In a move that will boost artificial intelligence (AI) research across the country, the Government of Canada announced Wednesday the funding of a pan-Canadian AI Strategy to enhance research and recruit talent. Administered through the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), the $125 million program will promote collaboration between post-secondary institutions in Montréal, Toronto-Waterloo, and Edmonton.
“Our University of Alberta researchers have been world leaders in artificial intelligence for decades. I’m very pleased the government has moved forward and invested in this absolutely critical area for the future of all Canadians,” says University of Alberta President David Turpin.
“We’ve only scratched the surface of what AI can do and are excited to unleash even greater possibilities in deep reinforcement learning.” —Richard Sutton
With applications as diverse as enhanced medical diagnoses to self-driving cars, artificial intelligence is a continually growing area of research with the potential to transform all facets of society. The field already attracts investment from major technology players like Google, Facebook and Amazon. The global market for artificial intelligence-related products is expected to reach $47 billion by 2020.
“Canadian universities train some of the best AI researchers in the world,” says Cameron Schuler, Executive Director of the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii), housed at the University of Alberta. “With this latest investment, Canada will build on existing strengths to retain and attract talented individuals, drive innovation and advances in industry, and take our place on the global stage as leaders in AI.”
The strategy aims to further develop Canada’s AI ecosystem and position the country as a world-leading destination for companies seeking to invest in artificial intelligence and innovation. “This investment in deep AI builds on Canada’s strength as a pioneer in AI research and will provide a strong foundation for Canada to build on its global leadership in this important and exciting field,” says Alan Bernstein, President and CEO of CIFAR.
In addition to retaining top talent, enhancing recruitment and training across Canada, the new funding will enable further collaborations between industry and academic institutions. Some of the recent industry collaborations at the University of Alberta include research partnerships, with large companies like RBC, and project-based ones, such as optimizing water treatment control systems with Edmonton-based ISL Engineering.
“There is some truly fascinating AI research coming out of Canada,” says Richard Sutton, professor of computing science in the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Science and researcher at Amii, world-renowned for his boundary pushing research in reinforcement learning. “Canada is punching above its weight in the field, and we’re thrilled the federal government is committed to building on this strong base. We’ve only scratched the surface of what AI can do and are excited to unleash even greater possibilities in deep reinforcement learning.”