Advanced materials

The University of Toronto to use AI to develop advanced materials

The Acceleration Consortium will draw on the power of AI, robotics, engineering and chemistry to create so-called “self-driving laboratories” that can help rapidly design next-generation materials.


To accelerate the design and discovery of advanced materials using artificial intelligence, the University of Toronto is launching a new global consortium. Advanced materials is believed to revolutionize industries from biomedicine, communication to renewable energy.

The design of advanced materials with superior performance characteristics is seen as vital to driving a range of innovations including clean energy storage, development of sustainable packaging for consumer products, drug discovery, quantum computing and the creation of stronger, lightweight building materials – to name a few applications.

The Acceleration Consortium will draw on the power of AI, robotics, engineering and chemistry to create so-called “self-driving laboratories” that can help rapidly design next-generation materials crucial to making the technologies of the future more affordable and eco-friendlier.

The consortium is led by Alán Aspuru-Guzik, a professor in the departments of chemistry and computer science in the Faculty of Arts & Science, and is a collaboration between academia, industry and government, and comprises top researchers from the university and around the world.

“AI is changing the way we do science,” stated Aspuru-Guzik, director of the Acceleration Consortium, Canada 150 Research Chair in Theoretical Chemistry and Canada CIFAR AI Chair at the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence, in a blog on the university’s website.

“The Acceleration Consortium’s self-driving laboratories will revolutionize advanced materials innovation by reducing the time and cost to develop new materials from an average of 20 years and $100 million to as little as one year and $1 million.”

The consortium will build an international network of academic institutions, technology companies and entrepreneurs to lead materials innovation and create a national training program to nurture the next generation of researchers.

Specific initiatives will include workshops, conferences, hackathons, post-doctoral fellowships, a master’s degree program and a laboratory facility to provide training and access to self-driving laboratories for all consortium members.

“Global issues require a global response,” said Christine Allen, U of T’s associate vice-president and vice-provost, strategic initiatives, according to the statement on the blog. “U of T is proud to launch the Acceleration Consortium to drive materials innovation through collaboration between experts across the university and around the world, including government, industry and emerging companies, and our academic peers.”

The Current Acceleration Consortium partners include Chemspeed, the Vector Institute, CIFAR, Creative Destruction Lab, National Research Council of Canada and Natural Resources Canada, among others.

The Acceleration Consortium’s launch follows the Government of Canada’s move to provide nearly $59 million in investments to the National Research Council of Canada and Natural Resources Canada to support the creation of lab space for advanced materials and set up materials acceleration platforms in Mississauga and Hamilton, Ont.

“By creating these new materials, the Acceleration Consortium will help improve the lives of Canadians by addressing challenges in health, climate change, urbanization and economic development,” said Ed Clark, board chair at the Vector Institute and former president and CEO of TD Bank Group.

“The AC’s efforts will also directly support our country’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery by generating commercialization opportunities, onshoring manufacturing, increasing productivity, and even sparking the creation of companies and industries that do not yet exist.”

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