�Jack Clark and Ger­rit De Vynck

Bloomberg Businessweek (North America) - - Technology -

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

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