The Institutional Strategic Initiatives team organizes workshops for a variety of purposes. Workshops are held to support the development of research initiatives by (a) building partnerships and communities around a shared vision and research objective, (b) ensuring that diverse perspectives are integrated into the development of initiatives, (c) obtaining divisional and departmental support for initiatives, and (d) supporting the sustainability of initiatives through the development of funding applications. Workshops are also held to mobilize the University of Toronto’s research community around specific urgent issues and funding opportunities.

Upcoming Workshops can be found on the VPRI website.

Past Workshops


Arts and Social Wellness (June 26, 2020)

Following a visioning workshop (See below Beyond Therapy: Community-Engaged Arts Research Creation as a Method for Social Wellness) held on January 24, 2020, this workshop focused on developing the specific pillars for a proposal on an Arts and Social Wellness intiative.

The Arts and Social Wellness initiative seeks to advance Collective Arts Engagement as a low-risk and cost-effective therapeutic intervention for a host of health conditions ranging from stroke and cancer to psychiatric illness across the life-course, to the benefit of Canadian society and the economy. Arts-based research has indicated that arts engagement improves social wellness by cultivating fellowship and enhancing community-centred knowledge. Against perceptions of the arts as a supplementary health intervention, this initiative explores the tenet that high-quality arts experiences catalyze human interactions crucial to wellness.


Queer Research Lab (June 8, 2020)

This workshop was organized to seek broad input from the U of T community on the vision of the Queer Research Lab and refine its strategic objectives.

The Queer Research Lab, based at the University of Toronto’s (U of T’s) Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, focuses on collective research innovation in sexual diversity that contributes to and participates in ongoing LGBTQ2S+ initiatives. The vision of the Queer Research Lab is to help sustain activists, artists, educators, and intellectuals involved in this work and to provide a space for them to meet, work, create, and organize.

The focus of this workshop will be to refine the objectives of the Queer Research Lab in the following areas:


  • provide its members with the opportunity to study complex issues in sexual diversity and imagine new approaches for scholarship;
  • provide support and space for scholars, artists, students and social justice leaders to meet, hold events, share scholarship and pedagogical practices, work collectively on their projects, and create new models of scholarship and engagement; and
  • attract scholars, artists, and LGBTQ2S+ social justice leaders from across the country and around the world to conduct their work at the Bonham Centre.

The Centre for Medicinal Chemistry (May 28, 2020)

This workshop was held to allow the research community to provide input on plans for the Centre for Medicinal Chemistry.

The Centre for Medicinal Chemistry aims to design and create compounds that are purpose-built to interrupt specific disease-promoting biochemical processes while avoiding harm to normal cellular functions. The Centre for Medicinal Chemistry will seek to empower faculty and trainees to accelerate the translation and commercialization of their research discoveries to deliver effective molecular therapies for preclinical and clinical development. Given the translational nature of medicinal chemistry, the Centre for Medicinal Chemistry intends to directly engage the pharmaceutical industry within the context of academic innovation and novel generation of intellectual property.

Approaches will include:

  • computational drug design;
  • the synthesis of small molecules;
  • biophysical/chemical assessment of the drug candidates; and
  • evaluation of potency and toxicity in cellular and preclinical systems.

The Centre for Medicinal Chemistry will pioneer innovative drug discovery and enable researchers and trainees to explore treatments for aggressive and lethal indications for which there is currently no cure, including orphan oncology indications and rare autoimmune disorders.

Worlding the University (May 13, 2020)

The goal of this workshop was to refine and focus a funding proposal for Worlding the University.

Worlding the University is focused on understanding a globally connected but highly unequal world. While inherited paradigms from development studies (which foregrounds global inequality) and area studies (which delves deeply into the histories and cultures of particular regions) are essential resources to this initiative, post-colonial and decolonial scholarship indicate that more inclusive and accountable modes of knowledge production are needed. The rise of data sciences and artificial intelligence also signal that modes of knowledge production are quickly changing. Worlding the University equips today’s global research university for the 21st century with a new paradigm while advancing three institutional deliverables:


  1. to leverage the University of Toronto’s existing excellence in area-based research;
  2. to foster tri-campus, cross-divisional research groups; and
  3. to develop a compelling narrative to attract funding that sustains this initiative.

