BMO and RBC Invest $4 Million Into Montreal’s Creative Destruction Lab

There’s a lot of money in destruction.

The Bank of Montreal (BMO) and the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) have announced they are injecting $4 million into the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) in Montreal. The lab helps innovators transition from creating and testing high-potential science projects to using those ideas as the basis for new startups.

The CDL in Montreal will welcome its first cohort of 28 companies on December 15, made up entirely of AI-focused startups. Over 200 new businesses applied for entry into CDL-Montreal’s first program, with nearly half of the companies based outside of Canada. A large majority of the companies either already have a patent or are close to obtaining one, and the average financing is around $900,000.

“The CDL-Montreal program represents a stimulant challenge not only for our startup companies but also for all the partners involved in this innovative project,” said Fil Papich, co-head of BMO Capital Markets in Quebec.

This first cohort will run from December until June 2018, with the invited startups gaining access to objectives-based coaching led by experienced entrepreneurs and world-class scientists. AI powerhouses like Yoshua Bengio and Joëlle Pineau, along with influential tech impresarios like iNovia Capital CEO Chris Arsenault are all going to be providing the invited companies with advice and goals.

The investment from BMO and RBC makes a lot of sense here; inviting AI startups into CDL-Montreal will let the new companies gain access to some of the biggest and most influential AI companies in the world. There are AI labs from Facebook and Stradigi in the city, as well as RBC’s own newly-announced Borealis Lab.

“Montreal has emerged as a global centre for research in artificial intelligence and I’m excited to be participating in this community,” said Dr. Foteini Agrafioti, head of Borealis AI. “We’re committed to helping advance the field through the creation of intellectual property and look forward to providing new opportunities for the enormous talent already doing exceptional research in the region.”

The new RBC Borealis AI lab will open its doors early next year.

The CDL in Montreal was one of three first unveiled in May this year along with labs at the University of Calgary and Dalhousie University in Halifax. Those three new labs joined the original CDL at the University of Toronto and the first offshoot at Vancouver’s University of British Columbia.

CDL-Montreal itself is the result of a partnership between HEC Montreal and the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. The CDL is neither an accelerator or incubator and tries to distance itself from the comparisons by offering investment funds, mentorship, support, and AI and data science leaders. Companies even receive advice from MBA students on how to run the business side of things.

“This is our moment to emerge as an international AI powerhouse and nurturing the Canadian startup ecosystem will help us do so,” added Dr. Agrafioti.

Throughout the tenure of CDLs in Canada, well-known companies including Thalmic Labs, Bridgit, and Deep Genomics have been through cohorts and entered the mainstream. These companies have gone on to raise hundreds of millions in funding.