Entrepreneurship Alumni Award

Award criteria

  • Exceptional entrepreneurial contributions to a business, public or non-profit organization
  • Accomplishments serve as an example to the engineering community
  • Serve as an inspiration to engineering and the Schulich School of Engineering community

2019 Entrepreneurship Alumni Award recipient

Olivia Norton

Olivia Norton, BSc (Eng) ’11

Olivia is the Chief Technical Officer of a company with one of the most relevant, ambitious and controversial mission statements imaginable: to build synthetic humans nearly indistinguishable from us.

In January 2018, at 29 years old, Olivia Norton co-founded Sanctuary AI, an artificial intelligence company with the mission to build robots with human-like intelligence. Sanctuary AI was born from Kindred System’s Inc., where Olivia worked in their artificial general intelligence division, and explored the development of AI systems that could understand and participate in our world.

Olivia was named as a Top 30 Under 30 by BCBusiness Magazine, and volunteers for the Vancouver Hub of Global Shapers: a global network of young people under the age of 30 working together to address local, regional and global challenges.

As CTO, Olivia is responsible to set the technical vision and technical future of Sanctuary AI. She manages the technical side of the work, which is primarily software engineering.

Olivia loves the challenge of working for a startup, she enjoys having many different tasks in diverse areas, being able to pick things up on the finance, marketing and networking side. In the startup space, goals and timelines change rapidly, and Olivia has learned to embrace and create opportunities from these unique challenges.

I am inspired by Olivia because she has chosen a very hard career with the hopes to have a truly meaningful and positive contribution to humankind. As Olivia sees it, “The reason I am doing this is because we, as humans, are facing a set of challenges in the near-to-medium term that are huge, and we, as individuals, have a limited ability to tackle them. AGI [artificial general intelligence] is the best way I can think of that we will be able to address these challenges.”

While Olivia believes in the value and importance of this technology, she is aware of the potential negative side effects and she is taking the initiative to proactively consider these. She pays close attention to policy, knowing that as an early expert in this technology, she is responsible to help move it in the right direction. As an engineer, she feels it is her responsibility to ensure that the technology is used in a way that benefits humans, and this motivates her. She has spoken to school groups in order to dispel myths about artificial intelligence, and regularly attends Toastmasters in order to continually develop and improve her ability to connect with the community.

She is most daunted by the openness of AI technology, “There is a wide spectrum of ways in which AI is being developed, and no one yet knows the best path,” so she has learned to always just try something instead of being paralyzed by not knowing the “best” way.

In business training's initial years, establishments and staff with plainly characterized missions arranged educators for obviously characterized jobs. Notwithstanding, as of late, business training programs at all levels have experienced significant inquiries of character, have encountered enlist dormant decays, and have thought that it was hard to decide their substance educating limits. Today, business instruction projects get ready not just business educators for the conventional 7-12 reviews yet numerous likewise get ready students to enter the fields of office frameworks or potentially preparing and improvement in both general society and private division. She started to use website here that can help make business reports. What's more, returning non-conventional students look for affirmation at both the optional and basic levels, further aggravating the issue of what is proper business instructor training. With such an obscuring of missions and jobs, it is important that the BEA office look in all respects cautiously at the patterns and issues of business training in general.

Through her actions, Olivia teaches us not to shy away from wicked, ill-defined and controversial problems. She shows us that, even when there is no obvious answer, the solution is to move forward one step at a time. Olivia is an exemplar of the brave and ambitious entrepreneurs we hope to develop here at Schulich, and is most deserving of this award.

Past recipients


Doug MacKenzie, BSc (Eng) ’74