InnovationResearchScience

Canada Ploughs £120m Into AI Research Institute

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Canadian government joins business community for significant investment into research for artificial intelligence

Canada has made a strategic move to plough millions of dollars into an artificial intelligence (AI) institute at the University of Toronto.

The investment is from both the Canadian and Ontario governments, as well as local businesses.

It comes as organisations seek to exploit the advantages that AI can deliver, despite concerns in some quarters about its perceived threat to humanity and risk to jobs going forward.

AI Expertise

The new facility is called the Vector Institute, and is an independent non-profit organisation affiliated with the University of Toronto.

It is being backed to the tune of C$200m (£120m) from both public and corporate sources such as Alphabet (Google) and Facebook. This funding will allow the institute to hire about 25 new faculty and research scientists.

“The University of Toronto has long been considered a global leader in artificial intelligence research,” said U of T President Meric Gertler. “It’s wonderful to see that expertise act as an anchor to bring together researchers, government and private sector actors through the Vector Institute, enabling them to aim even higher in leading advancements in this fast-growing, critical field.”

artifical intelligence, AI

The idea behind the Vector Institute is that it will allow for the creation of an intellectual centre of AI capabilities. To this end, the Institute will train large numbers of masters, doctoral and postdoctoral AI scientists who are needed by Canadian industry, Ed Clark, who will head the institute, was quoted by Reuters as saying.

The centre will also assist with AI research projects to help them move from the lab to commercial viability.

“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,” Clark said.

And the Institute is getting a known AI expert as its chief scientific adviser in the form of AI scholar Geoffrey Hinton.

AI Future

The technology is already being heavily backed by the tech industry.

Last year for Amazon, Facebook, Google (DeepMind), IBM and Microsoft formed an Artificial Intelligence organisation (‘Partnership on AI’) to explore the ethics and applications of technology that could transform the entire industry.

Despite that, there is some lingering concern about the impact of AI. Earlier this week for example PwC predicted that robots could snatch 30 percent of human jobs in the UK by the early 2030s.

That prediction felt that many more manual labour jobs will be shifted from human workers to robots and automated systems.

However, it is not all doom and gloom; PwC noted that the rise of the machine will also open up new jobs for humans, such as maintaining the robots.

Quiz: What do you know about AI?