It’s a sector many people – including the Trudeau government – expect will soon become an economic force to be reckoned with and on Wednesday, a major artificial intelligence firm announced plans to set up operations in Edmonton.
DeepMind says it plans to open a research office in Alberta’s capital. It’s the first time the company has set up shop outside of the United Kingdom. The company says the office will be run “in close collaboration with the University of Alberta.
“It was a big decision for us to open our first non-UK research lab, and the fact we’re doing so in Edmonton is a sign of the deep admiration and respect we have for the Canadian research community,” DeepMind said in a news release. “In fact, we’ve had particularly strong links with the University of Alberta for many years: nearly a dozen of its outstanding graduates have joined us at DeepMind, and we’ve sponsored the machine learning lab to provide additional funding for PhDs over the past few years.”
DeepMind was acquired by Google in 2014 and is now part of the Alphabet group.
Watch below: In March 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke about his government’s commitment to funding $125-million to develop a “deep artificial intelligence” industry in Canada.
The company says “DeepMind Alberta” will be led by a trio of U of A professors (Rich Sutton, Michael Bowling and Patrick Pilarski) who will all stay on at the university.
“This alignment of academic and practitioner-led research will drive a whole host of new scientific breakthroughs right here in Canada, propelling the field of AI forwards into exciting new territory,” Sutton said in a news release.
“They’ll be joined by Adam White, who will be returning to Canada to join the university as an adjunct professor, and six more researchers who co-authored the influential DeepStack paper published earlier this year in Science,” DeepMind said. “The team will work on core scientific research.”
The company says it also plans to help fund AI programs at the U of A to help “turbo-charge” the pace at which Edmonton is moving toward becoming a hub for technology.
“We’re creating a magnet to bring the best and brightest in the world to Edmonton,” Jonathan Schaeffer, the Dean of Science at the University of Alberta, said on Thursday. “They’re going to come here, work for companies like DeepMind, they’re going to create an entrepreneurial spirit. We’ll have startups – we already have some coming out of the university in this area – (and) we will build up an economy centred around artificial intelligence and machine learning that will have economic value for Albertans. It’s a good news story, there is no downside to this.”
Watch below: The University of Alberta is a leader in artificial intelligence research. On March 23, 2017, Vinesh Pratap filed this report after a big funding boost was announced for the work in the federal budget.
Edmonton’s mayor said he was “thrilled” by the DeepMind announcement.
“Having a research lab of this magnitude will strengthen Edmonton’s reputation as an artificial intelligence hub and help build a network of ideas that will transform our world,” Don Iveson said.
“DeepMind is defining what’s possible with AI and we’re proud to be part of that story.”
“DeepMind does cutting edge, long-term research which means the projects they’re going to be working on may not reach fruition for five or 10 years,” Schaeffer said. “They’re thinking: where is artificial intelligence, machine learning going to be in 10 or 20 years? And they’re working today on solutions that will allow us to solve the problems of tomorrow.”
Edmonton’s growing reputation as a prospective computer and technology hub on the global stage rests largely on the strides made at the University of Alberta. In fact, the university’s department of computing science is the oldest computing science department in the country as well as one of the largest.
“The University of Alberta has been graduating outstanding undergraduate, graduate students for several decades and we are a net exporter of talent,” Schaeffer said. “There isn’t a receptor capacity in the city to absorb those students, keep them here doing interesting, exciting work. These students have gone elsewhere in Canada and around the world. But now, with companies like DeepMind here, we’re going to be a net importer of talent.”
DeepMind said the Edmonton research office would open later in July.
-With files from Emily Mertz and Kendra Slugoski