Big corporations team up to create $ 5 million fund for AI startups

The funding for artificial intelligence (AI) startups just keeps coming. After Microsoft pledged an additional $7 million towards AI research in Montreal back in January, an AI-centric funding program was revealed last Wednesday.

According to the Financial Post, some of Canada’s largest corporations have come together to back a new $5 million fund for artificial intelligence startups.

The program, called NextAI, will give $200,000 to startups working in the field of AI as a donation rather than an investment. In addition the program will provide access to technology, mentorship, and education.

Contributors include executives at Royal Bank of Canada, Magna International Inc., Bank of Nova Scotia, and the Business Development Bank of Canada investment arm BDC Capital.

The fund is part of an effort to retain Canada’s tech works and prevent excessive migration of talent to Silicon Valley.

“We have some of the brightest people in AI in the world coming from Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal,” Don Walker, CEO of Magna, told the Financial Post. “We can keep Ontario and Canada one of the leaders in the world of artificial intelligence, which I think will give us a competitive advantage.”

Michael Zerbs, executive vice president and co-chair of technology for Scotiabank, believes artificial intelligence can help big corporations improve their customer service.

We have some of the brightest people in AI in the world coming from Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal

“We’ve very aggressively brought in data scientists and paired them with engineers,” Zerbs told the Financial Post. “We need to know about our customers to make the customer service experience better.”

The fund will inject capital into the Canadian artificial intelligence community without exchanging equity or forming any sort of formalized agreements with the corporations.



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