible and ethical manner and advancing environmental, social and corporate Governance (ESG) goals.

OMERS is also in the process of introducing a Data and AI Academy to increase employee skill development and experience in this area.

OMERS is a significant force in the Canadian technology industry, with its investment arm, OMERS Ventures, funding many Canadian tech success stories, and startups.

In January, OMERS Ventures led a Series B round of $35 million CAD for Winnipeg-based Bold Commerce. And, in 2013, OMERS Ventures along with Insight Venture Partners led a Series C round of $100 million for what was then a startup called Shopify.

“Vector is delighted to work with OMERS, which is paving the way for innovations in pension and asset management where big data and AI have the potential to unlock positive business and societal impact,” said Garth Gibson, president and CEO of Vector. “We are pleased to welcome OMERS to our industry community.”

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel's reporting and writing on technology has appeared in Wired.com, Canadian Business, Report on Business Magazine, Canada's National Observer, The Globe and Mail, and the National Post, among many others. He lives off-grid in Nova Scotia.