You might not notice it, but you’ve probably embraced artificial intelligence in your daily life. It can be as simple as personalizing your newsfeeds, searching for products on shopping sites, or converting voice to text on smartphones. It can also be applied to more sophisticated tasks such as predict court outcomes in cases involving labor law or used to robotic welding applications.
The transformative power of AI is also an engine of economic growth, which is why the Canadian government has given the green light to advance the country’s AI strategy. According to a recent announcement by the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, more than $443 million from the 2021 budget is allocated to the second phase of the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy.
A bit of context: In 2017, the federal government ordered The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), a global research organization, to develop and lead the pan-Canadian AI strategy. During the first five years of the strategy, CIFAR worked with partners to establish Canada’s three National AI Institutes: Amii in Edmonton, Mila in Montreal, and the Vector Institute in Toronto.
Next steps: Phase 2 of the strategy will focus on the commercialization and standardization of AI.
According to Elissa Strome, Executive Director of Pan-Canadian AI Strategy at CIFAR, Phase 2 will also include “new partners and a focus on developing AI applications that will bring positive social benefits.”
“At CIFAR and with our partners at National AI Institutes, we see enormous potential for AI applied to health, energy and the environment, and we will focus our efforts in these areas, while continuing to our work to advance equity, diversity and inclusion in AI.
How will this work? : Federal funding will include $60 million for AI institutes, such as Mila, Amii, and the Vector Institute; $125 million in funding for Canada’s Global Innovation Clusters to accelerate the commercialization of AI; over $200 million for the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research; as well as funding research computing capacity and developing industry standards.
Why Canada needs an AI strategy: AI has the potential to strengthen the Canadian economy and improve living standards, but it also comes with challenges related to equity, diversity, inclusion and ethical use. Strome says a strategy like this is needed to “advance our understanding of the social, legal, ethical and political implications of AI so that it is used responsibly, and to ensure that the people who build AI are fully representative of all the fantastic diversity we have here.” in Canada and around the world.
Markham mayor remains optimistic about market downturn
Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti is confident that the city’s entrepreneurs are well positioned to weather the current economic downturn. Amid grim news of layoffs, compressed appraisals and hiring freezes, Scarpitti made positive remarks at one of the world’s biggest tech conferences, Collision.
He pointed to the dynamic location of the city of Markham, which attracts innovative international companies such as California’s fabless semiconductor company. Astera Laboratories and Swedish design house syntronic. The two companies are just the latest to open facilities in Markham.
Fast facts: Markham is gradually gaining a solid place in the Canadian tech ecosystem. Is the second largest center technology cluster in Canada and has the largest concentration of semiconductor companies in the country, including AMD, Qualcomm, Microart and many more.
Weathering the storm: Scarpitti says that “entrepreneurs recognize the challenges in the market, but most are also optimistic about growth.”
“Even if there’s a downturn, I think given the demand we’ve seen for tech talent, it will potentially help reduce some of that competition and could actually help some of our smaller tech companies and startups have better access to the talent they need,” says Scarpitti.
Returns from the market: A company like Astera Labs “is very well positioned right now,” says Sagar Satish, senior organizational manager for Engineering Canada. The company opened its Markham research and design center in a refurbished Nokia building last April and plans to hire 30 new staff by the end of the year, and double that in 2023.
Satish says, “We have a strong relationship with our customers and other stakeholders, we have built a reputation for being able to execute and deliver results, and we demonstrate the lean startup mantra with our capital efficiency.
The company also plans to develop an Astera Labs design center in Toronto with a “vision to own a product line and be an independent business unit in the future.”
Ottawa releases final regulations to ban single-use plastics
The federal government announced its 2030 deadline plan to phase out plastic waste by 2021, and last week the government revealed six categories single-use plastics prohibited. The list includes straws, to-go containers, grocery bags, cutlery, stir sticks and plastic rings.
The rules will prohibit manufacture and import of most items on the list for sale in Canada (with some exceptions for specific cases) by December 20 of this year.
Quick fact: From 2012 to 2018, the amount of plastic produced for the Canadian market increased by nearly a quarter at 6,323 kilotonnes (kt). For context, this means that the amount of plastic produced for Canadians in 2018 weighed more than the Great Pyramid of Giza (5,216 kt).
According to a new study,Canada’s useless plan to regulate plastic wastepublished by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think tank, government regulation will have “little or no environmental benefit while imposing a significant financial cost on Canadians.”
Industry chatter: This is also a common criticism among industry players. Green Mantra Technologies is a clean technology company that produces value-added synthetic waxes and specialty polymers from post-consumer and post-industrial recycled plastics.
GreenMantra President Domenic Di Mondo said, “History shows that without broader changes and incentives, people will simply choose material alternatives for the same type of single-use products.” He adds that people “will just choose another type of plastic material, such as thicker plastics, shopping bags and plastic-lined cardboard. So banning plastics alone does not lead to the most impactful change in behavior – reduction.
Is there a better strategy? : For Luna Yu, CEO of Scarborough Genecis Bioindustriesthe answer is yes.” Yu’s company reprograms bacteria to convert organic waste into high-value polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) bioplastics. Company Website says this material has properties equivalent to traditional petroleum-based plastics, without the environmental costs. When the product reaches the end of its useful life, it can be composted within a month.
After reviewing current regulations, Yu said, “A better strategy would be to create a policy that encourages new materials and circular product innovation, as well as better waste collection infrastructure. The single-use plastics covered by the directive represent only a small fraction of the total plastic waste generated, which means that other technical solutions and more refined policies are needed to achieve zero waste at scale.
In other news:
- The largest urban innovation hub in North America, MaRS Discovery District and business consulting firm KPMG Canada launched the Climate Impact Accelerator. The new program aims to drive economic growth and advance commercialization in Canada’s clean technology innovation economy by helping companies find innovative solutions to help them meet their carbon emissions targets.
- Technology startup incubator DMZ at Toronto Metropolitan University has just welcomed the Luxembourg Crown Prince Guillaume and his Minister of the Economy Franz Fayot. The visit was part of an economic mission to explore untapped entrepreneurial opportunities and examine how Luxembourg and Canada can work together to encourage startup founders to consider global expansion.
- Renewable Energy Semiconductor Manufacturing Company McGuire Aero Propulsion Solutions (MAPS) received $2.2 million to advance its net-zero electricity generation technology. With financial support and guidance from Next Generation Manufacturing CanadaMAPS will advance additive manufacturing through a collaboration with Burloak Technologies.
Disclaimer This content has been produced in partnership and therefore may not meet the standards of impartial or independent journalism.