Care Economies in Context (May 11, 2020)

The goal of this workshop was to refine and focus the goals and objectives of a funding proposal for the Care Economies in Context initiative.

The term “care economies” refers to the sector of the economy that contributes to the nurturing and reproduction of present and future populations including childcare, elder care, education, healthcare, and personal, social and domestic services provided in both paid and unpaid forms within formal and informal sectors. This initiative draws on expertise from the social sciences, health sciences, humanities, natural sciences and engineering to advance knowledge on the state of the care economies and develop macroeconomic models and policy tools for Canada as well as other countries with growing care needs.

With support from a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Partnership grant (pending) and other partner institutions, this project is poised to place the University of Toronto as a global leader in care studies.

Artificial Intelligence & Materials (Febuary 21, 2020)

This workshop facilitated broad multi-disciplinary engagement across the University of Toronto’s divisions and departments to discuss the development of a large-scale initiative leveraging U of T’s deep expertise on  artificial intelligence and robotics to accelerate materials discovery.

The Artificial Intelligence and Materials Initiative aims to transform materials discovery through the development of automated labs that integrate artificial intelligence and automated robotic chemical synthesis and characterization. We are on the edge of a materials innovation paradigm shift where autonomous labs will accelerate advanced materials discovery, from decades to years, and impact climate change, health and transform our economy.

Beyond materials, this initiative will support adoption of the artificial intelligence and automation techniques developed for its Material Acceleration Platforms to accelerate research across the University in diverse areas from medicine to environmental science.

* this initiative is now called Materials Moonshot Consortium

Plastics (February 19, 2020)

This workshop was held in anticipation of funding opportunities for plastics research from the federal government related to the federal government has released its Canada’s Plastics Science Agenda (CAPSA).

CaPSA is a call to coordinated action on plastics science priorities. It is designed to help all Canadian researchers and research funders understand the key plastics science needs in Canada. By proposing several goals and activities that range from the short term to the longer term, it will also serve as a roadmap for guiding Canada’s scientific efforts towards a zero plastic waste future, supporting the Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste and Action Plan, as well as Canada’s commitments under the Ocean Plastics Charter.

In anticipation of funding opportunities for plastics research by the federal government, and given the depth and breadth of research expertise at the University of Toronto, the Institutional Strategic Initiatives team convened faculty members and unit heads with interests in this topic to discuss the potential for an initiative that could bring together our world class research experts focused on all aspects of plastics research.

HealthCare Robotics (HeRo) in Practice (February 12, 2020)

This workshop was held to support the development of a proposal for the New Frontiers Research Fund Transformation competition. 

The Healthcare Robotics (HeRo) Initiative aims to develop technologies and services that improve access to healthcare in underserved remote or rural communities. From non-invasive pill-bots that can biopsy intestinal tissues without surgery, to surgical robots that enable doctors to perform remote procedures, to carebots that support independent living, robotic healthcare tools are poised to advance the digital health revolution. By automating the physical aspects of health data capture and therapeutic intervention at the point of care, such tools could dramatically lower the cost of healthcare delivery, improve access in remote and underserved communities, and redefine the practice of community-based medicine. Yet there remain many complex and interconnected technical, practical, ethical, privacy, regulatory, and policy challenges that will influence the successful translation of robotic tools into rural and remote healthcare communities. HeRo will take a multi-disciplinary approach and leverage University of Toronto’s close ties to Canada’s largest research hospital network and its internationally-renowned expertise in robotics, computer vision, AI, medicine, health policy, and community medicine to tackle the challenge of developing technology that supports rural and remote healthcare. The diversity of the HeRo research team will serve to align disciplines on common best practices and impact measurement frameworks, while identifying gaps, risks, and new opportunities for healthcare innovation.

