Sanctuary secures $30 million from Canada’s SIF to build robots with human-like intelligence

The AI startup is expected to hire more than 160 employees.

Vancouver-based artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics company Sanctuary Cognitive Systems has received a $30 million investment from the federal government through the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF).

The investment is aimed at supporting Sanctuary’s $120.8 million project to develop what the startup claims to be the “world’s first functioning human-like intelligence in general-purpose robots.”

Founded in 2018, Sanctuary aims to make work safer, more efficient, and sustainable through robots. According to the startup, the robots’ cognitive architecture are designed to mimic the different subsystems in a person’s brain. This approach defines the scope of the work to something that can be broken down into manageable pieces.

Sanctuary was created by D-Wave co-founder Geordie Rose who serves as Sanctuary’s CEO. Rose is also the co-founder of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) company Kindred. Sanctuary’s founding team also includes several Kindred team members and its founders Suzanne Gildert, Olivia Norton, as well as Creative Destruction Lab’s Ajay Agrawal, who sits on Sanctuary’s board of directors.

While Sanctuary’s founders bring expertise and have secured sizable funding rounds, some experts in the AI space have questioned the technology and characterized the startup’s vision as far-fetched.

Sanctuary noted it has raised more than $100 million in funding since its launch in 2018. Earlier this year, Sanctuary raised $75.5 million CAD ($58.5 million USD) in Series A funding from a notable list of institutional and corporate investors, including Bell, Verizon Ventures, Export Development Canada, and Canadian veteran astronaut Chris Hadfield. Per Crunchbase data, Sanctuary had also raised two previous, undisclosed, seed rounds.

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The Government of Canada expects its investment in Sanctuary to support the company’s plan to employ more than 160 employees and 120 co-op students as part of its SIF-backed project.

The Canadian government launched SIF in 2017 with a commitment to allocate $1.26 billion over five years to support research and development in the country. Last year, as part of Budget 2021, the federal government also announced that the SIF is set to receive a total of $7.2 billion over the next seven years and $511.4 million ongoing.

The SIF received $250 million in 2020 to help Canadian businesses developing IP as they weathered the COVID-19 pandemic.

Featured image courtesy from Sanctuary.

Charlize Alcaraz

Charlize Alcaraz

Charlize Alcaraz is a journalism student at Toronto Metropolitan University and a staff writer for BetaKit. Follow her on Twitter @charlizealcaraz

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