March 1, 2024

Alberta Stories

Alberta’s Tech Sector: Shaping the Future of AI with Innovation and Talent

As the artificial intelligence (AI) field evolves with rapidly developing capabilities and interest surging globally, challenges are inevitable. From ethical deployment to talent access, companies are navigating development and implementation in real time.

According to a recent report published by Deloitte Canada, “Canada ranks #1 in AI talent concentration compared to other G7 nations. The country’s cohort of AI talent rose an average of 38% year over year between 2017 and 2022-23, outpacing the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Italy.”

The University of Alberta boasts Canada’s oldest and one of the largest computing science departments, renowned globally for its contributions to both the theoretical underpinnings and practical applications of computing. Richard S. Sutton, Professor at the University of Alberta and Chief Scientific Advisor of the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii) is one of the pioneers of reinforcement learning, an approach to artificial and natural intelligence that emphasizes learning and planning from sample experience, and a field in which he continues to lead the world.

Edmonton has a rich 50-year history of robust AI research, providing a solid foundation for future growth. As a tech hub with world class AI expertise, record-setting venture capital investments, global connectivity, and a vibrant entrepreneurial spirit, Alberta is set to be a leader in the future of AI.

Alberta’s Global Leadership in AI

The shining jewel in Alberta’s AI crown is the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii), one of Canada’s three AI centres of excellence and part of the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy. Amii is more than just a local institute – it supports world-leading research and translates scientific advancement into industry adoption.

Amii recently received a $30 million injection to spur research as part of the Alberta government’s innovation strategy with investments designed to make Alberta a global leader in AI research and commercialization aimed at solving some of the world’s biggest challenges in energy, health care and agriculture to name a few.

Since Amii’s inception in 2022, the organization has received over $150 million in cash, in-kind, and grant funding including $28.5 million invested by the Government of Canada and $45 million invested by the Government of Alberta over the past 18 years.

Unique Advantages Advancing Tech

Access to global markets, high-quality and affordable quality of life, and an entrepreneurial spirit means that talent is abundant. Investors and tech leaders recognize Alberta’s potential as a fertile ground for technological advancements.

A thriving business network, fueled by record-breaking venture capital investments, is a signal about growing confidence in Alberta’s tech sector and the opportunity available to pursue bold, innovative ideas in the region. With over 3,000 tech firms, the province has an ecosystem that is uniquely innovative, collaborative, and rapidly growing.

Emergence of a Technology Hub

With an expanding network of startups, research organizations, and government support, Edmonton, the province’s capital city, and Calgary, the province’s business capital, stand out among North America’s fastest-growing tech regions. This growth signals a thriving environment for experimentation and advancement in cutting-edge technologies, including AI.

The availability of capital always helps too. In 2023, Alberta posted approximately $1.17 billion in investment from venture capital and private equity, according to Start Alberta.

Momentum in Alberta: Companies you need to know about

Alberta-based heavy-hitters like Jobber and Neo Financial are AI users and enablers, but Alberta’s tech scene is attracting interest from other AI companies that are recognizing the capacity for growth.

Unity AI, for example, is a global leader in real-time 3D content creation. With an office already in Calgary and growth plans underway, Unity’s presence positions Alberta as a development hub.

GeologicAI, backed by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Bill Gates’ climate-focused venture firm, is condensing year-and-a-half mining processes into mere days. This Calgary-based startup’s technology is key as companies race for minerals that are critical for a green transition.

AltaML works with organizations that want to leverage their data using AI to develop solutions that create operational efficiency, reduce risk, and generate new sources of revenue. The Edmonton-based company develops solutions that encompass the entire machine learning (ML) lifecycle, from evaluating potential use cases and determining feasibility to ensuring models evolve over time.

SafeAI, this Bay Area-based company specializes in autonomous heavy equipment technology that is being applied in mining, construction, and beyond. With 100 employees globally, their interest in Alberta holds potential for supporting the productivity, safety, and efficiency of local companies.

“At SafeAI, we are excited about the opportunities that Alberta presents in the areas of autonomous mining. Our vision has always been to accelerate the advent of the autonomous mine, transforming how the mining industry operates,”

Bibhrajit Halder, SafeAI Founder & CEO

“We believe mining is not just an essential industry in Alberta but a cornerstone for innovation and progress. The province’s rich resources and forward-thinking approach make it an ideal setting for deploying our cutting-edge autonomous heavy equipment technology. With Alberta’s commitment to innovation and technology, we see it playing a pivotal role in shaping ‘Mining 2.0’ – a future where mining operations are safer, more efficient, and environmentally sustainable. This strong interest in Alberta signifies a leap towards a future where the synergy between technology and natural resources can redefine industry standards and drive unprecedented growth in the mining sector.”

Canvass AI is a leader in industrial AI software and recognized as one of the top technology companies advancing manufacturing. With a significant presence in the energy sector, the company’s AI solutions are leveraged by a major oil and gas producer in Alberta. The software has returned tens of millions of dollars in savings, increasing equipment runtime and reliability, improving machine uptime and safety, increasing wear performance and improving throughput, as well as reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“Canvass AI is very optimistic about its prospects in Alberta, especially with our strength in the oil and gas sector and an established customer in the province,” said Humera Malik, CEO, Canvass AI. “Our solutions are also being taken up by a prominent oil refiner in the US, which has spurred further interest this side of the border.”

Edgecom Energy is tackling global issues. Amid escalating energy consumption and heightened environmental consciousness, businesses grapple with optimizing energy use while diminishing carbon footprints. Edgecom Energy is delivering a holistic suite of energy management solutions merging AI and internet of things (IoT) technology. The Energy CoPilot is central to this suite, employing AI to furnish real-time insights and tailored recommendations, revolutionizing energy management. Edgecom Energy’s arsenal caters to large energy users, spanning commercial and industrial sectors. This innovation represents a paradigm shift, enabling clients to master energy efficiency, cost reduction, and sustainability seamlessly. As a pioneer in ML for grid predictions, Edgecom Energy has strategically expanded into Alberta, driven by the region’s unique blend of opportunities.

“Alberta offers a compelling landscape for technology-driven energy solutions. Its combination of industry demand, talent availability, and favorable economics aligns perfectly with our vision for growth and innovation,” says Behdad Bahrami, Founder and CEO of Edgecom Energy. With a rich ecosystem, young talent pool, and an entrepreneurial spirit, AI companies should take note of Alberta’s reputation as a fertile ground for advancement and opportunity. With a focus on solving global challenges in energy, healthcare, agriculture, and more Alberta can lead growth and influence with AI.

Reach out to our team to learn more.

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