The governments of Canada and Québec have earmarked $16 million to create an AI computing cluster at Université Laval. 

The investment is intended to support the purchase of the computing infrastructure needed for Université Laval to host the Pan-Canadian AI Compute Environment (PAICE) platform. The federal government is committing $9.6 million from the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy (PCAIS), while Québec is providing an additional $6.4 million to the project.

The PAICE platform will be developed in collaboration with Mila, the Digital Research Alliance of Canada (DRAC), and Calcul Québec.

Canada recently slipped from fourth to fifth place in the global rankings that evaluate artificial intelligence (AI) readiness, in part due to the country’s lack of access to computing power. The Globe and Mail recently reported that Canada has been underperforming in the global rankings of computing infrastructure, in both investment and raw power, which is leading to brain drain. 

“We still have one of the greatest talent concentrations in AI in the world. But we are in danger of losing it because now there’s so much money being invested in these large systems, mostly in the US, that the brain drain is probably coming back,” Mila AI Institute scientific director Yoshua Bengio told The Globe. 

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The federal government launched the PCAIS in 2017, committing $125 million over five years towards efforts to drive the adoption of AI across Canada’s economy and society. The second phase of the PCAIS launched in 2022 with a $443-million mandate to commercialize, standardize, and attract talent for AI development. 

The federal government said in a statement that this investment is part of a $40-million segment of the PCAIS dedicated to increasing dedicated computing capacity for AI researchers across Canada. 

“Our government recognizes that artificial intelligence represents significant technological progress,” Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, said in a statement. “That’s why we have invested in Canada’s digital infrastructure through the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy to support the building of advanced digital research infrastructure and maintain Canada’s position as a world leader in AI.”

DRAC CEO George Ross said in a statement that the organization is pleased to provide the computing capacity needed to support the national AI computing cluster, and that the funding strengthens its ability to support Canadian AI research.

Feature image courtesy Taylor Vick via Unsplash.

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