Ottawa and Ontario invest up to $100M in new artificial intelligence institute

By on March 31, 2017


A new institute for artificial intelligence research opened Thursday in Toronto with funding from the federal and Ontario governments and the private sector.  (Photo: Bill Morneau/Facebook)
A new institute for artificial intelligence research opened Thursday in Toronto with funding from the federal and Ontario governments and the private sector. (Photo: Bill Morneau/Facebook)

TORONTO — A new institute for artificial intelligence research opened Thursday in Toronto with funding from the federal and Ontario governments and the private sector.

The Vector Institute will specialize in the fields of machine learning and deep learning, which uses software and algorithms to simulate the neural circuits of the human brain.

Ottawa is putting up to $50 million into the institute, Ontario is investing $50 million and more than 30 private-sector companies are set to invest $80 million.

The announcement comes the week after Finance Minister Bill Morneau unveiled a budget with a focus on innovation, including $125 million to launch a new artificial intelligence strategy.

Morneau said his government “is all about building the future.”

“That budget was really very much about how we can think about making a more innovative economy and how we can ensure that Canadians have the skills to be successful in that innovative economy,” he said.

“We see our budget this year as part of a long-term plan and today is very much instructive in terms of the kind of things that we can do if we have that sort of long-term plan.”

In addition to the AI strategy, the budget also announced the creation of around 25 university research chairs and contained commitments in areas such as stem-cell research, space exploration and quantum computing.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne joked that Dr. Geoffrey Hinton, Vector’s chief scientific adviser, assured her computers will not rise up against humans.

“I know that the idea of artificial intelligence can make some people nervous — and not just people of my age,” she said.

“But we can’t deny that as machines get smarter, they will do some of the work that we do now. So as premier it is my job to make sure we’re managing these changes in a way that creates more opportunity, more security in people’s lives, not less, because we need to embrace AI and technology. The economic and quality of life opportunities are enormous.”