Thomson Reuters earned a lot of buzz two months ago after announcing that it would create 1,500 jobs as part of a new technology centre in Toronto. But while that initiative is still taking shape, it’s actually part of broader strategy that includes a network of labs around the world, including existing facilities in Canada.
For example, the Canadian media/financial and legal information giant already has a lab in Waterloo, started more than two years ago, which Mona Vernon, the vice-president of Thomson Reuters Labs, said it’s part of the company’s strategy of associating itself with innovative ecosystems. In the case of Waterloo, that includes connecting with Communitech as well as local startups, while its data scientists leverage the technology corridor connecting that region to Toronto.
Back in September, Thomson Reuters announced it would be collaborating with the University of Waterloo in order to fuel innovation in data science and develop the next generation of global entrepreneurial leaders. Worth more than $20 million over the next five years, the project includes the establishment of the Thomson Reuters-funded Research Chair in Data Cleaning from Theory to Practice.
Vernon herself is has 10 years of experience in the startup world, and said Thomson-Reuters is looking to partner thoughtfully with startups as part of its open platforms strategy. The company is looking to either become the first customer or team up with startups that can develop joint offerings for its customers.
“We’re cutting down the difficulties of navigating a big organization such as ours,” she said.
Vernon acknowledges that Thomson Reuters is rather Ontario-focused at the moment due to the nature of its current footprint – “Toronto is great location for us,” she acknowledges. The city provides both a talent and customer base from a legal services perspective, including the corporate counsel segment, and financial services. She is exploring connections to Quebec as well, including potential partnerships with Montreal-based startups and universities, noting that Quebec’s largest city is strong in the areas of machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Thanks to the Canadian Digital Media Network, Vernon said Thomson Reuters is able to keep tabs on what’s happening across the country, and in the meantime, its lab in Waterloo is part of a global network, including one in Boston associated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as well as one in the United Kingdom. Its Zurich lab is exploring digital currency and blockchain technologies, while its Capetown, South Africa location just launched. Another one, in Singapore, is on deck for the next year.
Ultimately, said Vernon, the company’s goal is to identify a sense of where their customers are headed and how Thomson Reuters can better serve them. “In that regard, we really focus on innovative partnerships,” she said.
While the entities that came to form the company as it now stands are rooted in mass media, unlike other traditional media companies Thomson Reuters has succeeded as a technology firm, with a variety of different products and services that cover the world of finance, including real-time data services, as well as information products and advanced decision making tools for the legal sector. “The transition from paper to digital and software was on its way six years ago when I joined,” said Vernon.
The company is really in its fourth revolution, which is bringing together digital information, machine learning and networking, she said. This will be reflected in the new technology centre in Toronto, which is expected to incorporate cognitive computing and artificial intelligence into the creation of its next generation of products.
Vernon said Thomson Reuters’ investment is Toronto was driven in part by available talent, and that the company will be looking to hire people with core software development skills, technical engineers and product managers. Skill sets around data science, cloud and automation will also be high on the list, she said.