Google investing $4 million in Montreal AI developer Mila

Google is re-upping its investment in Mila and its director Yoshua Bengio, who the tech giant sees as a global leader in artificial intelligence (AI) research. SOURCE: Maryse Boyce, Mila

Google is renewing its commitment to the Quebec Institute of Artificial Intelligence, Mila, with an investment of $4 million over three years.

Led by global AI pioneer Yoshua Bengio, Mila will continue its research on the different applications of AI, especially in the health sector and the fight against COVID-19.

"Google's investment will allow us to do research to push the boundaries of artificial intelligence," said Bengio.

Google already paid $4.5 million over three years in 2016, which allowed Mila to grow from 25 to 519 researchers.

Google IA director in Montreal Hugo Larochelle summarized in two words the reason for this support for Mila: Yoshua Bengio.

All over the world, great advances in the field of AI are the direct result of the Universite de Montreal professor and Mila director, said Larochelle.

"He has embarked on producing an ecosystem, to create a first-class environment, to support the training of the next generation of researchers and his efforts are paying off," said Larochelle.

AI'S FIGHT AGAINST THE CORONAVIRUS

Mila relies on AI applications that influence everyday life. The Mila team is currently working on LambdaZero, an algorithm that will help scientists find the most effective molecules to make new drugs. This system will help predict which combinations are most likely to work.

At the moment, the process of finding a proper cure takes an average of 10 years, since there are so many molecules that the possible combinations are almost endless.

Scientists under Bengio want to develop a tool that will predict the right combination much faster.

In January, thanks to the LambdaZero project, they will also begin tests to identify a new drug capable of fighting COVID-19.

FUTURE INVESTMENT

Montreal continues to run the marathon to maintain its place in the leading pack in the global artificial intelligence (AI) ecosystem thanks to various investments from the private sector, but also thanks to the financial support of the provincial and federal governments.

As part of the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy launched in 2017 by the federal government, $125 million has been granted to various research groups.

Strategy Director Elissa Strome estimates that 30 per cent of this amount went to Mila.

These investments are necessary not only to attract talented students and researchers but also to keep them in the country. Competition in this sector is very strong, she said hence the need to create an environment favourable to the development of AI to encourage the next generation.

In just three years, Strome has seen the face of the industry change. She noted a 50 per cent increase in foreign investment in AI in Canada.

-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 13, 2020.

-- This report was prepared as part of the Facebook and The Canadian Press News Scholarship program. 

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