U of T’s Creative Destruction Lab goes quantum

The roughly 25 startups lucky enough to be accepted to a new quantum machine learning stream at a University of Toronto seed-stage accelerator program are about to become part of a very exclusive club.

The Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) at U of T’s Rotman School of Management said Thursday that it will provide the startups with access to the world’s only commercially available quantum computers, built by Vancouver’s D-Wave Systems, beginning in September.

To date, only a handful of U.S.-based organizations have had the tens of millions to invest in D-Wave’s bleeding edge technology. They include Google, Lockheed Martin and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“We’re removing the barriers to entry to what’s available in terms of quantum computing – and that will hopefully spawn new, interesting applications from early-stage startups,” said Daniel Mulet, an associate director at the CDL accelerator in Toronto, which focuses on scaling science-based startups with artificial intelligence, or AI, technologies.

It’s yet another example of how U of T has emerged as a hotbed of computer science research that’s spawning a host of futuristic, AI-equipped companies, ranging from legal research firm ROSS Intelligence to medical startup Deep Genomics. In just the past few months, the university also helped launch the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence and saw star AI researcher Raquel Urtasun form a partnership with ride-sharing giant Uber, which plans to set up a driverless car lab in Toronto.

Creative Destruction Lab expands to Montreal, Calgary, and Halifax

The Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) has announced a cross-country expansion into three new regions: CDL-Rockies at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business; CDL-Montreal at HEC Montréal; and CDL-Atlantic at Dalhousie University’s Rowe School of Business in Halifax.

The national expansion will add to the CDL’s existing programs at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, and the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business — bringing the total number of programs to five.

The CDL said its expansion will allow for better matches between companies and investors, attract top talent to Canada, and enable the CDL network to tap into the large pool of specialized talent from the science, engineering, and business school faculties at five Canadian universities. The CDL also said that students in each of the five business schools will have the opportunity to connect and engage with startups at any of the programs across the country.

“The national expansion of the Creative Destruction Lab unites several of Canada’s top business schools to transition scientific insights out of the academy and into the economy in order to positively impact the human condition,” said Darrell Kopke, COO at the CDL. “The PhDs, masters, post-docs, faculty, and other inventors whom we are mentoring will leave a meaningful legacy. They are developing new products and services to enhance health, education, transportation, safety, communication, entertainment, and agriculture through innovations in areas such as wearable computing, high fidelity sensors, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and regenerative medicine.”

Scaling up: U of T accelerator to undertake massive Canadian expansion

The University of Toronto’s Creative Destruction Lab, or CDL, seeks to scale science-based startups into giant, market-dominating companies.

But, on Thursday, it was the accelerator itself that was preparing for massive growth.

The CDL program, part of U of T’s Rotman School of Management, announced an ambitious cross-country expansion that will see new CDL programs operated by business schools in Calgary, Montreal and Halifax – each with their own unique area of focus.

That’s in addition to the CDL-West branch that was launched last year at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business.

Could you create the next Minecraft, Mario Kart or Dota 2?

If you’ve just been accepted into one of the world’s top-ranked departments of computer science and are looking for something a little different along your way to becoming the next Raquel Urtasun or Brendan Frey, check out the video above.

In the video, Steve Engels – an associate professor, teaching stream in the Faculty of Arts & Science – walks you through his half-semester course where undergraduate students not only learn how to design video games, they also get to watch gaming enthusiasts try them out at the annual Level Up Showcase.

The conference draws recruiters scouting for new talent.

“I came to this event to see the amazing concepts the students came up with,” Martin Labrecque, CEO of Labrecque Labs says. “We’re also looking for talent – to see who’s driving innovation in the game design and gaming community.”

Geek to chic: U of T startup reimagines stuffy white lab coats

A new startup from the University of Toronto is bringing fashion into the lab.

Created by U of T PhD students Liu Zhang and Ondrej Halgas and Alex Schmidt of Ryerson University, Modadoro is a fledgling fashion line that aims to make frumpy science garb yesterday’s fashion news.

The startup and its labcoats were recently featured in Flare magazine. The coats come in light blue, pink, navy and of course, white, albeit a more stylish version.

