There was a time when artificial intelligence was just something in science fiction. However, now AI is present in our daily lives, maybe even more than we realise.

Most countries have their own AI development teams, and while there is some common AI knowledge, much of it is strictly controlled by governments and companies.

In this article, we will share statistics about AI in Canada to see where the country stands in terms of AI growth and how AI research and development are supported and funded in Canada.

Artificial Intelligence Statistics for Canadians

  • 77% of Canadians say modern technology helps them to communicate and 66% say that it helps save time.
  • In 2018, only 4% of Canadians could explain what AI is and how it works.
  • In 2017, the government invested $125 million to develop a countrywide AI strategy.
  • In Canada, companies using robots employ 15% more people.
  • AI investment in Canada grew from $381 million in 2017 to over $868 million in 2019.
  • There are over 1,500 AI startups in Canada.
  • University of Toronto received a donation of $100 million in 2019 towards developing their AI facilities.
  • AI could help double Canada’s economic growth by 2035.

What is artificial intelligence?

Artificial intelligence refers to machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. They use artificial intelligence instead of natural intelligence used by humans and animals. AI applications include expert systems, natural language processing, machine vision, and speech recognition.

To work, AI requires specialised hardware and software for writing and training machine learning algorithms. AI systems can ingest large amounts of data, analyse it for correlations and patterns, and use the patterns to make predictions about future states. This is how, for example, a chatbot can produce lifelike exchanges with people once it has been fed examples of text chats.

AI research has long roots in Canada

Some of the earliest AI research in Canada focuses on machine translation, quite possibly inspired by the many languages spoken in Canada. Experts from the Université de Montréal worked on automatic translations of weather forecasts and aircraft maintenance manuals as early as in the 1970s. Despite the funding for the system ending in 1981, it was in use until 2001.

Funding for the Canadian Society for Computational Studies of Intelligence also began in the 1970s. The society has since provided many breakthroughs in the fields of medical diagnosis, mining, and chemical analysis.

The 1980s have been nicknamed “AI Winter” by the people working in the field because the government funding for AI projects was significantly reduced during the decade. In order to continue AI research and development, several dozens of Canadian companies worked together in the 1980s forming the initiative Precarn Associates. Initially, there was a spur in funding. However, it gradually decreased and Precarn was dissolved in 2011.

There has been much improvement in AI funding since then both from the government and through private funding.

How do Canadians feel about modern technology?

Most Canadians feel very positively about modern technology with 77% of Canadians saying it helps them to communicate with other people. 66% of Canadians also believe that using modern technology helps them save time.

Canada has one of the best internet infrastructures, making modern technology easily available for most Canadians. For example, in Alberta, where there is a highly efficient internet infrastructure, over 94% of the population uses the internet on a daily basis.

How many Canadian companies are using AI?

Despite the excellent infrastructure available to utilise AI, most Canadian companies are not using AI. By 2018, only 16% of Canadian companies were actively using AI.

This is most likely because of a lack of awareness of AI. In 2018, only 4% of Canadians could explain what AI is and how it works. For example, when asked if they use AI, 86% of Canadians said they did not. However, this is incorrect as anyone with a smartphone with advanced software uses AI each time they use their phone. This statistic shows that most people still lack basic knowledge of AI.

The Canadian government is investing millions in AI

The Canadian government certainly understands the role AI plays in modern society and in 2017, invested an initial $125 million in AI institutes across Canada. The Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy is a statewide strategy for developing artificial intelligence in Canada. This statewide AI development plan involves three national institutes, which are AMII in Edmonton, Vector Institute in Toronto, and Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms.

The Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence has special programs for training, talents, and applied projects. The institute has a special emphasis in health technologies and strives to improve the whole community’s well-being with the help of AI.

The AI institute in Montreal employs over 500 researchers who work on projects such as hate speech detection, credit assignment, and cognitive science. Their machine learning teams work together with companies including Google, Facebook, Samsung, and AstraZeneca.

The last of the three national institutes, the AMII in Edmonton, supports world-leading research in artificial intelligence and machine learning. They deliver education and provide advice on AI.

As well as the leading three national institutes, other universities, organisations and hospitals are included in the strategy.

AI does not mean less people are employed

When people think of robots or AI, they think of machines replacing humans. However, this is not what has been happening in Canada. In fact, Canadian companies that use robots actually hire 15% more people.

How many AI companies are there in Canada?

