Ottawa investing $2.4 billion to support AI in Canada

New fund targets made-in-Canada infrastructure, adoption in critical sectors, protecting workers

Ottawa investing $2.4 billion to support AI in Canada

Through the fund, Ottawa will invest in made-in-Canada compute infrastructure. These are hardware and software systems that are specifically designed to support AI technology – such as machine learning and deep learning research.

“Currently, most compute infrastructure is in other countries, which is a barrier for AI firms and researchers. Through the new AI Compute Access Fund, we’re breaking through those barriers and ensuring that Canada is competitive in the global race to secure our AI advantage,” says Chrystia Freeland, deputy prime minister. “Crucially, we are reducing Canada’s reliance on privately owned computing outside of Canada, that comes with security risks.”

A recent Mercer report found that 4 in 10 executives predict AI will deliver gains of more than 30 per cent in productivity.

Scaling up AI adoption

And Ottawa is investing $350 million to scale up the adoption of AI across Canada’s economy.

From that funding, $200 million will go towards supporting the adoption of AI across critical sectors such as health care, agriculture, and manufacturing. Another $100 million will go towards helping small- and medium-sized enterprises in all parts of the economy introduce AI into their businesses. 

And $50 million will go towards protecting workers in industries where AI is having a big impact – such as e-commerce, finance, and even journalism – through the Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program.  The program will help workers learn new skills so that they can use AI to their advantage in their respective industries. 

“Because we want AI—we need AI—to be a tool that helps workers become more productive and therefore better paid—not something that displaces them,” says Freeland.

The federal government is also investing $50 million to create a new Canadian AI Safety Institute, which will work to help Canada better understand and protect against the risks advanced AI systems could pose.

“This investment in AI is absolutely central to our economic plan to unlock the promise of Canada for young Canadians. Because to become more prosperous, we as a country need to become more productive. And AI is a powerful tool to do just that. And becoming more productive means higher salaries and more prosperity for everyone,” says Freeland.

“Canada is a research leader in AI. Our government is investing to ensure that we are also a leader in cutting-edge AI companies and in AI adoption across the economy. This is an essential way to address our productivity challenge and it builds on Canada’s significant existing strengths.”

If deployed correctly, generative artificial intelligence (GenAI), could help reverse a decades-long decline in productivity and add almost two per cent to Canada’s GDP, according to previous research from The Conference Board of Canada in partnership with MaRS Discovery District.

SCALE AI welcomes Ottawa’s AI investments

"This financial commitment is a strong signal of Canada's vision to propel AI. We are convinced that this investment will catalyze productivity, innovation and sustainable economic growth in our country," says Julien Billot, CEO of SCALE AI.

"We will work closely with governments and leverage our expertise to facilitate the adoption and deployment of AI projects within industry and for the benefit of public services. It is also an encouragement to continue our efforts to support the emergence of Canadian AI flagships both nationally and internationally."

One Canadian academic previously predicted a “more intense integration” of AI in HR systems for 2024.

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