Calgary

Alberta's high-tech sector to get $100M boost over 5 years

The provincial government is putting $100 million toward a five-year plan to entice high-tech companies specializing in artificial intelligence (AI) to invest in Alberta.

Funding aimed at getting more artificial intelligence-focused companies to invest in province

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Minister of Economic Development and Trade Deron Bilous announce a five-year plan on Wednesday to boost artificial intelligence research and innovation in the province. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

The provincial government is putting $100 million toward a five-year plan to entice high-tech companies specializing in artificial intelligence (AI) to invest in Alberta.

The province believes the funding will net 5,600 high-skill jobs, more than 100 new companies and dozens of new multi-national offices and labs in the province, Premier Rachel Notley said Wednesday at an announcement in Calgary.

"High tech is the future and we making it happen right here in Alberta," she said.

An initial investment of $27 million in the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii) will see the non-profit set up a new program to support companies looking to build up their in-house AI capacity.

The provincial funding, combined with $25 million from Ottawa, will also allow the Edmonton-based Amii to establish a new Calgary office, a release said.

"Businesses around the world are turning to machine learning and artificial intelligence as key drivers of innovation across every industry sector," said Amii CEO John Shillington.

"Together, we're helping Alberta businesses seize the opportunities presented by machine learning."

Funding for the five-year plan will also be used to support the work of Alberta Innovates, a provincially funded corporation that supports applied research and innovation in the private sector.

"The support for these programs demonstrates the shift in how Alberta Innovates drives innovation and builds on past expertise to accelerate Alberta's digital transformation towards a data-enabled economy," said Alberta Innovates CEO Laura Kilcrease.

Notley says Alberta has already been successful in drawing world-class AI innovators to the province, noting that Google's DeepMind Technologies, the Royal Bank of Canada and Mitsubishi have all opened research facilities in the province.

Since 2002, AI research by Amii and the University of Alberta has been supported with $42 million in provincial funding. More than 200 companies around the world have expressed interest in working with the institute. 

The province says Alberta researchers are already ranked third in the world in AI and machine learning, thanks in part to Amii.