Back to the list of news

April 8, 2022

Québec - A global hub of artificial intelligence

From voice recognition, to virtual customer service, computer vision, and recommendation engines, artificial intelligence (AI) plays a major role in our daily lives.


In fact, artificial intelligence can collect, organize, and analyze information, as well as provide solutions to a wide array of problems. AI has come a long way since The Logic Theorist, the very first operational artificial intelligence software introduced in 1956; companies and labs research and expand the boundaries of AI on a daily basis. Numerous fields are already powered by AI without us even knowing it, including healthcare, transport, food, agriculture, administration, and public services. Worldwide, Québec enjoys a well-established reputation in the field.


Photo of a scientist writing formulas on a glass


Canada: a global leader in artificial intelligence


According to the OECD (2019), Canada leads all G7 countries in terms of artificial intelligence talent attraction. In 2017, Canada was also the first country to implement a national AI strategy. Backed by $125 million in funding, and 54 industrial partners, the country has all of the components in place to make dazzling advances. According to the Global AI Index (2019), Canada ranks 4th in the world in terms of competitiveness, innovation, and investment in the sector!


Québec City is a hub of AI expertise in several markets, from optics and photonics, to smart cities and life sciences. With more than 39,000 IT professionals based there, the city has no labour shortage!


With 147,700 IT professionals, and more than $3 billion in investments announced in the sector since 2016, the City of Montréal is ranked as one of the Top 3 best places to invest in AI in North America (according to the fDi Benchmark). Both Microsoft and MILA have chosen Montréal for their activities.


Brad Smith, President of Microsoft, explains why the company chose Montréal: “Microsoft is very enthusiastic about collaborating with teachers, students, and Montréal’s vast technological community, which is becoming a global hub of AI research and innovation.”


The Microsoft Research Montreal lab brings experts in various fields of machine learning together and collaborates closely with the surrounding academic community.


MILA (The Québec Institute of Artificial Intelligence) is a world-renowned deep learning and reinforcement learning research laboratory. With more than 600 researchers, it is also the largest university research center specialized in machine learning in the world. Some of the world’s largest technology companies, including Samsung, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, are among the Center’s collaborators.


Yoshua Bengio, MILA’s Scientific Director, explains why his company chose Québec: “Québec has a well-represented industrial ecosystem, including strong expertise in robotics, vision, etc., which are all complementary fields of artificial intelligence solutions. All of that makes Québec a destination of choice for the sector.”


A world-class ecosystem


Many global leaders have put their trust in the City of Montréal and have established AI research labs there.


  • Google : Deep learning, reinforcement learning, and optimization research is applied to a variety of problems, including program synthesis, gaming, generative modeling, and machine translation.
  • Facebook Research : The Montréal lab hosts researchers and engineers working on a wide range of research projects, while focusing on reinforcement learning and dialogue systems.
  • Thales : The company strengthens the country's economy through the provision of high-tech jobs, investments in research and technology, and solutions developed for the urban rail transport, aerospace, defense, digital identity, and security sectors.
  • IBM : Company scientists are paving the way for the future of artificial intelligence, delivering breakthroughs that enable information to be processed in entirely new ways.


Incentives for AI companies


Québec offers advantageous tax treatment for companies working in the artificial intelligence field in order to promote talent attraction and development. Significant investments have also been made:


  • $475 million by Québec in support of AI development and adoption;
  • $430 million in venture capital funds for AI;
  • $416 million mobilized by Scale AI for collaborative business projects;
  • $370 million in support of the Scale AI supercluster, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), and IVADO;
  • $23.4 million to Scale AI for AI talent development.


In 2021, operating costs for an AI business in Québec were among the lowest in Canada and the United States. In fact, it amounts to an average cost advantage of 28% for operating an artificial intelligence company. Tax credits, support programs, grants, and tax holidays are also attainable for companies operating in the AI sector. Combined, it makes Québec an ideal destination for both new and well-established AI businesses!


To learn more, visit the page Montréal’s Artificial Intelligence Hub