20th February 2018 Montreal, Canada

What happens when Canadian and UK AI experts gather ? A four-day programme in the UK

There are over 100 Artificial Intelligence (AI) startups and more than 250 AI and Machine Learning (ML) scientists based in Montreal. It is no surprise then that this popular city has become a global powerhouse for AI R&D and entrepreneurship. Following Montreal’s four-day programme in October, I in collaboration with UK partners[1] organised an AI inward mission to the UK. We brought together over 30 Canadian participants with about 200 UK AI specialists for a four-day programme. Every single day of the mission was an incredible experience leaving attendees open-mouthed meeting after meeting.

While the UK’s PM was announcing in Davos the launch of the Office for AI, Jeremy Silver, CEO of Digital Catapult, kicked off in London the UK/Canada AI week. He stressed the need for forging collaborations between the two nations. Echoing Jeremy’s remarks, the Director of Partnerships at the Alan Turing Institute, Nicolas Guernion, also emphasized the need of key and strategic partnerships with countries like Canada.

In the evening, the Quebec Government Office in London hosted a cocktail reception for the delegation in presence of Quebec’s Minister Pierre Arcand who acknowledged the collaboration with SIN Montreal and the efforts to foster new partnerships and trade ties with the province. During the reception, Montreal-based and Canada’s most successful AI start-up, Element AI, officially launched a UK office to serve as its European head office announcing the London-based office will employ over 20 full-time British experts.

Early and bumpy start on Tuesday. Not even a major car accident in the motorway, prevented the Canadian delegation from meeting its peers in Oxfordshire. The SA Catapult, caught everyone’s attention with its work on blue economy, intelligent transport, sustainable living and notably its real time fishing vessel tracking system – modern technology that really wows! Once arrived at University of Oxford we met the team working on autonomous vehicles at Oxford Robotics Institute and also with several scholars doing research on AI and ML in Healthcare.

Again an early start on Wednesday. Hosted by Cambridge Applied Research, the delegation spent the morning exploring and exchanging with local companies including Arm (well-known for its chips devices) and successful start-ups such as Cambridgene, Invenia and more. After lunch, we gathered at the University of Cambridge Engineering Department to learn more about their projects on machine learning and AI. In the same room, Prof. Neil Lawrence, Director of Machine Learning at Amazon UK Research, blew everyone’s mind with his insight in the sector acknowledging and recognizing the leadership of CIFAR (Canadian Institute for Advanced Research) and MILA (Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms) in Canada. After that enlightening interaction we walked to Downing College where a formal dinner was offered by the Canadian High Commission, both tasteful and elegant.

By working together, these UK/Canada leaders in AI will increase the commercial ties and the scope of their individual research. The UK/Canada AI experts agreed and look forward to new advances in a wide range of themes including social and ethical challenges. We had a wonderful time together and look forward to more bilateral and interdisciplinary collaborations like this one.

[1] Innovate UK-KTN, the Digital and Satellite Applications Catapults, University of Oxford, Cambridge Applied Research, Canadian High Commission and Quebec’s Agency in London

About Mario Rivero-Huguet

Based in Montreal, I cover Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces. My focus is on aerospace & space, as well as life sciences and clean technologies. This year I’ll be working…

Based in Montreal, I cover Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces. My focus is on aerospace & space, as well as life sciences and clean technologies. This year I’ll be working with scientists in the UK and Canada to foster international research in those areas. I’ll also work with UK Trade & Investment to promote commercial opportunities for science & tech companies. In my spare time I enjoy outdoor activities; alternative films and eating (not cooking) French cuisine. Follow me on Twitter @mriverohuguet