Canada’s AI Quest Expands with True North Conference

Author: Lane Nieset       

True North

Attendees at the 2018 True North Waterloo global technology conference fill one of the venues at LOT42 in Kitchener. (Courtesy True North)

Over the past 30 years, Canadian research institutes have been building a foundation for artificial intelligence [AI] technologies, which has attracted multinational companies like Google’s DeepMind and Thomson Reuters — which both have AI research labs in Canada. Canada also became — in 2017 — the first country to adopt a national AI strategy.

Innovative thinkers such as the University of Toronto’s Geoffrey Hinton, who is chief scientific adviser at Vector Institute; Université de Montréal’s Yoshua Bengio, the founder of Mila; and the University of Alberta’s Richard Sutton, a DeepMind distinguished research scientist, helped build Canada’s AI foundation. Now their institutions are looking to bring the next generation on board in the tech hubs of Montreal, Toronto, and Edmonton as well as in Waterloo, where the True North tech conference will take place 19-20 June. The event, which focuses on the future of tech, will bring together 2,500 influencers, innovators, and policymakers — an increase over the number of attendees at last year’s inaugural conference.

Home to the University of Waterloo (where graduates are some of the most sought-after by Silicon Valley) and one of the top startup densities in North America, Waterloo is an example of how Canada is globalizing when it comes to star sectors like AI.

The university is the academic partner for the $1 million Leaders Prize, an AI competition that will launch at True North.

Communitech, which has partnered with the Schulich Foundation, Leaders Fund, and the university, said the national competition will award $1 million to the winning team or teams that solve a problem of global significance using AI. The problem statement will be revealed at True North. Teams will have one year to solve the problem, and the winner is to be announced at True North 2020.

“The Leaders Prize at True North aims to solve a major problem with broad applicability, recognize leading AI talent within Canada, and inspire the next generation to pursue a career in technology,” David Stein, co-founder and managing partner of Leaders Fund, said in a statement.

True North

Attendees arrive at the 2018 True North Waterloo global technology conference at LOT42 in Kitchener. (Courtesy Communitech)