Move over Toronto and Montreal, another AI capital may soon emerge in Canada.
The Government of Alberta has announced a five-year $100 million investment to bring more AI companies to the province. This funding will build out Alberta’s fledgling AI industry by supporting both Alberta Innovates, a corporation that develops high-tech solutions with AI, nanotechnology, and omics to address concerns in health, the environment, and food; and the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii), an organization comprised of leading AI researchers, much like Toronto’s Vector or Montreal’s Mila.
“Innovation is a critical tool for competitiveness in nearly every sector of the economy, including energy,” said Rachel Notley, Premier of Alberta. “By investing in technology and the talent that powers it, we are ensuring Alberta continues to be a world leader in clean, efficient energy production and that our economy is more resilient and diversified for the future.”
The investment will create 6,000 highly-trained citizens, the creation of over 140 companies, 30 multi-national offices and labs in Alberta, and over $207 million in leveraged investments by industry, according to a release.
“This landmark investment will catalyze economic growth stretching beyond Alberta’s machine intelligence sector,” said John Shillington, CEO of Amii. “Businesses around the world are turning to machine learning and artificial intelligence as key drivers of innovation across every industry sector. With this renewed support from the Government of Alberta, Amii will advance transformational business programs offering scientific mentorship and educational opportunities. Together, we’re helping Alberta businesses seize the opportunities presented by machine intelligence.”
The first investment of $27 million (along with $25 million form the federal government) will go towards a new program from Amii to support companies that are looking to build their own in-house AI platforms. This money will allow the Edmonton-based Amii to open a second office in Calgary.
For Alberta Innovates, this funding will go towards establishing a stronger global presence for industry solutions developed in Alberta, particularly in applied research and development.
In order to boost the profile of Alberta AI, $5 million of the investment will be spent on a marketing campaign to showcase the province’s tech talent in locations such as Silicon Valley. The idea is that several international companies are looking to expand their presence, and Alberta would be a great spot to choose due to their AI prowess.
In 2017, the federal government pledged a total of $125 million to the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy, administered through CIFAR. Close to $25 million of that funding went to Alberta-based AI, and towards the end of 2018, CIFAR named the first 29 chairs to their AI cohort, four of which will be based in Amii.