The Government of Canada is funding a Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy for research and talent that will cement Canada's position as a world leader in AI. The $125 million strategy will attract and retain top academic talent in Canada, increase the number of post-graduate trainees and researchers studying artificial intelligence, and promote collaboration between Canada's main centres of expertise in Montreal, Toronto-Waterloo and Edmonton. The program will be administered through CIFAR, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.
The new program was announced in the federal budget released on Wednesday.
"The Canadian government clearly recognizes the importance of artificial intelligence as a platform technology that cuts across many areas of innovation today," says Dr. Alan Bernstein, President and CEO of CIFAR. "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."
Artificial intelligence is a burgeoning area of research with implications for everything from better medical diagnoses to self-driving cars. The market for artificial intelligence-related products is predicted to reach $47 billion in 2020, and the field has attracted significant investment from Google, Facebook, Baidu and other major technology players.
Canada's global lead in AI is due in large part to the early support by CIFAR of a group of researchers from around the world, led by Geoff Hinton at the University of Toronto, for over a decade. Notable Canadian researchers include Hinton; Yoshua Bengio of the University of Montreal; and Richard Sutton of the University of Alberta. CIFAR's program in Learning in Machine and Brains is now co-directed by Yoshua Bengio and Yann LeCun (New York University and director of AI Research at Facebook).
Researchers in the CIFAR program made fundamental advances in artificial intelligence that helped launch the current excitement in the field. The deep AI techniques they developed make computers better at seeing patterns and making accurate predictions based on those patterns, using so-called artificial neural networks, in a way analogous to how we think humans learn.
The investment will build on those advances, and create the critical mass of talent necessary for the spectrum of Canadian businesses to succeed in this new market.
"I want to thank the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Canada's Minister of Science, and the Canadian government for having the vision to launch this important program," Bernstein said. "The government has laid the foundation for a sustainable effort that will pay off scientifically and economically for Canada far into the future."
"Canada's scientific success in deep AI is an example of how investments in fundamental research can result in enormous potential for innovation," he said. "Deep AI is a platform technology that cuts across virtually all sectors of the economy, with the potential to improve people's lives. It will help build a stronger and more innovative economy, create high value jobs, improve transportation and lead to better and more efficient health care and social services. This announcement keeps Canada in the forefront of the technology, and gives us a chance to steer its direction and take full advantage of its benefits."
The budget also renews and enhances funding for CIFAR with $35 million over the next five years. The money will go towards CIFAR's mission of enabling transformative knowledge by catalyzing global networks of the world's pre-eminent researchers.
"We're grateful for this enlightened support from the federal government," Bernstein says. "This government understands the importance of investing in fundamental research, and they understand that CIFAR's unique model of bringing together the world's best minds to address some of the most important and most interesting questions of our time benefits both Canada and the world."
Dr. Alan Bernstein
President and CEO, CIFAR
Vice-President, Research Partnerships, CIFAR