Microsoft and RBC fueling new Canadian AI investments

One of Canada’s largest banks and a multinational software firm are both announcing expanded investment in artificial intelligence (AI) that will include partnerships with Canadian universities, according to announcements made Wednesday morning.

Microsoft Corp. just announced its acquisition of Montreal-based AI startup Maluuba Jan. 13 and now it says it wants to double the size of that team over the next two years. That investment will be paired with a $6 million gift to the Universite de Montreal and $1 million to McGill University to be spent on AI research over five years. The announcement was made by Microsoft President Brad Smith from the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he was joined by Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

“Microsoft’s investment is proof of Canadians’ world-renowned expertise in artificial intelligence and machine learning,” Bains is quoted as saying in a press release. “Research conducted in Canada will play a defining role in developing this enabling technology, which will create better jobs and opportunities for Canadians.”

The Royal Bank of Canada also announced new steps in building up its AI investments through its research arm, RBC Research. It plans to kick off a new AI lab and work with the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii) at the University of Alberta to pursue research collaboration. RBC is also announcing that it’s hired Richard Sutton as head academic advisor to RBC Research. Sutton, a PhD holder, is known for his work in the reinforcement learning area of machine learning, according to RBC’s press release. That area can be useful in determining what an ideal behaviour in a complex environment might be and could prove useful in financial investment scenarios.

RBC didn’t specify a dollar amount attached to this announcement. When asked by IT World Canada, an RBC spokesperson said that the bank plans to invest “10s of million of dollars” over the coming years into AI. Last October, RBC announced a partnership with the University of Toronto’s Creative Destruction Lab and became a Founding Partner of the lab’s Machine Learning Initiative focused on AI-enabled companies. It also created an RBC Research in Machine Learning project that is housed at the University of Toronto and is headed up by Foteini Agrafioti, the co-founder and co-inventor of Nymi, a wearble device with authentication applications.


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Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Former editorial director of IT World Canada. Current research director at Info-Tech

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