Artificial intelligence: Microsoft and ABB back each other up in Montréal

2017-01-19 - The research and innovation sector in Québec has enjoyed the support of the multinationals Microsoft and ABB at the World Economic Forum, in Davos, even though the actual creation of jobs has been relatively low.

Thus by 2019, the Montreal laboratory of Maluuba specialized in deep learning is expected to have doubled in size to about 80 engineers. The majority of the new jobs will be filled by local hires.
PHOTO JEFF CHIU, ARCHIVES ASSOCIATED PRESS

JULIEN ARSENAULT
La Presse Canadienne
Davos, Switzerland

The research and innovation sector in Québec has enjoyed the support of the multinationals Microsoft and ABB at the World Economic Forum, in Davos, even though the actual creation of jobs has been relatively low.

One week after having purchased the startup Maluuba, the computer giant announced its intention to double the size of the company's Montreal office.
The amount of this entirely private investment has however not been revealed.
Thus by 2019, this laboratory specialized in deep learning will double in size to about 80 engineers. The majority of these new jobs is expected to be filled through local hirings.
"This shows the enthusiasm toward Montréal as an world class ecosystem in the artificial intelligence sector," explained Brad Smith, president and head of legal affairs at Microsoft during a press conference, along with Premier Philippe Couillard, minister of the economy Dominique Anglade, and federal industry minister Navdeep Bains.
By making this commitment to the metropolis, the company based in Redmond, in the State of Washington, will be competing with Google, which last November announced its intention to establish in Montreal a new deep learning research centre in addition to subsidize the Université de Montréal for up to $4.5 million
Founded in 2011 by two Waterloo graduates, Maluuba distinguished itself among other things by developing a technology that allows machines to communicate interactively.
"In Québec, we're used to saying we have hydroelectricity, natural resources and engineering," stated Mr. Couillard. "We've done this for decades. But more and more, companies are looking at people, their talent. Artificial intelligence is the most advanced in the new economy."
Mr. Smith explained that the Montreal lab will work in collaboration with those in Vancouver and Seattle, already operated by the computer giant.
Microsoft decided to get its hands on Maluuba to accelerate its growth in the artificial intelligence sector, a topic widely discussed at the Forum, alongside the rise of protectionism and populism.
Furthermore, the computer giant has committed to remit, over the next five years, subsidies of $6 million to the Université de Montréal and $1 million to McGill University, which group some 150 researchers.
"Montréal has two treasures, that is, Maluuba and the two universities," Mr. Smith summarized.

ABB even more engaged in Montréal

For its part, ABB, the Swiss-Swedish multinational specialized in energy and automation, will invest $90 million in its Canadian head office in Montréal to group there its research and development activities and develop a platform dedicated to electric vehicles.
There will be no new hiring, but ABB states that this private investment will make it possible to consolidate about 700 positions.
The location will the "excellence centre" of the multinational in matters of electric mobility.
"Our goal is to move the world forward without ravaging the planet," explained ABB CEO lrich Spiesshofer during a press conference. "With its electric vehicle industry, Québec offers all the conditions for the development of international technological platforms."
In 2015, the company had already announced an investment of $70 million over 10 year to consolidate the activities of its energy sector in the metropolis.
Furthermore Mr. Couillard took advantage of ABB's announcement to confirm the establishment, at the latest by the month of June, of an industrial cluster for the electric vehicle industry. The Premier had previously revealed his intentions during the 29th International Electric Vehicle Symposium in June 2016.
"Aéro Montréal was an extraordinary tool for aeronautics, why not do the same thing for electric vehicles?" he stated.
In the margins of the two announcements, Mr. Couillard held a series of private meetings, namely with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Director General Irina Bokova, as well as with former American Vice-President Al Gore

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