The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF) has launched a new artificial intelligence (AI) fund to foster more collaboration between industry and academic partners in the Atlantic Canadian province.
NBIF is investing $1.36 million in the project and leveraging an additional $850,000 from industry and research partners. The federal Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) is providing a non-repayable contribution of nearly $997,000 to the fund and other NBIF programs through its Regional Economic Growth through Innovation (REGI) program.
The fund will be “predominantly for” New Brunswick firms, but may also support companies from other parts of Atlantic Canada.
Through the fund, NBIF aims to bolster New Brunswick’s AI capacity. According to NBIF CEO Jeff White, the organization’s AI fund will “accelerate the creation and adoption” of AI through strategic partnerships with academic and research institutions and help train some of the experts who will play a “critical” role in bringing these tech solutions to companies.
For the federal government, the investment in NBIF represents the latest move in its broader push to support AI innovation in the country.
In 2017, the Government of Canada appointed Toronto-based Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) to develop and lead a $125 million Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy. In its 2021 budget, the federal government committed an additional $443.8 million over 10 years towards the initiative. To date, CIFAR has worked closely with Canada’s three national AI hubs: Amii in Edmonton, Mila in Montreal, and the Vector Institute in Toronto.
Founded in 2003, NBIF is a private, independent organization that provides venture and research funding. According to NBIF, the organization has invested over $100 million to date, supporting more than 494 applied research projects and the creation of at least 113 new companies.
White told BetaKit that the fund will be “predominantly for” New Brunswick firms, but may also support companies from other parts of Atlantic Canada working with New-Brunswick-based AI research experts.
NBIF plans to provide a few different forms of targeted funding through the initiative, ranging from pre-vouchers to strategic acceleration investments.
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The organization intends to offer pre-vouchers of $20,000 maximum to industry partners who require a demonstration before committing to a paid contract. Projects eligible for this funding must centre around use of applied AI to solve an industrial problem and have the potential to produce at least a proof-of-concept within a nine-month timeframe.
Applications for pre-voucher funding are now open and expected to close this summer, with new funding for this program set to be released approximately every three months.
NBIF also intends to invest up to $400,000 to accelerate ongoing AI development research programs. To be considered eligible for this funding, applicants must have a research team with expertise in AI development, existing industrial partners, and a pipeline of new industry-linked AI development and deployment projects.
The organization plans to determine which investments it will make through this specific program by January 31.
Feature image by Miguel Ángel Sanz via Unsplash