A new multidisciplinary research centre at the University of Toronto will leverage the power of artificial intelligence, or AI, to address challenges in a wide range of fields, including human health, sustainability and advanced manufacturing.

The new Centre for Analytics and Artificial Intelligence Engineering (CARTE) was approved by the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering’s faculty council this week and will launch on July 1.

With AI increasingly part of daily life via applications like voice-activated assistants and self-driving cars, the centre brings together more than 30 professors with expertise in optimization, analytics and AI, as well as diverse domains such as energy, transportation and life sciences.

“Our focus will be applying analytics and AI to practical challenges,” said Timothy Chan, an associate professor in the department of mechanical and industrial engineering and the inaugural director of CARTE.

“We are fostering collaborations between researchers who study analytics and AI directly and people in other areas where AI could be a useful tool.”

Chan points to examples such as a biomedical engineer who may want to use AI to sift through large databases of drug molecules, or a civil engineer looking to optimize the design of a transit network.

“We have experts on both sides of these issues,” he said.

CARTE capitalizes on Toronto’s unique position as a research powerhouse and its close proximity to a diverse range of industry clusters. It is organized around three themes:

Research

CARTE will begin by seeding new collaborations. It builds on the successful model of programs such as XSeed, a seed funding program that supports joint research between U of T engineering and other faculties across the university.

The CARTE team is also considering a residency program in which faculty members and students would rotate through a dedicated space in the Myhal Centre. “Physically putting people together will get these collaborations off to a solid start,” said Chan.

Education and Training

The research and highly qualified personnel supported by CARTE will assist in curriculum development for any U of T engineering department, program or course. Examples include the engineering science major in machine intelligence – the first undergraduate engineering program of its kind in Canada – as well as the undergraduate minor and certificate in artificial intelligence engineering.

CARTE will also dedicate resources to strengthening experiential learning opportunities, including through the Professional Experience Year co-op program, and will look at applying analytics to challenges in the domain of education itself.

Partnerships

“We’re hearing lots of excitement from existing and potential industry partners,” said Chan.  “The fact that we can connect them with both domain experts and analytics and AI experts is very appealing.”

To catalyze partnerships, the new centre will organize networking events to bring together faculty members, students and cross-sector industry leaders.

“The seismic shifts being brought about by analytics and artificial intelligence have been referred to as the fourth industrial revolution,” said Ramin Farnood, the vice-dean of research at U of T engineering.

“We are very proud of the talent and successful track record we have in these areas, and CARTE will further enhance our impact. I look forward to seeing the innovative partnerships, technologies and ventures it will spark.”

CARTE joins more than 25 multidisciplinary research institutes across U of T engineering that catalyze research and engineering education in critical areas, including water, sustainable energy, robotics and global engineering.

“Through CARTE, we are developing the artificial intelligence technologies, products and industries of tomorrow, as well as the global engineering leaders who will translate them from the lab into the marketplace,” said Cristina Amon, dean of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering.

“Building on our pioneering analytics and machine intelligence education programs and our faculty’s expertise in AI engineering, we will enhance experiential opportunities for our students and drive multidisciplinary research to generate innovations that will improve lives for people around the world.”