�Jack Clark and Gerrit De Vynck
In 2012, Silicon Valley started scouring Canada for top talent, hiring professors, postgrads, and Ph.d.s, and buying startups linked to them. In June, Twitter bought machinelearning company Whetlab, whose founders include two University of Toronto alumni who worked as postdoctoral researchers with Hinton. “With the pull from U.S. companies, we run the risk of losing our best minds,” says Yoshua Bengio, a professor at the University of Montreal and co-director of Cifar’s neural network program. “I think it’s important that people in the [provincial] governments get together and make it attractive to stay here in Canada.” Speaking at a recent AI conference at the University of Toronto, the city’s mayor, John Tory, said, “I see it as a big part of my job and indeed the future of this city to do everything possible to make sure they feel they don’t have to leave town, in fact, they shouldn’t leave town.”
Canadian companies and universities are trying to protect what they helped build. A program at the University of Toronto to develop AI startups launched in 2015. Montreal is home to several AI companies; authorities there will provide tax credits and help navigate immigration rules to ease recruitment of foreign students at the University of Montreal. Maluuba, a Waterloo, Ont., startup that makes technology allowing people to have detailed text-based conversations with computers, hopes to establish informal links with an AI lab at the university and is opening a research office in the city. “I was really excited to find out about Maluuba, because it meant I could stay Canadian,” says Adam Trischler, a research scientist at the company.
At the AI conference in Toronto in early December, Salakhutdinov, who’s leaving for Carnegie Mellon, said a dedicated AI center at a Canadian university could persuade researchers to stay. He noted that Carnegie Mellon’s program has more than 100 PH.D. researchers. “That’s a huge powerhouse,” he says.
The bottom line Canadian companies and universities are starting programs to encourage AI experts to remain in the country. Edited by Dimitra Kessenides and Cristina Lindblad Bloomberg.com