Leading AI research
Between 1996 and 2019, Canada has published 23 000 AI research documents, including 2054 in 2019 alone. Our country ranks 4th among 239 countries in SCOPUS’s global H-index, which measures scientific journal output in terms of productivity and applicable scientific impact.
The current structure of the Canadian AI ecosystem has provided the ability to collaborate easily within a niche subject-matter area (e.g. deep learning and reinforcement learning). This structure is backed by the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, Amii, Mila, the Vector Institute and CIFAR’s AI Chairs.
Through the AI chairs leading program, Canada has attracted and retained top AI research talent. 109 world leading AI researchers currently work in Canada’s AI institutes. Among them, is deep learning pioneer Yoshua Bengio, founder of Quebec’s AI institute Mila. Mila develops world renowned expertise in AI for health, deep learning and responsible AI. With a Quebec AI startup ecosystem valued at over $ 9 billion and Montreal ranking 5th most affordable talent pool, Quebec attracts a large amount of VC funding. Between 2017 and 2018, VC investments increased by 133%.
Another AI chair Richard Sutton, world leader in reinforcement learning, is the Chief Scientist at the Alberta Machine Learning Institute (AMII). An entire AI ecosystem in Alberta was born from his research. This has attracted foreign investment, improved computer science education and changed the technology ecosystem of the province. Alberta’s technology hub has also grown exponentially with Amii’s increased partnerships with notable industry leaders to commercialize AI.
AI for good
As Applied Intelligence's global outreach penetrates the multi-disciplinary spectrum, Canada’s adoption of socially focused AI initiatives has also increased. Canada ranks 5th in the publication of social and welfare related AI content and has published over 500 research papers on the subject since 2017.
With over 84,000 open data sets, Canada ranked first among 30 countries in OpenData’s barometer assessment in 2018. This large amount of crime, health and census datasets can be used by researchers and companies to develop diverse social solutions. Our country has seen important progress in the social applications of AI in numerous settings.
CIFAR, AMII, Mila and the Vector Institute prioritize the use of AI for positive social impact across several common causes, including health and the environment. Over the years, Canada has demonstrated its commitment to social issues by actively promoting AI in these key sectors.
Health and Welfare – Canada is a leader in AI health research and its development of AI applications is rapidly growing. In 2019, CIFAR funded 14 research projects in the fight against COVID-19. There are great examples of AI use cases in healthcare in Canada.
University Health network researchers developed a radiotherapy planning system that generates high quality treatment plans faster, and at lower costs than current manual or automated methods. In Intensive Care Units, a predict risk model is used to make medical assessments and predict when a patient should be transferred to the ICU. Although the implementation of AI in healthcare is growing, Canada needs to increase applications in this sector quickly and strategically or risk losing its advantage.
Education – AI for society is now part of the curriculum at many Canadian computer science programs. CIFAR and the Osmo foundation also run the AI4Good summer lab, a machine learning bootcamp where participants develop AI prototypes for social good. The program aims to inspire a next generation of diverse technical leaders to develop AI as a force for social good.
Deploying AI, Responsibly
As AI decisions increasingly impacts people’s life ats scale, it becomes critical to consider matters of fairness, accountability, human-centricity, ethics, transparency, and security when developing AI. Canada has demonstrated its strong commitment towards responsible AI adoption since the CIFAR Pan Canadian AI strategy has been deployed. A Global Partnership on AI (GPAI) was created in June 2018 between Canada and 14 other countries during the G7 summit. This was the first global entity of its kind and the stakeholders pledged to support responsible and human-centric development and use of AI.
The Montréal Declaration on Responsible Development of Artificial Intelligence was also launched in December 2018. This set of ethical guidelines for the development of AI is recognized globally as one of the top high-profile initiatives for responsible AI. Two years later, Mila and Algora Lag (University of Montreal) led a global consultation on the ethics of AI for UNESCO, leveraging their experiencing in developing the Montreal declaration.
Responsible AI takes centre stage across the provinces to permeate initiatives that are closer to home. Our country published Canada’s Digital Charter in 2019 with the goal of building a foundation of trust for Canadians in the digital arena. The charter provides assurance that Canadians can trust new digital technologies and that their data and privacy remain safe.
Next steps in AI
The $125 million invested in creating the Pan Canadian AI strategy, the world’s first of its kind, has proven that strategic and timely government funding can accelerate growth in this key sector. Amplified by funding from the provinces and foreign investments, this strategy changed the Canadian technology landscape and solidified Canada's position in the global race for AI.
The pandemic has accelerated the need to integrate AI in all facets of our lives, responsibly. As AI use cases grow, it is now critical to increase funding to develop commercial applications of AI in Canada. In its 2021 budget, the Canadian government announced CAD $ 443.8 million in federal funding to support the Pan Canadian AI Strategy for the next 10 years. Clearly signaling that Canada intends to keep its first mover advantage, as other countries implement their own AI strategies. The assessment of the 2017 Pan Canadian AI strategy was instrumental in obtaining the additional funding.