Technology 4 min read

Montreal is an AI hub and Here's why

Companies and countries alike race to integrate AI into their daily operations. Hotspots for AI research and development exist in cities like Montreal.

Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH | Shutterstock.com

Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH | Shutterstock.com

Thanks to the presence of AI stars and budding machine learning talents, and Yoshua Bengio, Montreal has become a hotbed for AI research and business.

To develop the AI sector across the country and attract leading figures, the Canadian government is shelling out $125 million Canadian dollars as part of its 2017 budget, to be spent over five years.

But what is happening with AI in Montreal, among other Canadian cities, is exceptional.

Montreal owes a big part of its status as one of the most dynamic AI hubs in the world to its AI leading experts, mainly Yoshua Bengio, a computer scientist and world pioneer in AI research.

Montreal is so Attractive to AI Capitals

“When tech giants like Facebook decide to invest in our cities, that is not only a testament to the world-class talent of our people, but also to Canada’s enormous potential as an innovation and tech hub,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who attended the opening of Facebook’s AI lab in Montreal.

Facebook’s AI lab, added the Prime Minister, “underlines Canada’s status as a global AI powerhouse.”

This “testament” was renewed a couple of days later by Samsung, which confirmed the creation of its AI lab in the same city.

Montreal has become a hotbed for AI research and business.Click To Tweet

The team of FAIR Montreal will join other Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research (FAIR) sites, such as those in New York and Paris, and work together with other scientists to advance AI research.

Already in November 2016, before Facebook and Samsung, Google was also seduced by Montreal before being followed in January 2017 by Microsoft.

These arrivals have come with millions of dollars in the form of investments, as well as an opportunity for Montreal AI talents who are also one of the city main draws.

Montreal AI Superstar: Yoshua Bengio

If AI is now on everyone’s lips, Yoshua Bengio chose it as a research field and started working on its development since the 1980s. And he has managed to put Montreal on the AI map and convince giant tech companies, like Facebook, Google, Microsoft and others, to invest millions in the city.

Yoshua Bengio is one of the five ambassadors for the new Technopolys Strategy, an initiative created to push Quebec’s technology ecosystem further.

He’s also the scientific director of the Institute for Data Valorization (IVADO), and co-director of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research program (CIFAR).

Along with entrepreneur Jean-François Gagné, Bengio is the founder of Element AI, a startup that wants to turn leading AI research in the world into ready business applications. The startup has received $137.5 million USD in funding from Microsoft, Intel, and Nvidia.

Bengio is the director of the Institute of Learning Algorithms in Montreal (Mila), in which Facebook is investing $7 million USD. Google also pledged $4.5 million USD to Mila.

In an interview published in Forbes, Yoshua Bengio attributed Canada’s success in AI to a winning combination of academia, tech companies, and the cooperative spirit between experts in Canada.

In Bengio’s own words:

My group was one of the first to conduct deep learning research. It started with the University of Montreal trusting our vision and allowing us to recruit more professors, in a field that was not yet popular (…) Similarly, when deep learning became more commercially interesting, more companies and investors were attracted to it. This accelerated. As large companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and others came to Montreal, we became even more visible to the scientific and investor communities…

Are you working with AI in any capacity? What do you see as a good place to go to help further AI research?

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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