Artificial intelligence and machine learning are 2017 buzzwords — but where is it all happening? According to a study by Wuzhen Institute, there are 2,905 artificial intelligence companies in the United States, 709 in China, 366 in Britain, 233 in India, 228 in Canada, 173 in Israel, and 160 in Germany. The world’s top two AI hubs share a symbiotic relationship: based on a LinkedIn survey, about half of China’s biggest AI employers are American companies.
Synced cyber-circumnavigated the globe in search of today’s top regional AI hubs. We based our picks on the following criteria: clustering of academic and research institutions, talent pipelines, venture capital and startup ecosystem, and top-down government policy support.
San Francisco Bay Area
The biggest of the big, the San Francisco Bay Area is home to top-tier research universities Stanford, UC Berkeley, and UC San Diego. It has become a virtual AI talent pipeline for the FLAG companies (Facebook, LinkedIn, Amazon/Apple, Google), where the average machine learning scientist earns a whopping US$293,000. Over the past five years this area of just 700 square kilometers has attracted 41% of all global investment in AI. The 31st AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence was held in San Francisco last February.
New York — Boston
The New York-Boston area has a focus on precision medicine and fintech. This is where you’ll find a cluster of top-notch US east-coast academic institutions — MIT, Harvard, Boston University and Cornell — and well-developed cooperation with industry. The most active academic research group is the MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL). The New York — Boston area is home to the MIT-IBM Watson AI lab, and the go-to place for corporate AI industry conferences.
Even if you know very little about AI, you have probably heard of London-based DeepMind, which built the bot that conquered the 2,500-year-old game of Go last year. The city which played a leading role in the Industrial Revolution is again at the forefront in AI and is Europe’s most concentrated AI hub. With talent pipelines from Cambridge, Oxford and Imperial College, London has fostered research in cloud computing and AI hardware. Semiconductor company ARM is a spinoff of Cambridge University.
If you Google “AI hub”, you will find numerous entries recommending Montréal. Backed by the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA) and the Institute for Data Valorisation (IVADO), the city knits together four local academic institutions including McGill and the Université de Montréal. Deep learning pioneer Yoshua Bengio calls Montréal home, and the bilingual city hosts many American tech companies’ R&D operations. The annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS) will take place in Montréal in 2018.
Many industry insiders will point to Professor Geoffrey Hinton and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) as responsible for igniting this current round of AI fervor. Hinton returned to Toronto this year to head up the new Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence. Toronto is one of the three AI hubs pinpointed by the Canadian government’s Pan-Canadian AI Strategy. With the Trump administration tightening up immigration policy south of the border, many AI researchers and engineers are finding Toronto more accommodating, which has also boosted the city’s position in AI.
Bangalore, the technology hub of India, is making a name for itself in the field of machine learning, image and voice recognition. India’s Center for Artificial Intelligence & Robotics (CAIR), operating under the country’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), has been focusing on AI since 1986. Google and Apple have made acquisitions of local startups. Indian unicorns Flipkart and InMobi, which actively deploy AI in their businesses, are also headquartered in Bangalore.
We choose Berlin to represent Germany because the capital city holds 54% of all German AI startups, followed by Munich, Hamburg, and Frankfurt. The German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) and Max Planck Institute are top-notch AI research institutes. This year Amazon is expected to open an AI research center in Tuebingen, creating 100 jobs in the next five years. German auto manufacturers such as Audi AG are hopping aboard this transformational technology faster than their American counterparts.
As China’s economic and political center, Beijing has 43% of all AI startups in the country. Leading research institutions such as Tsinghua, Beihang, and Peking Universities are cultivating talents. Led by Stanford University professor Fei-fei Li, Google recently opened a Beijing AI center as its latest expansion effort in China. The country’s search giant Baidu is based in Beijing, and actively testing autonomous vehicles on intracity highways. China’s National Engineering Laboratory of Deep Learning Technology opened at Baidu’s company campus this year.
Shenzhen is home to approximately 20% of Chinese AI companies. The city has long been a technology hub, with strong expertise in manufacturing and hardware. In recent years Shenzhen has fostered internet giant Tencent and international mobile-provider Huawei. Startups such as Megvii, Yitu, and SenseTime all have offices here. As a local hub, Shenzhen has successfully clustered talents from all across Southern China.
Tel Aviv’s Habima Square is home to local AI startups such as Twiggle. In recent years Microsoft, Apple, and Uber acquired Israeli startups Equivio, RealFace, and Otto respectively. Intel was the first to open an R&D center in Israel and recently opened AI centers in nearby Ra’anana and Haifa. Google employs more than 600 engineers in the country, with more than half of them from Tel Aviv University. More than 300 multinationals have R&D facilities in the country.
Journalist: Meghan Han | Editor: Michael Sarazen | Infograph: Meghan Han