RBC injects $3 million into new data analytics, AI partnership with Western University


Western University and Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) have announced a partnership to create a new university program focused on the ethical and social aspects of data analytics and AI.

“Collaboration between industry, government and academia will help to drive the future success of Canada.”

The collaboration is aimed to prepare students for what RBC called an era of “unprecedented technical transformation.” RBC has invested $3 million to establish what will be called the RBC Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence Project at Western. RBC is hoping this initiative will expand Western’s work in the fields of data analytics and AI with a new focus on its ethical and societal considerations.

“This investment is a catalyst to help Western provide tomorrow’s leaders with the skillset they’ll need to navigate a world full of data and find solutions to the challenges they will inevitably face during their careers,” said Alan Shepard, president of Western. “We’re excited to be partnering with RBC to help provide and promote [the] training of 21st-century talent that’s not only technically proficient, but also ethically and socially aware.”

The project will consist of two courses, two scholarship funds, and a program open to students of all faculties at Western. The courses will focus on the ethical and social aspects of data analytics and AI, and will be jointly developed by RBC’s leaders and tech experts, as well as Western’s faculties of science and engineering.

The two scholarship funds include the RBC Scholarship in Data Science and RBC Scholarship in Software Engineering. These will be available to third-year science and engineering students, and are intended to help support students they prepare for careers in big data.

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Finally, the Design Thinking Program, which will be available to Western students in all faculties, is aimed to build skillsets in design thinking and coding. Program participants will receive a fixed sum payment and will also have the opportunity for a potential internship at RBC.

“Collaboration between industry, government, and academia will help to drive the future success of Canada,” said Bruce Ross, group head of technology and operations at RBC. “Artificial intelligence and data science are transforming our world today, and we see a huge opportunity to partner with Western, a leading university, to prepare the next generation of talent with the knowledge, skills, and experiences needed to drive that success.”

The new program will be available in 2020, while scholarships will be available in February. A spokesperson from Western told BetaKit more programs supported by RBC are expected to follow in 2021.

Earlier this week, another Canadian ‘Big Five Bank’ made a donation to the University of Alberta for its own AI programming. Scotiabank donated $1.25 million from its Scotiabank Artificial Intelligence Research Initiative to support the university’s computer science program, as well as women in STEM.

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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