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Canada to open $150m government backed AI institute

Posted: 29 March 2017 | By Darcie Thompson-Fields

The Canadian government is investing C$200 million ($150 million) in an artificial intelligence institute at the University of Toronto.

The centre, which will be called the Vector Institute, will train a large number of masters, doctoral and postdoctoral AI scientists. It will also support research projects with potential for commercial use.

The Vector Institute will be headed up by former Toronto-Dominion Bank CEO, Ed Clark. In an interview with Reuters Clark said that AI scientists are greatly needed by Canadian industry.

“Clearly, the giants in Silicon Valley are going to be major players in this. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t find things and areas where we end up being best in the class,” said Clark, now a business adviser to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.

The majority of financial commitment will come from the federal and Ontario governments but Google has committed C$5million to the institute. Organisers did not disclose when the institute would begin operation

Noted AI scholar Geoffrey Hinton will serve as chief scientific adviser.

“This initiative came from the industry. They all know they need to have lots of very skilled people. This is a very fast-moving field and you want the people to be educated by people doing basic research,” Hinton said.

He said that government support for AI research and training would encourage large corporations to expand their research labs to Canada.

The country has seen a recent spike in AI investment leading some to dub it as ‘the next Silicon Valley’.

Earlier this year, non-profit Next AI secured $5.15 million CAD in funding. The program is devoted to the commercialization of AI and boasts partners including NVIDIA, Google and IBM.

Google also cemented Montreal’s status as a centre for AI research with a C$4.5m investment in the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA) last November.

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