Vector Institute’s Team to Translate Research into Practical AI Apps

The Vector Institute today announced the establishment of a new AI engineering team that will translate Vector’s leading AI research into new and responsible industrial AI applications and health care initiatives. The team will create reference applications, tools, frameworks, and model templates and provide industry and health care organizations in Canada with the know-how and hands-on experience to adapt and operationalize these models quickly and effectively within their organizations. The team will also support the establishment of world-class scientific computing infrastructure to scale AI research and adoption.

The engineering team will be led by Ron Bodkin who will assume the role of VP of AI Engineering and CIO at the Vector Institute, and Engineering Lead at the Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology in Society as of September 8, 2020.

The AI engineering team will be charged with five key priorities:

  • Industry: Supporting the Vector Institute’s industry sponsor companiesthrough knowledge transfer programs, giving these companies the know-how and hands-on experience to adapt and operationalize reference applications, tools, frameworks, and model templates within their organizations.
  • Responsible AI: Collaborating with the Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society to develop technology and frameworks for operationalizing responsible AI, helping industry and health partners address common technical challenges related to AI governance, fairness, explainability, interpretability, privacy, and security.
  • Health: Supporting the operationalization of innovative AI tools and solutions in Canadian health care organizations with a focus on privacy, technology modernization, and collaboration with practitioners. This will complement and build on Vector’s commitment to modernizing health data governance for research by enhancing the impact of compute infrastructure provided for support the Ontario Health Data Platform for COVID-19 research, collaborations with Unity Health Toronto and TAHSN hospitals to derive COVID-19 insights from hospital data, and the Health AI Data Access Platform (HAIDAP) collaboration with the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Services (ICES), UHN, and HPC4Health at The Hospital for Sick Children.
  • Research: Accelerating our researchers’ ability to conduct and reproduce experiments and push forward the frontier of AI research by enhancing our AI infrastructure, fostering the most promising innovations, and seeking to demonstrate their implications for AI practice, including through open source publication and maintenance.
  • AI Infrastructure: Procuring and operating one of the world’s most significant non-profit machine learning computational infrastructures, including thousands of GPUs, petaflops of computation, large scale data management, modern training frameworks, experiment workflow tools, and prioritized fairshare scheduling.

After spending the majority of his professional life in the United States, Ron Bodkin is repatriating to Canada to take this role at the Vector Institute. In his most recent role as Technical Director on the Applied Artificial Intelligence team in Google’s Cloud CTO office, Ron led strategic initiatives working with Google Cloud’s customers and partners, and worked with product teams on explainable AI and fairness capabilities in Google Cloud products.

Ron is also a serial entrepreneur. He was founding CEO of Think Big Analytics, a company which developed corporate data strategies for clients, and provided integrated machine learning and data engineering services. In 2014, Think Big Analytics was acquired by Teradata, where Ron led Think Big as a business unit focused on analytic solutions, deep learning, and GPU compute. He later became Teradata’s Vice President & General Manager of Artificial Intelligence, leading a team with a charter to identify and commercialize machine learning products.

Ron’s mix of entrepreneurship, product development, machine learning, and responsible AI experience augments the Vector Institute’s credentials and capabilities as a leading research institute with a focus on valuable and responsible AI application.

Ron received his Honors B.Sc., Math and Computer Science from McGill University in 1991, and obtained a Master’s in Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1992.

“The establishment of the engineering team marks a natural progression of our vision. The team will accelerate capabilities across multiple sectors and augment our position as a world-leading AI institute with a focus on responsible AI. Given Ron’s experience as an entrepreneur and leader in AI engineering and responsible AI, product development, and strategic partnerships, he is uniquely positioned to drive and advance application and lead the team. We are looking forward to welcoming him back to Canada.”

– Garth Gibson, President and CEO, Vector Institute

“Canadian companies seeking to become and remain global competitors must be able to apply state-of-the-art AI. Vector’s knowledge transfer programs and projects, imbued with the expertise of AI technology leaders such as Ron Bodkin, will provide the foundation for the application of cutting-edge research and help Canadian companies advance their adoption of this technology.”

– Ed Clark, Chair, Vector Institute

“We are very excited for Ron to be joining our leadership team at Schwartz Reisman to drive practical solutions to the challenges and opportunities presented by AI. Our goal at the Institute is to foster new cross-disciplinary research that connects AI researchers to our social scientists and humanists and to do that in a way that translates as quickly and effectively as possible to real-world solutions for industry, government, and civil society. Ron will play a pivotal role in making that happen and we are delighted to have him on board to help us make sure AI technologies make everyone better off.”

– Gillian Hadfield, Director, Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society and Inaugural Schwartz Reisman Chair in Technology and Society at the University of Toronto

I’m excited at the opportunity to build an engineering capability for Vector, working with some of the top researchers in AI and to lead with AI solutions that exemplify responsible uses of AI and its benefit to society. I look forward to working with the institute’s deep and diverse public and private sector sponsors and partners.

 – Ron Bodkin, VP of AI Engineering and CIO at the Vector Institute and Engineering Lead at the Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology in Society (As of September 8, 2020)

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