Gender and the Economy (GATE) (February 4, 2020)

This workshop was held to support the University of Toronto’s Institute for Gender and the Economy (GATE) to expand its reach in the university, refresh its strategy based on lessons learned over its first few years of operation and develop a sustainable funding model.

GATE was founded by Prof. Sarah Kaplan at the Rotman School in 2016. It aims to use rigorous research to change the conversation on gender equality. Kaplan observed that the existing conversation on gender equality amongst key stakeholders such as companies and policy makers is stale and out-of-date. The rhetoric focuses on ideas that researchers know not to be true (e.g., that women are more risk averse and just need to “lean in”). Academic scholarship has fresh ideas to propose that can have a substantial impact on social justice, economic growth and prosperity. GATE’s goal is to support research and its translation into practice through research grants, digital storytelling, public events, involvement with corporate and government policy makers, and student engagement.

Beyond Therapy: Community-Engaged Arts Research Creation as a Method for Social Wellness (Janurary 24, 2020)

This visioning workshop will explore the opportunity for a collaborative, cross-campus network focused on the grand challenge of advancing collective arts engagement as a low-risk, cost-effective, therapeutic intervention that addresses social isolation, mental health challenges, and the rise of chronic illnesses for the benefit of Canadian society and the economy.

Arts-based research has indicated that arts engagement improves social wellness by cultivating fellowship and enhancing community-centered knowledge. Against perceptions of the arts as a supplementary health intervention, this potential initiative would lead with the tenet that high-quality arts experiences catalyze human interactions crucial to wellness.

Mental Health for Youth and Students (January 9, 2020)

The University of Toronto (U of T) has identified Youth/Student Mental Health as a critical institutional strategic priority area. In response, the Institutional Strategic Initiatives portfolio convened this roundtable to discuss how researchers at U of T, and its partner institutions, can work across units and disciplines to understand at a systemic level the features of academic institutions that promote and/or inhibit wellness.

Digital Humanities Network (November 29, 2019)

This workshop was held to plan for the next stage of the Digital Humanities Network at the Univeristy of Toronto (U of T). Current Digital Humanities Network members including faculty, librarians, and staff shared their current digital research initiatives reflected on the supports and infrastructure required to faciliate their research, and started to build a consensus around a broader vision for digital humanities research at U of T.

The specific objectives of the workshop were to:

  • Explore other Digital Humanities initiatives
  • Identify where U of T can lead the world in Digital Humanities
  • Brainstorm approaches to positioning the Digital Humanities Network for leadership in up to three strategic areas
  • Identify strategies to realize this goal



Toronto Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research Consortium (November 25, 2019)

This workshop convened the community across all of the University of Toronto’s (U of T’s) divisions, campuses and partner institutions to discuss a strategy to advance cannabis and cannabinoid research in Toronto and to advocate for a research and funding strategy that benefits a multidisciplinary network.

The Toronto Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research Consortium (TC3) is a network of researchers from U of T and the Toronto Affiliated Health Sciences Network who are actively engaged in health research on cannabis and cannabinoids. The TC3 facilitates inter-disciplinary collaborations and resource-sharing among members and their trainees and supports members in acquiring funding to advance cannabis and cannabinoid research programs.

Cybersecurity & Resilience (November 11, 2019)

The 2019 Federal Budget included $80 million over four years, starting in 2020–21, “to support three or more Canadian cybersecurity networks across Canada that are affiliated with post-secondary institutions. The networks — to be selected through a competitive process — will expand research, development and commercialization partnerships between academia and the private sector, and expand the pipeline of cybersecurity talent in Canada.” This workshop was held to consolidate the University of Toronto’s breadth of research expertise on a Cybersecurity Resilience and Infrastructure initiative that best positions the University to attract federal funding that promotes collaboration among Canadian cybersecurity centres of expertise.