Montreal, emerging as AI’s world center

Montreal is a true melting pot for Artificial Intelligence. The meeting between several attractive AI poles creates excitement in Montreal.


     Well-known Experts


Of the top 10 international experts, six are Canadian. Many of them settled in Montreal. Here are some examples:

Yoshua Bengio is a figure for Montreal. Mr. Bengio is a professor at the Université de Montréal, one of the first founders of deep learning and director of the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA). MILA is the world’s largest university research group with more than 100 researchers.

During the month of June 2017, Mr. Bengio was named an Officer of the Order of Canada, in recognition of his investment and research in artificial intelligence and deep learning.

Hugo Larochelle is a former student of Yoshua Bengio and holds an international reputation. He is a professor at the University of Sherbrooke and thanks to research projects in the field, he now works for Google. The American giant has created a research team for Google Brain, in Montreal, to develop more knowledge in the field of artificial intelligence. “Google wants to work in partnership with leading-edge research centers. I see myself as a facilitator in achieving this goal.”, says Larochelle.


     Developed University Centers


For the first time, Montréal was named the best student city in the world by dethroning Paris (2nd place) according to the QS Best Student Cities 2017 ranking. This ranking is based on six categories, including employers’ activity. This is also combined with an extremely low unemployment rate in 2017 and an economic dynamic conducive to employment in Quebec.

It should be noted that the Canadian government strongly supports university researchers. As proof, the Canada First Research Excellence Fund has granted Montreal 24% of its $900 million in funding. This promotes the development of research projects.

The University of Montreal and McGill University enjoy a high level of education as well as a great openness to the international scene. These universities work hand in hand with MILA. A collaborations is formed and unites a pool of quality researchers in quantity (about 250 to this day).

In Montreal, another institute has a lot to say concerning artificial intelligence. It is called IVADO, a data recovery institute responsible for advances in big data and research in Artificial Intelligence. This institute brings together the University of Montreal, HEC Montréal and Polytechnique Montréal. IVADO makes the link between the needs of companies and academic expertise. It serves as a bridge, bringing together industry professionals and academic researchers.


Stimulating policies and funding


To stimulate Quebec’s economy, protect and accelerate its innovation, investments in AI are inevitable. The pool of talent in basic and applied research creates a promising economic development hub and requires funding, something Canada fully understands.

In 2017, the federal government launched a major initiative with high-growth industries such as agri-food, clean resources, clean technologies, digital technologies, health and biosciences, infrastructure and transportation. $950 million will be shared by the five winning super-clusters who will receive this funding until 2022.

In Quebec, the committee for the creation of the Quebec IA cluster is delivering a five-year development plan and is committed to:

  • Establish the Quebec Institute of Artificial Intelligence;
  • Create a five-year Quebec strategy with Montreal as a center;
  • Maintain the status of leader of the Quebec supercluster to attract additional funds from the government;
  • Take interest in the social impacts caused by the emergence of artificial intelligence.

Two men chair this committee: Pierre Boivin and Guy Breton. One is President of Claridge and the other is Rector of the University of Montreal. Mr. Boivin says it’s been a long time since Canada had the opportunity to be in such a strong growth position and as the center of such innovation. They want to build a system around AI in 3 aspects: cultural, geographical and linguistic. The idea is to create a world in which all actors (professionals, researchers, developers, students) rub shoulders and exchange together.

In addition to these investments, Canada and Quebec have put in place tailor-made benefits to attract businesses:

  • A tax credit for scientific research and experimental development of 15% of the federal government and 14% of the Quebec government.
  • A refundable tax credit for the development of e-business. It can cover up to 30% of salaries up to $ 25,000 per job and year.
  • An income tax exemption for foreign experts and researchers for 5 years.

There are many other initiatives in the field, such as CDL-Montreal (Creative Destruction Mab Montreal): a program of support for emerging international companies launched in May 2017. It was born of an agreement between three universities: HEC Montréal, the University of Toronto and the Rotman School of Management. Bank of Montreal and Royal Bank support this program for $4 million.

     Business investments

Microsoft speaks highly of Montreal and his ecosystem set up around the scientific community. The city is really making itself a satellite in the competitive world of AI. In fact, after the takeover of Montreal-based Maluuba, Microsoft announced that it will finance the University of Montreal for 5 years for $6 million and McGill University for $1 million.

The benefits of moving to Montreal are numerous for companies: low payroll taxes, low operating costs, competitive salaries, tax benefits and a very large community of researchers in technological fields. This is why small and large companies are coming in numbers to the metropolis. Many partnerships are formed between university research institutes and business laboratories.

IBM wants to strengthen its relationship with MILA through the opening of a laboratory in Montreal.

Google has invested $4.9 million over three years with eight Montreal researchers, including Hugo Larochelle.

Facebook is funding its first laboratory in Canada called FAIR (Facebook AI Research), to make its virtual assistants more effective and to better understand the mechanisms of dialogue. The director is Yann Lecun, researcher and one of the important minds behind deep learning. Joëlle Pineau, a researcher and professor at McGill University and a MILA member, guides the lab. FAIR invests $7 million and establishes alliances with McGill University, Montreal University and the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA).

Imagia is a company that allows for more accurate predictions of cancer detection by using deep learning in medical image analysis. It’s currently being advised by Yoshua Bengio.

Again, Mr. Bengio co-founder of Element AI, which raised $137.5 million. Element AI includes a research laboratory and an incubator that accompanies companies with the arrival of AI. The projects treated are global and strengthen the city’s leading position.

The creation of this dynamic ecosystem around artificial intelligence explains Montreal’s excellent position in the world. However, all these efforts and investments must continue to not to be overtaken by the US or China, who both have significant financial resources.

Groupe Neos is born and develops around all these opportunities in this town. We’re able to surround itself with a competent team of experts and start creating value for all types of organizations.

In the end, it’s no wonder the International Joint Conference on the Artificial Intelligence Organization (IJCAI) has chosen Montreal to host its exceptional conference in the field of AI in 2021!

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