U of T’s AI thought leaders take centre stage at Collision 2024

“U of T is Canada's leading engine for research-based tech and AI startups and talent - and you see that reflected in both the lineup for Collision speakers, and the entrepreneurs who attend”

Left to right: Geoffrey Hinton, Aidan Gomez and Raquel Urtasun – all U of T community members who are leaders in the AI field – are among the most anticipated speakers this year's Collision tech conference (photos by Johnny Guatto, Piaras Ó Mídheach/Collision via Sportsfile and Polina Teif)

Some of the most anticipated speakers at this year’s  are artificial intelligence luminaries from the ؿζSM – and they will be sharing their insights on how the revolutionary technology is poised to transform industry and society.

Known as the "godfather of AI," Geoffrey Hinton, a cognitive psychologist and U of T  Emeritus of computer science, will host a session on June 19 titled “Can We Control AI?” that explores the potential benefits inherent in AI advancement. 

Aidan Gomez, one of Hinton’s former interns at Google Brain, is speaking on June 18 about the real-world impact of AI. He’s CEO and co-founder at Cohere, which he and two U of T alumni founded, and which has been dubbed

And Raquel Urtasun, a U of T professor of computer science and the founder and CEO of , which launched with , will share her insights on the trajectory of AI-driven transportation solutions during a session on June 19.

Jon French (photo by Brian de Rivera Simon)

“U of T is Canada's leading engine for research-based tech and AI startups and talent - and you see that reflected in both the lineup for Collision speakers, and the entrepreneurs who attend,” says Jon French, director of U of T Entrepreneurship.

He adds that the conference also gives the university an opportunity to promote “our innovative ecosystem and connect with corporate partners from around the world and investors looking to grow their pipelines, governments and academic institutions at home and aboard.”  

Anticipated to draw more than 40,000 attendees, Collision runs from June 17 to 20 at the Enercare Centre in Toronto and will feature startup founders, business leaders, investors, scientists, journalists and celebrities, including tennis star Maria Sharapova. 

Before the conference officially kicks off, U of T Entrepreneurship will host two tours of the Schwartz Reisman Innovation Campus in partnership with the City of Toronto and the Government of Ontario. It will also have a booth at Collision to showcase U of T’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, featuring self-driving lab and robot demos from the  and  – both U of T  – and a “Startup Spotlight.” 

U of T’s  is part of a group of community organizers leading the Black Innovation Zone, which will have its own booth with programming for Black innovators.

French says the conference provides U of T startups and entrepreneurs a chance to pitch their ideas and connect with global mentors, advisers, investors, partners and peers.

“For many founders, it is an eye-opening conference that gets them thinking bigger about the markets they serve and often leads to participating in programs and opportunities in geographies around the world,” he says. 

Nuha Siddiqui (photo by Nick Iwanyshyn)

Nuha Siddiqui is among the U of T-connected entrepreneurs participating in Collision this year. She is the co-founder and CEO of , which has developed a plant-based resin that can be used as a substitute for traditional plastics when manufacturing everyday products. She launched the company with Kritika Tyagi while they were studying at the university and received support from U of T’s entrepreneurship community, including the  at the Rotman School of Management. 

Siddiqui said she’s “incredibly thankful” for U of T’s continued support to Erthos’s growth.

“My co-founder and I started Erthos years ago while we were still students, and since graduating, U of T has continued to broaden our network, contribute to meaningful media coverage and remain active champions of our success,” she says.

“It's an absolute honour to represent the entrepreneurship community on the main stage at Collision this year and to have the opportunity to amplify our mission towards building a more material-conscious future."

Here are just a few other U of T faculty, alumni and other community members who will be shaping the dialogue around innovation, tech and entrepreneurship at this year’s conference:

  • Christian Weedbrook, founder and CEO at Xanadu and a former U of T post-doctoral researcher, will discuss the future of data centres and how quantum computing can be leveraged to avoid future economic and climate issues. 
  • Mike Murchison, U of T alum and founding CEO of Ada, which received support from the Creative Destruction Lab, will discuss the evolution of AI customer service agents and their implications for brands and consumers.
  • Curtis VanWalleghem, co-founder and CEO at Hydrostor and a U of T alumnus, will speak about Hydrostor’s innovative technology that utilizes underground spaces for a sustainable long-term energy storage. 
  • David Wong, chief product officer at Thomson Reuters and U of T alumnus, will explore the transformative power of AI and offer insights on how organizations can unlock its full potential for business operations. 
  • Mara Reiff, U of T alumna, chief customer officer and interim co-CEO at Freshbooks, and Dan Richards, assistant professor, teaching stream, at the Rotman School of Management, will discuss how to empower small business owners to make smart decisions.