Mila, IBM collaborating on open-source AI and machine learning project


Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute (Mila) and IBM have teamed up to accelerate artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning research using open-source technology.

Mila and IBM have been collaborating since early 2020 on a project that is meant to make a key component of AI, known as hyperparameter optimization, more accessible. The organizations claim that this would improve machine learning model performances and pinpoint within the ‘black box’ of AI where models need work.

“A collaboration with…IBM is a great opportunity to accelerate the development of an open-source solution…initiated at Mila.”
– Yoshua Bengio, Mila

The two organizations are looking to integrate the Quebec institute’s open-source software, Oríon, with IBM’s Watson Machine Learning Accelerator, an AI model training and inference tool that the tech giant offers to businesses.

The overall goal, they claim, is to “improve the development, deployment, and ongoing management of complex AI and deep learning models, as well as to make tools more accessible to a larger base of scientists, engineers, and developers through automation.”

“A collaboration with leading industry AI experts such as IBM is a great opportunity to accelerate the development of an open-source solution recently initiated at Mila, combining engineering expertise, practical hands-on experience and cutting-edge research in AI,” Yoshua Bengio, scientific director at Mila, said of the project.

Hyperparameter optimization is a method of fine-tuning a set of rules used to control the machine learning process.

“Hyperparameter optimization plays an important role in the scientific progress of AI, both as an enabler to reach the best performances achievable by new algorithms, and as a foundation for a rigorous measure of progress, providing a principled common ground to compare algorithms,” said Bengio, also the co-founder of the recently acquired Element AI. “Hyperparameter optimization and its subfield of neural architecture search are additionally a key solution for the deployment of energy-efficient AI technologies, a problem currently posed by the trend of increasing computational cost of deep learning models.”

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Through collaboration with Mila, IBM is also looking to enhance the implementation of “state-of-the-art” algorithms and improve machine learning and deep learning capabilities for AI researchers and data scientists.

IBM noted that its Spectrum Computing team, based out of Canada Lab, has contributed “significantly” to Oríon’s code base. The IBM Canada Lab is located in Markham and also houses Area631, the company’s three-month program for IBM employees that offers a startup-like experience to develop ideas and create prototypes. Earlier this year, the director of its Canada Lab, Steven Astorino, spoke to BetaKit about IBM’s plan to expand the Canadian-made program globally.

“Collaborating with some of the top global AI researchers at Mila, we’re improving open-source technology to the benefit of all researchers and data scientists, while advancing the capabilities of IBM Watson Machine Learning Accelerator,” Astorino said of the Mila partnership. “This provides even greater value through our end-to-end client solutions and advances IBM’s commitment to both the consumption of and contribution to open-source technology.”

IBM’s research team and Mila also claim to be working together on other AI-focused projects.

Meagan Simpson

Meagan Simpson

Meagan is the Associate Editor for BetaKit. A tech writer that is super proud to showcase the Canadian tech scene. Background in almost every type of journalism from sports to politics. Podcast and Harry Potter nerd, photographer and crazy cat lady.