Western, RBC team up on data analytics, AI

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The next generation of leaders will be better armed against unprecedented technical transformation thanks to a new partnership between Western and Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) that will establish a program focused on the ethical and social aspects of data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), university officials announced today.

A $3-million investment by RBC has established The RBC Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence Project at Western, an expansion of the university’s ongoing cross-disciplinary work in data analytics and AI focused on answering big questions for the good of society.

RBC’s backing helps take that work to the next level, while training the next generation of experts, explained Western President Alan Shepard.

“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,” Shepard said Thursday. “We’re excited to be partnering with RBC to help provide and promote training of 21st-century talent that’s not only technically proficient, but also ethically and socially aware.”

The partnership also builds on RBC’s commitment to invest in Canada’s tech-talent ecosystem, creating opportunities for RBC experts to share cutting-edge, real-life cases and help prepare future leaders for the jobs of tomorrow.

It brings together two prominent Canadian institutions that are leading the way in preparing students with the skills needed to succeed in today’s increasingly complex digital economy, said Bruce Ross, BESc’85, Group Head, Technology and Operations at RBC.

“Collaboration between industry, government and academia will help to drive the future success of Canada,” Ross continued. “Artificial intelligence and big data are some of the most transformative technologies impacting the world today, and we saw 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 project consists of a series of integrated components, including:

  • Two new courses focusing on the ethical and social aspects of data analytics and AI. In collaboration with RBC leaders and technology experts, courses will be developed in Science and Engineering faculties and work to address the social impact and ethical use of big data and AI on individuals, organizations and society;
  • Establishment of two scholarship funds in Data Science and Software Engineering. The RBC Scholarship in Data Scienceand RBC Scholarship in Software Engineering are available to third-year Science and Engineering students and valued at $25,000 each – these will be available beginning in 2020. Scholarships will help support students as they build a solid base of knowledge and technical training required for careers in big data.
  • A Design Thinking Program open to all Western students. The program will build skillsets in design thinking and coding, and provides a solutions-based approach to solving problems. Successful applicants will receive a $3,500 stipend and have the potential for an internship opportunity at RBC.

The courses, scholarships and design-thinking program will create meaningful opportunities to help students establish the skills, experience, and networks they need to successfully start their careers after graduation, including potential work-integrated learning and internships, Western officials said.