Two major artificial intelligence (AI) research institutes, Mila and Vector Institute, have recently partnered with major Canadian banks.
Montréal-based Mila entered a three-year deal with the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) to make “added-value” resources available to a cohort of BDC-backed companies across Canada that are actively developing AI technologies.
Founded in 1993 by Université de Montréal professor Yoshua Bengio, Mila rallies nearly 900 researchers specializing in the field of machine learning. The institute is the result of a partnership between the Université de Montréal and McGill University, closely linked with Polytechnique Montréal and HEC Montréal.
According to BDC, the partnership is expected to give businesses in the AI field an advantage to help them accelerate the commercialization of their offerings. This process would involve providing companies with access to Mila, creating awareness of participating companies and their solutions among Mila’s partner network, and identifying potential synergies to help in advancing deployment.
A number of these businesses will be invited to take part in the BDC cohort at Mila each year. Quantum tech startup Xanadu has already confirmed its participation in the program.
“Montreal and Quebec have become AI hubs and local businesses have everything to gain from taking an interest in this technology and these talents, which hold extraordinary potential for them,” said Bengio, also the scientific director of Mila. “With this partnership, BDC demonstrates its strong commitment to ambitious clients and portfolio companies.”
As a national development bank and Crown corporation, BDC is wholly owned by the Government of Canada, mandated to help create and develop Canadian businesses.
BDC has actively shown its interest in AI innovation. Through its investment arm, BDC Capital, the institution claims it has invested approximately $330 million in more than 200 companies that incorporate AI into their products and services.
TD is also continuing its effort to advance the use of AI by extending its partnership with Vector Institute to 2027.
Launched in 2017, Vector works with institutions, startups, and the government to build AI talent, as well as to develop and sustain AI-based innovation to foster economic growth. Its three-year strategy aims to advance AI research, increase adoption through talent acquisition, commercialization, and application.
Vector’s partnership with TD will include funding to support the AI institute’s research initiatives and provide AI talent from TD to participate in Vector-led projects.
TD’s AI research lab, Layer 6, has been engaged in three core Vector workstreams focused on talent support, industry-focused AI training programs, and applied AI projects. The bank has also hired 57 AI specialists through the Vector network and participated in a number of joint projects with Vector that support professional development for people working in the AI industry.
“AI is helping to transform the financial sector, and at TD, we’re adopting AI to help build meaningful relationships with our customers and to help improve internal processes so that our colleagues’ experiences are enhanced,” said Tomi Poutanen, Chief Al Officer, Layer 6, TD Bank Group.
Both institutes are currently working with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), along with Amii of Edmonton, to lead a $125 million Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy, which was introduced in the federal government’s 2017 budget.
Vector, Mila, and Amii were also brought together in the establishment of Roche AI Centre of Excellence, an initiative meant to advance digital transformation in health.