There are over 1,500 AI companies operating in Canada, and their sizes range from small companies with only a few employees to large companies with hundreds of employees, including programmers, technicians, and engineers. Some of these companies focus on app development and do AI and machine learning projects only as side projects.

Others, such as Kaliber, work on specific AI services, such as software for surgeons capable of making real time suggestions during operations, while Nu Echo, one of the top AI companies in Canada, specialises in conversation automation and develops virtual agents. Pro Cogia, another established Canadian AI company, employs a few dozen experts, earning $150 and above per hour, and provides data science services for the pharma industry.

According to Tracxn, there were 1,696 Artificial Intelligence startups in Canada in August 2022. Some of the most exciting startups according to Tracxn are;

  • Hopper, a price prediction solution for travel services, with investors including GPI Capital, Glade Brook Capital, and WestCap.
  • AlayCare which provides a cloud based platform for home healthcare practitioners. Their investors include Generation Investment Management, Inovia Capital, and Klass Capital.
  • Deep Genomics, developing machine and deep learning technologies for medicine, diagnostics, and genetic testing. SoftBank Vision Fund, CPP Investments, and Alexandria are just some of their investors.

Although all the above examples have big sponsors, not all startups in Canada, especially the smaller one, are controlled by venture capital or corporate goals. For people looking to invest in AI startups, the best options are often small companies with only a few experts.

AI investment in Canada is growing

The amount invested in AI in Canada was $381 million in 2017, and by 2019, it had grown to over $868 million. This shows that despite the lack of understanding of AI, there is a growing interest and need to utilise AI in the private sector.

Philanthropist support to develop AI at educational institutes

Many philanthropists have shown that they are ready to share their wealth to support the scientific process. For example, in 2019, the University of Toronto received a $100 million donation from Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman. With the donation, the university is building a 750,000 square foot complex that will be used by the brightest AI researchers at the university.

Canada’s Global Innovation Clusters are supporting the development and research in AI in Canada

According to the government of Canada, clusters are areas of intense business activity made up of companies, academic institutions and not-for-profit organisations. They boost innovation and growth in a particular industry.

The Canadian Innovation Clusters program was launched in 2017 and the clusters were given approximately $1 billion in federal government funding, which was matched dollar-for-dollar by industry. The clusters are digital technology, protein industries, advanced manufacturing, scale AI, and ocean.

The clusters were chosen based on their expected benefits to the country, including their economic impact and commercial results, how they help position Canada for global leadership, and how they plan to generate new Intellectual Property that will benefit Canada’s economic development.

In terms of AI, the digital technology and scale AI clusters are the most exciting. For example, the AI cluster plans to train 12,500 pre-university students and opportunities to upgrade members’ AI skills. In 2018, ISED announced investments in the five clusters with $173 million to digital technology cluster and $230 million to scale AI cluster.

How AI could help Canadian economic growth?

Artificial intelligence statistics show that by 2035, AI could double the economic growth in Canada. Provided that the cooperation between companies and researchers continues, Canada could see a 40% increase in labour productivity in the near future.

Conclusion

Canada has a long history of AI development and research, and there are over 1,500 AI companies in Canada. The government has been investing more on AI since 2017 through the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy and by creating innovation clusters.

Although AI is very much part of our everyday lives, there is a lack of understanding of what it is and how it works among Canadians. Not only do Canadians benefit from developments in AI every day, for example, when using their smartphones, investing in AI is also beneficial for the Canadian economy and could help double the growth of the economy by 2035.

Frequently Asked Questions

Artificial intelligence is when machines are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. They use specialised hardware and software to ingest large amounts of data. They can then analyse the correlations and patterns in the data to “think” like humans.

Some examples of AI include predictive text and chatbots. However, AI can even be used to , for example, aid surgeons during operations.

Even though there are over 1,500 AI companies in Canada, the use of AI is still low among other Canadian companies at about 16%. The main reason is the lack of knowledge of how AI works, with only 4% being able to explain what it is.

Yes, the Canadian government is committed to making sure that Canada is a global leader in AI. They have funded key institutions through the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy and by creating Global Innovation Clusters.

The best places to study artificial intelligence in Canada are at the three institutes that form the core of the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy. These institutes are the Vector Institute in Toronto, The Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms, and the AMII in Edmonton.

IQ cannot be used to describe the level of artificial intelligence. It can only be used to describe human intelligence. Since machines can be fed large quantities of data, we could say the IQ of artificial intelligence is unlimited and therefore standard IQ tests cannot be used to describe how intelligent a machine is. A much better way to measure a machine’s “intelligence” is the Turing Test.

Sources