The Québec government is investing $21 million over three years into Montreal-based artificial intelligence (AI) institute Mila to further advance its work on “socially beneficial AI.”
The funding comes from the Québec Research and Innovation Investment Strategy (SQR12), which was established last year.
According to Mila, this financial contribution from SQR12 will go towards activities like accelerating investment and the adoption of AI innovations in companies, as well as cementing “Québec’s leadership in the ethical and responsible development of AI.”
Most of Mila’s initiatives contribute to the discussions on governance and ethics related to the technology.
Mila was co-founded by notable Canadian computer scientist Yoshua Bengio, who is among a syndicate of leaders in the AI community that signed an open letter calling for a six-month pause on the development of advanced AI.
The open letter flagged how quickly GPT-powered AI is moving, to convey the urgent need to regulate it, and to suggest a feasible timeline that stakeholders could agree to.
The rapid development and adoption of AI applications, most notably the AI chatbot ChatGPT, has prompted government entities in Canada and beyond to establish regulatory frameworks for the technology. Bill C-27, a legislation that would regulate AI systems in Canada if passed, was tabled in the House of Commons last year. Most recently, Canada’s privacy commissioner launched an investigation into OpenAI in response to a complaint alleging the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information without consent.
With this new funding from the provincial government, Bengio said that Mila will continue to develop projects with “high potential impact for both research and business,” noting that most of the AI institute’s research and international collaborations contribute to the discussions on governance and ethics related to the technology.
In March, Mila partnered with UNESCO to publish a joint book on AI governance. The text includes information about the influence of AI on Indigenous and LGBTQ+ communities, the necessary inclusion of Southern countries in global governance, and other topics related to the use of AI for socially beneficial purposes. It also explores the use of AI in potentially harmful contexts like autonomous weapons or “manipulation of digital content for social destabilization.”
Alongside its financial contribution to Mila, SQR12 is also doling out a cumulative $14.3 million investment over the next three years into ten business incubators and accelerators in the province.
The funding will support part of the operation costs for the recipients: ACET, the Montreal Business and Innovation Center, Continuums, District 3, Esplanade, Groupe 3737, La base entrepreneuriale, LE CAMP, MT Lab and Zù.
Under the SQR12 initiative, the Government of Québec has committed to invest more than $7.5 billion to bolster Québec’s research and innovation ecosystem. That budget includes $217 million which is allocated for funding AI university research, training, AI adoption projects in businesses, incubating and bootstrapping AI companies, as well as the consideration of the social impacts of AI and digital technology by businesses.
Featured image courtesy Mila.