Google and Mark Zuckerberg's investment fund are backing a $150 million AI institute in Toronto

Geoffrey HintonYouTube/IPAMGoogle researcher Geoffrey Hinton.

Google is one of several multinationals backing a new $US150 million (£120 million) artificial intelligence (AI) research facility in Canada as it looks to make further breakthroughs in the field.

Launched on Thursday, the Vector Institute is based in the city of Toronto, which already has a reputation as one of the strongest AI hubs in the world, largely as a result of the research efforts at the University of Toronto.

The institute wrote in a press release that it intends to produce more “masters, applied masters, PhDs and post-doctoral graduates in deep learning and machine learning AI than any other institution in the world.”

Working with academic institutions, incubators, accelerators, and startups, the institute hopes that its efforts will result in new breakthroughs, jobs and economic growth.

The Province of Ontario has committed $US50 million (£40 million) to support the institute but the majority of the funding — $US80 million (£64 million) of the $US150 million (£120 million) — is coming from the private sector.

Google is one of several “platinum” partners that have pledged to give $US5 million (£4 million) to the institute. Others platinum partners include IT consultancy giant Accenture and chip maker Nvidia.

The Chan Zuckerberg initiative, the investment fund of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, has also pledged to support the institute with $US20,000 (£16,000) a year.

“The opportunities for new discoveries in the field of deep learning are very exciting, and the applications are endless,” said Google engineering fellow Geoffrey Hinton, who will serve as Vector’s chief scientific advisor, in a statement.

Hinton, a British-born Cambridge University graduate, added: “Now is the time for us to lead the research and shape the future of this field, putting neural network technologies to work in ways that will improve health care, strengthen our economy and unlock new fields of scientific advancement. And with the Vector Institute collaborating with institutes in Montreal and Edmonton we can do that here in Canada.”

Ed Clark, chair of the Vector Institute board of directors, added: “The Vector Institute will confirm Canada’s world-leading position in the field of deep learning artificial intelligence.

“Consequently, it will spur economic growth in Canada by attracting talent and investment, supporting scale-up firms and enabling established firms to be best-in-class adopters of artificial intelligence.”

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