Federal government launches consultations on $2-billion AI investment

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The federal government has launched consultations on how to spend the $2 billion in artificial-intelligence investments it announced in April’s budget.

The government hopes these investments over the next five years will help scale-up Canadian-owned infrastructure for researchers and AI developers, given that the adoption of this technology requires a large amount of computing power.

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“Insufficient domestic computing capacity exposes Canadian researchers and firms to fragile international supply chains for AI computing power, posing challenges in terms of cost, security of access, and the privacy and security of Canadian data,” a statement by the government said.

Many of the inputs that are required for AI are scarce and they are expensive. Many AI startups end up relying on cloud services provided by big tech giants such as Alphabet Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Amazon.com Inc.

The consultations will take place from June 26 to September 6 and will include researchers and businesses within the field. The Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development will also reach out to key partners, including the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Vector Institute, Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute, Québec Artificial Intelligence Institute and the Digital Research Alliance of Canada.

When the consultations are completed, the ministry will publish a What We Heard Report that will inform how to best implement the funding.

“This consultation will harness Canadian leadership, from researchers to end users, to help make sure that Canada continues to keep its advantage and that our economy is well positioned to take advantage of all the opportunities of AI,” Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister François-Philippe Champagne said in a statement. “This will strengthen and secure Canada’s AI advantage and domestic access to compute power.”

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Canada in 2017 became one of the first countries to launch a national AI strategy. Despite this, the country lags the other G7 countries in computing power. Canadian businesses also lag in AI adoption, with only one in 10 businesses currently using or planning to use generative AI, according to Statistics Canada.

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In research, though, Canada is home to 10 per cent of the world’s top-tier AI researchers, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The number of AI patents filed by Canadian inventors increased by 57 per cent in 2022-23 compared to the previous year.

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