Scale AI invests $10 million to create ten AI university chairs across Canada

Québec-based artificial intelligence (AI) supercluster Scale AI is investing $10 million to support the creation of at least ten university chairs dedicated to AI across the country. This contribution will double the amount committed by Canadian universities, bringing the total commitment to $20 million.

“Scale AI is making strategic investments to build capacity in the AI ecosystem.”

The goal of the university chairs is to attract and retain AI researchers, support research programs, and develop AI experts at post-secondary institutions. The supercluster said this is a part of its AI talent development strategy in Québec and across the country.

“To develop a truly collaborative and flourishing ecosystem, we must encourage the emergence of talents who can generate mutually beneficial interactions and new Canadian intellectual property sources,” said Julien Billot, CEO of Scale AI. “It is for this reason that we believe the creation of several AI research chairs is an additional lever to attract talent and stimulate innovation at all levels.”

Hélène Desmarais, co-chair of the Scale AI board of directors, said the increase in demand for AI experts has caused many large tech companies to hire professors, which creates a problem for universities. She said universities now need experts to train students and researchers in AI.

Canada is home to a number of institutes and universities specializing in AI research, such as the University of Toronto organizations like Mila and the Vector Institute. Many key researchers have gone on to work for foreign tech giants like Uber and Facebook, in what has been called the Canadian brain grab, in which many researchers leave academia for the private sector.

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Navdeep Bains, minister of innovation, science and industry, said the university chairs will bolster skill development and provide a resource to Scale AI’s industry partners to leverage the AI expertise of Canadian researchers.

“I am glad to see Scale AI is making strategic investments to build capacity in the AI ecosystem and create IP that can help industry partners in their efforts to grow and expand,” Bains added.

Scale AI is part of the federal government’s Innovation Supercluster Initiative. In 2018, the federal government committed $230 million to Scale AI over five years, and additional funding of $53.4 million was also granted by the Government of Québec.

Despite the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Scale AI has still been actively investing in projects that fulfill its mandate. Earlier this month, the supercluster invested $3.4 million into eight projects specifically focused on solutions addressing challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other superclusters, such as the Atlantic Canada-based Oceans Supercluster and the Digital Technology Supercluster in British Columbia, are also moving ahead with programs aimed to help the federal government address the current crisis. The government refocused innovation programs like the supercluster initiative in March due to the pandemic.

Image source Unsplash. Photo by NESA by Makers.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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