June 13, 2023

Towards a better digital future: R³AI is taking off

IVADO has cause for celebration! On June 9, the consortium held a major event to mark the launch of its new scientific undertaking, the R3AI program.

The news came on April 28, 2023: the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) awarded a major, 124.5 M$ grant to the Université de Montréal (UdeM) and its four institutional partners (HEC Montréal, Polytechnique Montréal, Université Laval, and McGill University). Moreover, this grant is to be implemented over the next seven years by IVADO.

The consortium commemorated this momentous occasion by holding a celebratory event on June 9, attended by some 250 people in the atrium of the UdeM’s MIL Campus. Among those in attendance were Rachel Bendayan, MP for Outremont, Daniel Jutras, Rector of the UdeM, and Marie-Josée Hébert, Vice-Rector Research, Discovery, Creation, and Innovation at the UdeM.

IVADO’s Executive Director, Luc Vinet, underscored what a great honour it is to receive this grant. Indeed, the CFREF program is one of the most selective and demanding in the country. It must also be noted that IVADO and UdeM are the only organizations to have twice been awarded a CFREF grant.

In addition to Prof. Vinet, guests were treated to a talk by renowned AI expert Yoshua Bengio. IVADO’s Scientific Director brilliantly outlined how the R3AI program aims to overcome the shortcomings of current AI models. These, he argued, too often fail to adapt to new and unfamiliar data (lack of robustness). Similarly, they still behave like inscrutable black boxes (lack of reasoning). Finally, the conscious and unconscious biases they continue to convey and amplify (lack of accountability) remain problematic. This is why Prof. Bengio hammered home the importance of developing and adopting robust, reasoning, and responsible AI (R3AI).

Over the next few years, R3AI will become IVADO’s primary mission. To achieve this, the consortium intends to deploy an ambitious scientific strategy. As Prof. Vinet explained, this will be based on large-scale research regroupements, whose interdisciplinary and multi-sectoral structure will foster sustainable and responsible innovation.

The event concluded with a panel featuring experts from the IVADO community: Doina Precup (McGill), Jean-Simon Venne (BrainBox AI), Pierre-Majorique Léger (HEC), Foutse Khomh (Polytechnique) and Jacques Corbeil (CHU de Québec). Moderated by science journalist Marie-Pier Élie, the panel discussed important issues relating to R3AI, including the fair and equitable deployment of this new technology.

One thing is for sure: this celebratory event was teeming with energy, enthusiasm, and lively discussion. Above all, it demonstrated the strength of support for the R3AI program. With such dedicated allies, IVADO is heading for a promising future of innovation, as pointed out by Marie-Josée Hébert.

The R3AI program constitutes a collective commitment to develop new technology, but above all to do so differently than in the past. It rests on our ability to collaborate and think differently. We are very fortunate to have scientists in our community who have the necessary vision and open mindedness to take on such a challenge.

Marie-Josée Hébert

Vice-Rector, Research, Discovery, Creation, and Innovation (UdeM)