The future of AI will be robust, reasoning and responsible

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In 5 seconds

UdeM and IVADO are trying to revolutionize artificial intelligence with the R3AI project. Is this a utopian fantasy or a realistic opportunity?

Last spring, Université de Montréal got a $124.5 million grant from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund to launch R3AI, a project to make AI more robust, reasoning and responsible (the three R's) and narrow the gap between artificial and human intelligence.

The interdisciplinary project is led by IVADO, an AI research, training and knowledge mobilization consortium made up of UdeM, its affiliated schools Polytechnique Montréal and HEC Montréal, and partners Université Laval and McGill University.

We asked IVADO CEO Luc Vinet about the project, which is spearheaded by the consortium's scientific director Yoshua Bengio, a professor at UdeM’s Department of Computer Science and Operations Research and one of the most influential scientists in the world today.

What exactly is the R3AI project?

Basically, the project has three components. The first is called “Science for AI.” It aims to make artificial intelligence work more like human intelligence, increase the predictive power of training situations, integrate causal reasoning and develop more modular, evolved and explainable systems. These systems will also be designed around human concerns, thereby preventing the potential dangers of AI systems (due to built-in biases, for example).

The second component, entitled “AI for Science,” focuses on the use of artificial intelligence to accelerate scientific discovery. It will start by targeting four key areas: discovering new drugs and other useful molecules, dealing with environmental emergencies, developing “learning health systems” and managing supply chains in a context of uncertainty.

The project’s final component is “AI for Society.” Its goal is to promote widespread AI adoption and ensure these scientific and technological advances are used for the good of society. Much of this component will be conducted through collaborative research projects with our many partner organizations and will be based on work carried out in the fields of responsible innovation and implementation science.

Who are you working with?

First, we brought together many of the world's best research teams in a variety of disciplines. Now we're planning on hiring 48 strategically selected professors (including 28 at UdeM) so R3AI can draw on a unique talent pool that will also include students and postdoctoral researchers from all over the world.

IVADO also benefits from the deep involvement of around 150 industry stakeholders, governments, NGOs and research centres.

Do you think R3AI will really produce “better” AI?

It's a highly ambitious project since it focuses on the biggest challenges in artificial intelligence while also aiming to expand its adoption in all sectors: technology, education, health care, social services, etc. A quick look at the news shows how much this program reflects worldwide concern about the responsible development of AI.

I believe that the Canada First Research Excellence Fund grant will help bring about this paradigm shift. This will mostly be achieved through the project’s comprehensive cross-sector collaboration, which brings together the humanities, social sciences, health sciences, natural sciences and engineering.

Université de Montréal and IVADO, which are active in all fields of study, are fertile ground for synergies between different forms of expertise. Thanks to this diversity, the R3AI project will be able to create a variety of research groups combining areas like AI and neuroscience, machine learning, the environment, natural language processing, molecules, health, equity, diversity and inclusion, and supply chains.

AI will have a huge impact in many areas and will reshape our future. The R3AI project expresses our responsibility to act inclusively and serve as good global citizens in this important field.


IVADO is an interdisciplinary, cross-sectoral research, training and knowledge mobilization consortium whose mission is to develop and promote a robust, reasoning and responsible AI. Led by Université de Montréal with four university partners (Polytechnique Montréal, HEC Montréal, Université Laval and McGill University), IVADO brings together research centres, government bodies and industry members to co-build ambitious cross-sectoral initiatives with the goal of fostering a paradigm shift for AI and its adoption.