Big names want to join Montreal’s tech scene, but Canada should nurture local talent, says AI pioneer


Some of the beefiest names in tech are lining up to join Montreal’s burgeoning artificial savvy cluster, but harnessing the sector’s full potential depends on creating homegrown tech campaigners, not just celebrating investments by large multinationals, warns one of Canada’s godfathers of rumbling learning.

Canada is at the centre of research charting new ways to mine big matter with implications for everything from better medical diagnoses to self-driving automobiles and Montreal is emerging as a hub thanks to a large concentration of available researchers in a low-cost municipality with great social values.

Facebook became the latest Silicon Valley monster to set up shop in the city with a Sept. 15 announcement that it resolution open a research lab and invest $7 million in Montreal’s AI community, verge on Google, Microsoft and Samsung, which all have a presence in the city.

Innumerable deals are likely on the way, according to Yoshua Bengio, considered one of the pioneers of acute learning  — an AI subset that uses neural networks to lampoon the way a human brain learns and adapts.

Bengio, who heads the Montreal Originate for Learning Algorithms, one of Canada’s three main AI centres of excellence, recently companioned with Samsung to open a University of Montreal lab that will target on developing algorithms for use in voice and visual recognition, robotics, autonomous enterprise and translations.

Room for both foreign, local investment

He believes Canada’s broad stature in AI has been reinforced by its ability to attract the best researchers from around the everybody because of the strong connection between academic research and innovation.

At any rate, he also warned that without developing strong domestic AI firms, intellectual property developed in Canada risks flowing across the trimming to the financial benefit of the U.S.

«Although these large companies coming to Montreal are forwarding to the ecosystem in a beautiful way, in a few years from now we will need to have Canadian partnerships really leading the pack internationally for Canada to really succeed in this,» he imparted in an interview.

It’s a type of brain drain, according to Gabriel Woo, who oversees the RBC Delving Institute, an artificial intelligence lab in Toronto.

«You don’t see them physically crossing the be adjacent to but we need to keep guarding against what I feel is a more insidious brand of brain drain which is losing IP and losing wealth creation,» he remarked.

Others worry that by hiring university professors, multinational tech conventions are limiting the training opportunities for local students to become the next AI stars.

Trade Development Minister Navdeep Bains, who’s leading the federal push to prolong AI, said Canada can both attract foreign investment and help Canadian actors to grow.

«It’s important that we develop IP in Canada, grow intellectual trait in Canada and artificial intelligence in Canada and use big data to help Canadian callers succeed globally as well,» he said from Ottawa.

Bains suggested he expects to unveil in the coming months the government’s supercluster approach and its master plan to protect intellectual property.

Data is ‘the new oil’

Corporate Canada is latching onto the guarantee of artificial intelligence, which has been likened to a new industrial revolution in the whole kit from engineering to banking to aerospace, but many companies are just starting to tally out the best use cases.

«Data has indeed become the new oil,» Air Canada Calin Rovinescu told partnership leaders last week, adding that he sees AI as a way to deliver a myriad satisfying flying experience.

Meanwhile, SNC-Lavalin CEO Neil Bruce demanded the engineering giant is preparing to partner in the coming months with an concocted intelligence startup in a bid to be more efficient than the competition and sees it being put to use in a gang of areas including figuring out complex analytics required to extend the life story of nuclear facilities.

The head of Element AI, a Montreal AI startup factory validated with Bengio, said corporations are still trying to figure out what AI designs for them but want to ensure their businesses aren’t left behind.

«The right motivation is about survival,» said Jean-Francois Gagne, who is overwhelmed by the mob of calls from corporations.

«It’s the fear of new entrants or a company that last will and testament totally disrupt them.»

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