As far as innovation hubs go, it’s safe to say there can never be enough of them.
The University of Toronto (U of T) is taking that mantra to heart with the announcement of a brand new innovation centre to be located right across the street from the MaRS Discovery District in downtown Toronto and very close to some of the leading research hospitals on the country. This new hub will be part of a long-term development project, and the first phase will be a 14-storey tower with over 250,000 square feet of space that will replace the current western portion of the Banting and Best complex. U of T expects the centre to be finished by 2021.
The new innovation centre will propose to house the Vector Institute for Artifical Intelligence, one of the world’s top research centres for AI, currently led by Geoffrey Hinton and Richard Zemel and located in MaRS. U of T’s hub will also play host to U of T Entrepreneurship and the Innovations & Partnerships Office. Half of the 250,000 square feet of space will be devoted to startups and established corporate partners who want to be as close to U of T’s research and scientists as possible.
This strategy echoes what MaRS is doing right now, as the innovation hub across the street hosts companies like Facebook and Samsung as well as AI labs from RBC and wet labs from Johnson & Johnson, among hundreds of other companies.
“The University of Toronto has played a key role in the GTA’s emergence as a global centre for innovation,” said U of T President Meric Gertler. “In fields ranging from artificial intelligence to regenerative and precision medicine, our world-class researchers and students continue to have a profound impact on innovation and entrepreneurship in the Toronto region.”
The new centre will be designed by New York-based Weiss/Manfredi Architects in collaboration with Toronto’s Teeple Architects. The goal will be for students to have the opportunities to rub shoulders with both established veterans and new entrepreneurs, all while creating a true mix of founders and researchers.
“There is huge support and need for this type of building – it’s the right space in the right location,” said Scott Mabury, U of T’s VP of operations. “Our aspiration is to help build a new cornerstone for the Canadian economy.”
U of T has several accelerators and incubators (such as the Creative Destruction Lab, which has since expanded across Canada and the world) as well as startups in places like the Banting and Best building, which has over 50 companies working out of it as well as a waiting list to get in. This new space will help the “bursting-at-the-seams” university provide more room for their students and outside founders to flourish.