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How Canada Is Turning AI Ideas Into Dollars

Andrew Zola
Andrew Zola on Linkedin

Researchers in Canada had been looking into artificial intelligence (AI) long before the likes of Google and Amazon even existed. Backed by local universities and the government, the nation sort of laid the foundation from where all of the current AI initiatives blast off.

But Canada hasn’t really reaped the benefits of decades of investment by the government into this segment of technology. Instead, bright minds and AI startups have always headed to California where business skills and venture capital are bountiful.

The government has finally caught on to this phenomenon and has now made it a priority to bring AI back to the country. They intend to do this by building a business environment around the nation’s expertise to hold on to top talent coming out of Canadian universities while encouraging Canadian computer scientists to return.

There are encouraging signs that this plan is already in motion starting with the government’s pledge of CAD 125 million to support AI research. This money will go towards supporting public and private collaborations in cities across the country.

How will this AI collaboration work?

The Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Toronto will be one of the collaborators and it's already received CAD 170 million for this initiative. But about half this money will come from corporate sponsors like Accenture, Air Canada, and Google and the rest of the money will come from provincial and national governments.

Another positive sign is the fact that tech giants like Google, IBM, and Microsoft are enhancing their research teams in Canada. But they are not alone as other companies (like General Motors) across several industries are also doing the same.

As the Canadian tech industry has been stagnant in recent years (with Blackberry and Nortel now a distant memory), it’s imperative for the country to build businesses that use / are based on AI. But to realize this goal, the Canadian investor also needs to become more optimistic.

If startups in the country can’t attract funding locally, they will keep looking south of the border where there are venture capitalists that are more open to new ideas.

Positive Impact of American Immigration Policies

As President Tump clamps down on immigration in the U.S., Canada has jumped at the opportunity to attract top talent north of the border. With one-fifth of Canada’s 36 million population born outside the country, the nation is focused on bringing in both highly skilled workers and entrepreneurs to help grow the economy.

Check out why U.S. businesses are rushing to Canada for AI talent.

While we are on the subject of immigration, it’s also good to note that there’s actually a Canadian AI legal tech startup building chatbots that will help interested parties navigate through the complicated immigration process.

Founded by Amir Morave, a software engineer from Iran who moved to Canada, Botler AI has an opportunity to really make an impact on Canada’s AI pursuits and the overall economy.

Whether Canada will actually turn its AI ideas into cold hard cash remains to be seen, but all the key ingredients are in place to help achieve this goal. What do you think?