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Fostering innovation

Federal, provincial investments to build artificial intelligence research


By Jacqueline Lewis

Groundbreaking research in fields such as artificial intelligence (AI) are helping to create a more robust, innovative Atlantic economy.

Through investments from the governments of Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador, Memorial University is collaborating with the business community to help address technology challenges using AI.

Nick Whalen, member of Parliament, St. John’s East, on behalf of Navdeep Bains, federal minister, Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), announced on Nov. 3 an investment of $67,000 from ACOA’s Business Development Program for this initiative. Christopher Mitchelmore, provincial minister, Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation, announced a contribution of $60,000 through InnovateNL.

Smart investments

“Through initiatives such as our Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy, the Government of Canada ensures that we continue to develop world-class expertise at Canadian universities and remain a leader in artificial intelligence,” said Minister Bains.

“By making smart investments in projects like this one with Memorial University, our government is helping to advance new research in AI to benefit the business community.”

“As we aim to create a more robust, innovative Newfoundland and Labrador economy, this funding will be an important catalyst for building artificial intelligence research in our province,” added Minister Mitchelmore.

“Our government is committed to fostering innovation, while creating the conditions that will enable the province’s innovation-driven businesses to grow and diversify.”

Research test bed

These investments will enable Memorial to undertake a three-year research initiative focused on areas such as real-time search and planning used in systems like Google Maps and robot navigation; reinforcement learning, which teaches AI systems how to make decisions based on past experience and; deep neural networks focused on learning about large data sets by creating AI based on the human brain.

Researchers at Memorial’s Faculty of Science will use computer games and simulations as test beds for developing and testing new artificial intelligence techniques. The research will have business applications across a variety of sectors.

“Artificial intelligence at its core is about developing computer technologies that make intelligent decisions — to help us solve problems not only in academia, but in many industrial sectors as well,” Dr. David Churchill, assistant professor, Department of Computer Science.

“AI is predicted to become one of the largest economic sectors in the world, and I believe that establishing a state-of-the-art AI research lab at Memorial University will help promote innovation, motivate future students, and have long-term benefits for our province.”

Real-world application

This investment supports the objectives of the Government of Canada’s Innovation and Skills Plan to create new opportunities for Canadians to do business more easily and accelerate the growth of their companies.

The plan will ensure that Canadians develop skills and seize new opportunities to succeed in a growing economy.

“As a platform technology, artificial intelligence has the potential to impact almost every sector of our economy,” said Mr. Whalen.

“The Government of Canada, through ACOA, is pleased to support Memorial University’s efforts to collaborate with industry and undertake research in areas that will have real-world applications and foster innovation and growth.”

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