The idea came out of a student project in U of T’s Creating Life Science Products course, taught by Jayson Parker, associate professor, teaching stream who is cross appointed to U of T Mississauga’s master of biotechnology program and U of T’s Institute of Biomaterials and Biomaterial Engineering (IBBME). The year-long graduate course challenges students to identify problems in the life sciences sector and develop a product for commercialization.

For Zhang and her teammates, the problem was outdated, oversized and unfashionable lab coats.

U of T startups win prizes for products helping disabled, injured

Watching an elderly loved one struggle with a disability is never easy. But while most of us simply grimace and soldier on, Mark Elias decided to do something about it. The co-founder of Steadiwear, a University of Toronto startup, developed a specially designed glove that stabilizes the hands of patients with Parkinson’s disease or essential tremor.

This week, Steadiwear was one of two U of T startups to win competitions at the Ontario Centres of Excellence Discovery conference, an event that seeks to promote the commercialization of innovative ideas in the province. The other startup was MyndTec Systems, which won an accessibility-tech pitch competition with an electrical stimulation system that helps patients with upper-limb paralysis regain movement.

Elias got the idea for Steadiwear after visiting his grandmother in France several years ago.

“I saw her spilling coffee on herself helplessly, and it was very painful for me,” said Elias, who graduated from U of T three years ago with a bachelor’s degree in applied science and civil engineering. “When I returned to Toronto, I made it my personal mission to solve this problem.”

His solution? Elias started by investigating the tuned dampening systems used to make buildings more earthquake resistant. He eventually settled on a ball joint surrounded by a non-Newtonian fluid – not unlike the state-shifting slurry one gets by mixing cornstarch with water. The resulting device, developed with co-founder Emile Maamary at U of T’s Impact Centre accelerator, allows patients to move their hands voluntarily but stiffens up when it encounters the quick, jerky movements associated with tremors.

Rise of the machines: U of T emerges as “ground zero” for the next wave of transformative technologies

Some of the world’s biggest companies, from banks to carmakers, are poised to have their businesses transformed by new computing technologies – many of which are being developed at the University of Toronto.

John Ruffolo, the CEO of OMERS Ventures, delivered the message to a packed room at the Department of Computer Science Innovation Lab’s (DCSIL) recent Funding Innovation conference.

“U of T, over the past few years, has really exploded,” Ruffolo said, referring to the research and startups emerging in areas like artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchain technologies, among others. “It really is ground zero.”

Ruffolo then laid out OMERS Ventures’ plan to focus on five broad areas of innovation where U of T students and faculty are making a big impact: e-commerce, fintech, automation of work, autonomous vehicles and synthetic biology.

Canada goose trackers: U of T team wins national drone competition by scouring for bird nests

Building drones to locate the nests of four different types of geese in the Canadian wilderness – that’s what a U of T engineering team had to do to take first place at the Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Student Competition, organized by Unmanned Systems Canada.

The University of Toronto Aerospace Team’s (UTAT) UAV Division designed a two-drone system capable of meeting this year’s challenge: to survey and locate the nests of geese in remote areas. The competition took place between April 28 to 30 in Alma, Que.

The teams were also asked to retrieve an egg from one of the nests to be tested for environmental contaminants.

“I was totally impressed with the incredible enthusiasm and wonderful talent of these young university students,” said David Bird, an ornithologist and professor emeritus at McGill University. Bird often uses drones in his own research and devised the challenge for this year’s competition.

“It was a pleasure to be among them for the three days in Alma, and I was thrilled that they were being challenged by my goose census and egg sample retrieval,” Bird said.

Toronto emerging as centre of innovation – and disruption

Fresh off closing a $300 million venture fund with a buy-in from some of Canada’s biggest banks and financial institutions, John Ruffolo will be at the University of Toronto on Friday to talk about how developments in artificial intelligence, fintech and machine learning are rapidly disrupting traditional industries.

Ruffolo is the CEO of OMERS Ventures, the venture capital arm of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System pension fund. He’s scheduled to deliver the keynote speech at the Funding Innovation Conference hosted by U of T’s Department of Computer Science Innovation Lab, one of 10 business accelerators on campus.