An ICTC Study
Betting on Red and White
Published by ICTC, August 2020
With subsets like machine learning, natural language processing, deep learning and more, AI can transform how our economies and societies function. Businesses worldwide are coming to rely on AI to generate efficiencies, increase productivity, and solve problems. AI can improve internal processes, enhance customer experience, manage risks, and can even create new products or services altogether.
Many organizations now use some form of AI, but to better understand where Canada stands as a destination for international AI-based investment, ICTC consulted with industry experts from eight countries to frame this picture. Interviewees represented global businesses whose main activities were found across seven industry areas.
Although their years of experience in using AI varied, the assertion of its value was unanimous; all interviewees were optimistic about its potential to enhance businesses, both in the short and long term. As is the case with many emerging technologies, interviewees highlighted certain barriers to fully implementing AI within their organizations. These included a lack of in-house expertise, low business risk tolerance, and unclear regulatory frameworks. Nonetheless, the majority believed these hurdles to be minor or temporary in nature; many felt that they were navigating AI use and implementation with relative success.
Interviewees also identified barriers for Canadian AI ecosystem growth and FDI attraction. The most significant of these included slow commercialization, the potential for talent drain resulting from high competition for Canada’s skilled AI talent (from the US), and slow Canadian regulatory development related to AI. However, none of these challenges were viewed as prohibitive. Instead, according to the interviewees in this study, Canadian AI stands out globally and can be leveraged to attract international investment.
Canada’s achievements in AI were generally known by the businesses in this study. About 95% of interviewees were able to relay at least two key Canadian AI developments or advancements, with most highlighting the Scale AI supercluster, the emerging regional hubs (Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton), and top educational institutions such as the University of Toronto, or McGill University offering AI-related programs. Coupled with skilled talent emerging from these and other academic institutions, as well as Canada’s ability to attract skilled international talent, interviewees expressed a very favourable view of Canada as a destination for investment. Several interviewees stated that Canada is an “excellent place” for AI investment; many mentioned Canadian developments in the area of responsible AI as both attractive and intriguing.
Canada develops skilled talent capable of innovative AI research, and boasts an immigration system that values and attracts skilled workers from around the world. Combined with innovative educational programs, and a determination by Canadian AI leaders to solve important societal, ethical and economic challenges, investment in Canadian AI is likely to increase. Canada’s advancements in talent, research and responsible AI is not going unnoticed. Perhaps especially in this time of uncertainty, Canadian AI has the chance to shine brighter than ever.
Researched and written by Alexandra Cutean (Senior Director, Research & Policy), Rosina Hamoni (Research Analyst), Chris Herron (Junior Research Analyst), and Kiera Schuller (Research & Policy Analyst), with generous support from the ICTC Research & Policy team.