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Canada provides a robust AI ecosystem, with a deep, rich talent pool and an impressive history of innovation
July 4, 2023
Canada is known for many extraordinary advances such as being the birthplace of insulin, electric wheelchairs, and the Blackberry. But did you know that Canada is also known as a global leader in AI research and its industry applications?
As one of the first countries to enact a national AI strategy, Canada has established a foundation of scientific excellence, high-quality training, and deep talent pools, as well as innovative collaborations with industry. Through the continued support of the Government of Canada and CIFAR (Canadian Institute for Advanced Research), the second phase of the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy continues to build upon this strong foundation. Canada’s proven AI leadership is an extension of our robust ecosystem, talent, and expertise – and that is why the world’s top scientists, multinational companies, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and startups choose Canadian AI.
A robust Canadian ecosystem
Created in 2017, The Pan-Canadian Strategy tasked the nation’s three AI centers — Amii (Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute) located in Edmonton, Toronto’s Vector Institute, and Mila in Montreal — with advancing Canada’s AI potential in research and commercial development. With the launch of Phase Two of the strategy, the Government of Canada doubled down with a $443 million investment to affirm the country’s global leadership — focusing on AI research and increasing industry adoption to drive economic and social impact.
The ongoing investment into Canada’s AI ecosystem continues to drive positive economic impact and has positioned Canada as fourth on the Global AI Index — which measures AI investment, innovation, and implementation. The Canadian ecosystem presents a favorable environment for startups and SMEs, as the country boasts more than 1,200 AI startup companies generating $1.5B in venture capital funding in 2021. Since 2010, the country has been home to 21 unicorn companies that reached a $1B valuation without being listed on the stock market — all of which are tech companies deploying AI. Multinational companies such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Samsung have seen the value in establishing AI research labs in Canada and partnering with the national AI centers. In 2021-22, Amii, Mila, the Vector Institute, and CIFAR had informal partnerships with 277 distinct companies, with 20% identified as multinational firms.
Depth of AI talent pool
Canada’s rich AI ecosystem extends from east to west. The breadth of AI research happening in the country not only deepens Canada’s AI talent base but attracts students and researchers from around the world to study, live, and work in Canada. To facilitate talent attraction, the government also amended its immigration programs to make it easier for businesses to hire the highly skilled talent it needs to grow, including fast-tracked work permits for mathematicians, statisticians, software developers, computer programmers, engineers, and data analysts. According to Stanford’s Global ranking in AI hiring, Canada ranks second in high-tech job growth, with Vancouver and Toronto seeing the most such growth in North America in 2020 and 2021.
Home to AI pioneers and world-leading research
It’s undeniable that AI and its applications have a global impact, but few realize that many of the driving forces for the current wave of AI were pioneered in Canada. Three of the world’s AI pioneers have chosen the country as their home for research: Richard Sutton (Edmonton / Amii), Yoshua Bengio (Montreal / Mila), and Geoffrey Hinton (Toronto / Vector Institute). The immense impact these researchers have made to the field continues to advance fundamental AI research, draw global attention, and attract students from around the world.
It’s an exciting time for AI in Canada as fundamental research begins to lead into the next generation of artificial intelligence. In February 2023, Amii invested $30M towards AI research at the University of Alberta, which launched a global recruitment call to hire 20 new researchers to advance AI science in health, energy, agriculture, space, and Indigenous leadership. Some of the biggest challenges facing the world today — such as climate change, food insecurity, supply chain and public health — will be addressed by this group of researchers.
“In a time with a lot of AI hype – now is the time to double down on ambitious science in artificial intelligence – and to invest in the ambitious people doing it,” said Cam Linke, CEO of Amii. “Investing in research creates knowledge for world-changing commercial success.”
Canadian AI Advantage
Canada’s proven leadership in AI research and commercialization has made a global impact and continues to provide businesses with countless opportunities. The country’s strong ecosystem, talent, and expertise make Canada a desirable place to invest in AI. With a proven track record for commercial AI success, the barriers to getting started in applied AI have never been lower. Artificial Intelligence is here to stay – and it is no longer a choice of whether to be involved in AI or not. It is whether it’s to lead or be led.
Choose to lead with Canadian AI.
Established in 2002 Amii (Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute) is a research non-profit organization and one of the national AI Centres, as part of the Pan-Canadian AI strategy. Amii drives the future of AI research and translates the science from the lab to create impact in industry. www. amii.ca
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