Vector Institute taps seasoned executive Tony Gaffney to lead AI hub for next five years

The former CEO of Aon Hewitt Canada steps in after inaugural president steps down.

An executive with experience at a number of large corporations is becoming the new president and CEO of the Vector Institute in mid-January.

Tony Gaffney will take over from Garth Gibson, who the institute said steps down from a five-year term as the institute’s inaugural president and CEO. Gaffney will serve in the position initially for five years.

“I look forward to working with Vector to build on Canada’s research excellence and leadership in AI.”

“The impact of AI is transforming all industries and sectors,” said Chaviva Hosek, chair of the human resources and compensation committee, Vector board of directors. Hosek said Gaffney’s extensive industry experience will help Vector support Canada’s businesses to adopt, scale, and grow with AI.

Launched in 2017, Vector works with institutions, startups, and the government to build AI talent, as well as to develop and sustain AI-based innovation to foster economic growth. The Province of Ontario, the Government of Canada through the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, and industry sponsors from across multiple sectors fund the institute.

Gaffney is the former CEO of Aon Hewitt Canada, and served as a former member of the multinational insurance company’s global executive committee. Before joining Aon Hewitt, Gaffney worked as a managing partner at Accenture; president and CEO of Bell Nexxia; and CEO of BEC Emergis.

Gaffney called joining Vector a privilege. “I look forward to working with Vector to build on Canada’s research excellence and leadership in AI, while enabling Canadian businesses and public institutions to be better at using AI than their counterparts around the world,” Gaffney said.

The institute began a search for a new president and CEO in late August after Gibson announced his intention to step down from the position and not seek renewal of his five-year term. Vector’s chair of the board said at the time that Gibson’s “steadfast leadership has been crucial to strengthening our foundation, positioning the organization, closing out the third year of Vector’s Three-Year Strategy, building relationships with the federal and provincial governments, and looking towards new and ambitious goals that will shape our next chapter.”

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Vector’s work in advancing AI research and increasing industry adoption takes places through a variety of programs and means. For instance, Vector distributed nearly $2 million in May among 110 winners for its scholarship program dedicated to bolstering Ontario’s artificial intelligence (AI) talent pool. Vector has doled out 461 AI scholarships to date. Valued at $17,500, the Vector Scholarship in Artificial Intelligence (VSAI) is a merit-based award that recognizes top candidates pursuing either one of the over 20 Vector-recognized master’s programs, or individual AI study paths in Ontario.

The institute recently announced a number of partnerships designed to extend AI’s reach and utility amongst Canadian businesses and institutions. TD, for example, said it would extend its partnership with Vector through 2027. The extended partnership includes funding to support the AI institute’s research initiatives while providing AI talent from TD to participate in Vector-led projects.

The pension plan organization OMERS and Vector also announced a partnership in late 2021 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.

Along with Montréal’s Mila and Alberta’s Amii, Vector is working with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) to lead the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy, which was introduced in the federal government’s 2017 budget and extended last year.

Feature image courtesy Vector Institute.

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel's reporting and writing on technology has appeared in, 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.

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