Artificial Intelligence Cluster
Steering Committee

In May 2017, the Université de Montréal set up the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Cluster Steering Committee at the request of the Quebec government. Its mandate is to make Quebec a leader in AI in research and innovation, business start-up and organizational AI adoption. The Université de Montréal provided the administrative services for the Steering Committee and supported its work overall. The 12-member Committee is co-chaired by Pierre Boivin, President and CEO of Claridge Inc., and Guy Breton, Rector of the Université de Montréal.

In its September 2017 report, the Comité consultatif sur l’économie et l’innovation (CCEI) recommended “elevating Quebec to the rank of the leading developers, users and exporters of artificial intelligence solutions.” 1 »

Gouvernement du Québec

A Quebec government mandate

Artificial intelligence boom

Artificial intelligence is booming across the globe. Many countries of all sizes are witnessing an explosion in AI investment fueling fierce international competition for talent acquisition and retention, which is the foundation for success in this revolutionary and disruptive science. A growing number of governments have come to understand the importance of the issues at stake and are positioning themselves as mass data providers and future AI users. As this new science is practically limitless, it raises ethical questions that must be given due consideration so that its development can be properly regulated and translated into a responsible AI based on social dialogue and fair and equitable public policies.

AI is a cross-disciplinary technology that is poised to disrupt all sectors of life, the economy and society. This scientific revolution offers a host of promises, but it also raises important issues.

We are fortunate, in Canada and Quebec in particular, to play a leadership role in AI’s development, while ensuring that we create a new economy for the future of Quebec. We have the highest concentration of AI researchers (250 at the Ph.D. level at the Université de Montreal and McGill University), who benefit from a large pool of AI students that are registered in computer science or data science programs. Also, the presence and achievements of Mila and IVADO allow us to shine on the world stage.

We are a leader in AI, and we want to maintain this status. To this end, over the next few years, we will implement a series of strategies and actions to:

  • Maintain our leadership position in basic research
  • Develop high-performance technology transfer tools
  • Equip our companies so that they are competitive in a world where AI is revolutionizing all economic sectors
  • Ensure we create sufficient economic value to be able to remain a fair and equitable society by developing responsible AI.

Over the course of a year, hundreds of leaders from all sectors and AI experts from across Quebec volunteered their time and combined their skills to assist the Steering Committee in drawing up the Strategy for the Development of Quebec’s Artificial Intelligence Ecosystem and its recommendations. This report specifies the targets and actions to be implemented to make Quebec a world leader in AI.

Launch of the Mila – Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute

The Mila – Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute was set up in July 2017. This NPO is the result of collaboration between the Université de Montreal and McGill University and has close links with Polytechnique Montréal and HEC Montréal. Mila has a seasoned board of directors and has appointed Valérie Pisano as President and CEO and Yoshua Bengio as Scientific Director. Its new mission covers the following four components:

  • Training
  • Academic research
  • Technology transfer
  • Social dialogue

The O Mile-Ex Complex – a catalyst for AI growth

Located at 6650-6666 St-Urbain Street in Montreal, the O Mile-Ex Complex will house the talents of Mila, IVADO, many industrial laboratories, start-up companies and venture capital investors. This concentration of talents will promote the creation of a dynamic AI innovation ecosystem, by fostering collaboration and stimulating innovation and technology transfer.

SCALE.AI – toward a global supply chain platform

SCALE.AI is one of the consortia the federal government supports as part of its Innovation Superclusters Initiative, which aims to attract industry investment in technological development. Ensuring its proper operation will also depend on links with academia, notably through IVADO and the University of Warterloo, and on the work of intermediaries, such as the Creative Destruction Lab and NextAI. SCALE.AI “will facilitate cooperation and help design and execute high value-add collaborative projects between partners,” is “dedicated to building the next-generation supply chain” and will “bolster Canada’s leadership in the global innovation race, create highly-skilled jobs, and accelerate the adoption of AI-powered technologies.” 2

Socially responsible AI

The co-development process for the Montreal AI Declaration began in November 2017. It aims to encourage public debate on AI issues through a citizen consultation process and propose a progressive and inclusive direction for AI development.

Contributing to CIFAR's pan-Canadian AI Strategy

The Steering Committee supported the creation, under the leadership of CIFAR, of the Canadian AI Consortium, which includes Mila, the Vector Institute in Ontario, and the AMII Institute in Alberta. The Consortium provides a forum for sharing best practices in AI and promotes strong synergy and cooperation between members, the Canadian government and the federal organizations.