Canada, UK sign agreements to work together on AI compute capacity, high-tech research

MOU 2024 UK
Agreement follows the collapse of free trade talks between the countries last week.

Canada and the United Kingdom (UK) have agreed to collaborate on research into high-tech sectors such as semiconductors and quantum, as well as expanding access to artificial intelligence (AI) compute capacity.

The two nations signed memorandums of understanding (MOU) Wednesday, the first focusing on promoting research and solutions in quantum, AI, semiconductors, engineering biology and clean energy.

Canada and the UK have a history of collaborating on AI research and development.

That MOU supersedes an earlier agreement signed in 2017, that saw the two countries agree to collaborate on advanced manufacturing, agricultural technologies, and other areas of the tech sector. That agreement generated close to $150 million in joint research projects, according to a statement from the Canadian government.

Through the new MOU, the countries work together on enhancing research and development, commercialization, and science diplomacy and governance related to life sciences, cleantech, and emerging technologies like semiconductors, quantum, and AI.

The second agreement will see the UK and Canada partner to support researchers and the private sector with more affordable access to computing capacity for AI systems. According to a 2023 report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), no country has a targeted plan for national AI compute capacity. The OECD called this a “blind-spot” that may hamper nations’ AI strategies.

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The signing occurred during an official visit to Canada by UK Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology Michelle Donelan, who met with Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne.

Canada and the UK have a history of collaborating on AI research and development. In 2020, the two countries partnered to provide funding to companies conducting AI research. A year prior, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research launched a series of workshops examining the societal effects of AI, in partnership with its French and British counterparts.

Despite this history of collaboration, the new agreements follow economic tensions between Canada and the UK. Last week, British negotiators backed out of free trade talks with Canada due to access disputes over Canada’s dairy market.

In a statement, Champagne noted that the two nations have a “deep relationship,” and Donelan noted these MOUs will “deepen that relationship even further.”

With files from Alex Riehl.

Feature image courtesy François-Philippe Champagne via X.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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