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Microsoft advances AI ambitions with investments in Montreal

By Janet Kennedy, President, Microsoft Canada on January 18, 2017

Filed under Canadian Leadership Hub


Left to right: Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Microsoft President Brad Smith, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and Dominique Anglade, Quebec Minister of Economy, Science and Innovation.
Photo courtesy of Patrick Lachance.

Last week Microsoft announced its intent to acquire Montreal-based Maluuba, marking yet another milestone in our ambition to make AI more accessible and usable to every consumer, business and developer. As one of the world’s leading deep-learning research labs, Maluuba is focused on creating literate machines that can think, reason and communicate like humans, advancing Microsoft’s work in machine reading and writing.

Building upon this vision, earlier today in Davos, Switzerland, Microsoft President Brad Smith, joined by the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and Dominique Anglade, Quebec Minister of  Economy, Science and Innovation, announced plans to expand our presence in Montreal’s burgeoning AI ecosystem by doubling the size within the next two years of Microsoft’s new AI research and development organization (Maluuba) in Montreal.  Further, as part of our investment, Microsoft will provide gifts for AI research of $6 million to the Université de Montréal and $1 million to McGill University. Each gift will be funded over a five-year period.
“Microsoft is excited to engage with faculties, students and the broader tech community in Montreal, which is becoming a global hub for AI research and innovation,” said Brad Smith, President of Microsoft. “Today’s news, along with the opening of Microsoft Vancouver and our ongoing work to create a new Cascadia Innovation Corridor connecting Vancouver and Seattle, reinforces the important role that Canada plays in Microsoft’s global business.”

“Microsoft’s investment is proof of Canadians’ world-renowned expertise in artificial intelligence and machine learning. This emerging field of research has the potential to revolutionize computing by transforming vast amounts of information into useful insights. The future of every industry, from finance and health to manufacturing and transportation, will be shaped by advances in artificial intelligence. And research conducted in Canada will play a defining role in developing this enabling technology, which will create better jobs and opportunities for Canadians, said Bains, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

Microsoft has chosen to focus on Quebec talent, on the know-how of our researchers as well as on our expertise and innovative technologies. In a constantly evolving global economic context, artificial intelligence is a sector at the cutting edge of technology that helps propel societies towards the digital economy. It’s a sign of recognition and confidence towards Québec’s strengths,” said Quebec Premier Couillard.

Founded in 2011 by University of Waterloo graduates, Sam Pasupalak and Kaheer Suleman, Maluuba is part of Montreal’s growing concentration of the world’s leading AI researchers. A driving force behind this vibrant ecosystem is Yoshua Bengio, a renowned expert on AI and a founding father of the deep-learning movement. Yoshua, who heads the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms, has served as an advisor to Maluuba, a role he will continue at Microsoft.

Given these newly-formed connections in Montreal, and our recent investment in Element AI, a Montreal-based incubator comprised of academic researchers from across North America, Microsoft is well positioned to advance our strategy to democratize AI, bringing powerful new insights and capabilities to every person and organization on the planet.

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