Landmark $100-million Gift to the University of Toronto
Landmark $100-million gift to the University of Toronto from Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman will power Canadian innovation and help researchers explore the intersection of technology and society
From the University of Toronto - The new Schwartz Reisman Innovation Centre will turbocharge the next wave of Canadian innovation, advancing how AI, biomedicine and other disruptive technologies can enrich lives
Thanks to an historic gift to the University of Toronto from Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman, the soon-to-be built Schwartz Reisman Innovation Centre will accelerate innovation in Toronto and Canada by creating the country’s largest university-based innovation node. The $100-million investment is the largest donation in U of T’s history and the largest gift ever to the Canadian innovation sector.
The gift will help construct a 750,000-square-foot complex designed to anchor U of T’s unique cluster of world-leading artificial intelligence scientists and biomedical experts, its world-class entrepreneurship network, and the country’s largest concentration of student- and faculty-led startups.
The gift will also support the launch of the newly conceived Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society, whose mission will be to explore and address the ethical and societal implications of AI and other emerging technologies. The Institute will facilitate cross-disciplinary research and collaboration and will draw on U of T’s signature strengths in the sciences, humanities and social sciences to explore the benefits and challenges that AI, biotechnology, and other technological advances present for our economy, our society and our day-to-day lives.
“The University of Toronto is deeply grateful to Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman for their vision and generosity,” says President Meric Gertler. “This extraordinary gift will spark Canadian innovation, boost our economy, and enable a deeper examination of how technology shapes our daily lives. It’s a gift that reflects Gerry and Heather’s entrepreneurial spirit and their deep concern for Canadians and global society.”
“This new complex will contribute enormously to innovation at U of T,” says world-renowned AI pioneer and University Professor Emeritus Geoffrey Hinton. “It will help consolidate Toronto’s leading position in the AI world. The Centre will attract other AI experts and help to spark additional AI-based innovations. It will also bring together scholars from an array of disciplines to study the implications of AI in today’s world.”
Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman are two of Canada’s most respected entrepreneurs and business leaders. Mr. Schwartz is the founder, chair, and CEO of Onex Corporation, Canada’s oldest and most successful private equity firm. Heather Reisman is the founder, chair and CEO of Indigo, the country’s leading book and lifestyle retailer.
Schwartz and Reisman are also among the country’s most generous philanthropists. They have long supported institutions and causes across the country, particularly in the areas of literacy, education, health care and advanced research. Their previous gifts to the University of Toronto have made an immense difference to students, researchers and programs in several faculties. Both have had a long relationship with the university, having served as advisers for numerous strategic initiatives.
This $100-million gift, made through The Gerald Schwartz & Heather Reisman Foundation, was inspired by their belief in the importance of research-based innovation as a driver of economic and social prosperity and their keen interest in the interdisciplinary exploration of how innovative technologies such as AI and regenerative medicine affect societies and individuals.
“U of T is already a global leader in artificial intelligence, biomedicine and the intersections of society and technology,” say the couple. “We’re immensely proud and excited to be part of an initiative that will further spark innovation, anchor talent and ideas in Canada, and illuminate the importance of socially responsible technology.”
A catalyst for innovation
The Schwartz Reisman Innovation Centre will occupy one of Toronto’s most iconic locations, the northeast corner of College and Queen’s Park.
Designed by WEISS/MANFREDI, one of North America’s leading architectural firms, in collaboration wth Teeple Architects, the Centre will be a showcase for “innovation architecture.” The Centre’s stunning layout will feature vertical gardens, soaring atria and collaborative spaces and will promote intellectual exchange and invite the public to take part in events and interact with scholars and innovators. U of T expects the building’s engaging spaces to host thousands of researchers, investors, industry partners and international visitors annually.
In addition to opening up the university to the city, the centre will stimulate economic growth by capitalizing on U of T’s research and innovation prowess and providing space for smaller Canadian companies to grow.
“For the first time, the University of Toronto will have a central facility where young entrepreneurs and faculty can dream big,” says Scott Mabury, vice-president operations & real estate partnerships. “These flagship buildings will have purpose-built spaces for innovation and provide much-needed room for research-based scaleup companies, which will help to keep Canadian ideas and talent in Canada.”