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A look toward 2030

Canada, a destination for AI talent and innovation

Eighty Canada CIFAR AI Chairs named.  More than 1,200 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows trained at our three national AI Institutes.  Significant follow-on investment by provincial governments and the private sector, including more than forty-five new private sector AI R&D labs established in Canada.  Foreign direct investment in ICT has doubled and tech jobs have grown twice as fast as the average job growth.

These are just some of the major areas of growth in research, innovation and the economy since the announcement of the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy in March 2017, according to a new report by Accenture Canada.

Canada’s national AI strategy, the first of its kind in the world, represents a new approach to investing in research and innovation.  The goal of the Strategy was to build vibrant AI ecosystems, founded upon deep talent pools, in order to catalyze further investment by the public- and private-sectors, and deliver social and economic impact.  We wanted to leverage the deep research expertise that had been established over decades in Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto. The strategy set out to build mechanisms of support, and create opportunities that would attract talented people to Canada where they could advance their research in academia, industry or startups. 

Just three years in, the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy and the work that it has supported at Amii, Mila and the Vector Institute has enabled us to retain the founding research leaders of the AI Institutes and to attract talented researchers from around the world through the Canada CIFAR AI Chairs program.  The highly sought expertise and leadership of the Canada CIFAR AI Chairs draws both private sector firms and top international trainees to Canada.  The global competition for AI talent is fierce but, as the Accenture report demonstrates, Canada has become a very attractive destination for AI talent. Since 2015 we have moved up 20 spots in the ranks of the international AI skills migration index to fourth in the world in 2019.

We need to continue investing in the foundations of the ecosystem – supporting fundamental research and training the next generation of Canadian AI leaders.

But to achieve meaningful adoption of AI over the next ten years, we also need to focus our efforts to deploy AI into the sectors where it can bring the greatest benefits to Canadians, like health, energy, and the environment.  We need to ensure that we stay at the forefront of responsible AI.  Finally, we need to take a proactive approach to advancing equity, diversity and inclusion in AI, and engaging more women and other underrepresented groups in the field.

I believe, through responsible implementation, AI has the potential to deliver positive social benefits and truly make a difference in peoples’ lives. Implementing AI within our societal institutions – health care, education, finance, transportation, the energy sector, etc,.  is where it has the potential to bring the greatest benefit. These are also some of the applications of AI that may present real risks to people.  Canada’s continued parallel focus on advancing international collaboration on AI policy through mechanisms like the Global Partnership on AI, provides an essential framework for implementing AI that will benefit Canadians and the world.

Join us on January 19 for AICan 2021 to meet the newest Canada CIFAR AI Chairs and learn more about Canada’s leadership in AI research, applications and policy.  Register today.

Elissa Strome
Executive Director, Pan-Canadian AI Strategy

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