CDPQ and MILA team up to Create Axe IA – A New AI Hub For Collaboration


Espace CDPQ has announced they are opening a new location uptown. CDPQ / Axe IA will set up shop at 6666 St-Urbain in the new year. This strategic partnership with MILA – Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute is designed to support and accelerate the development of artificial intelligence, consolidating and maintaining Quebec’s leadership position in the industry.

The partnership is designed to enhance collaboration between startups and the deep teach researchers at MILA.  “It’s a project to create a zone within MILA where startups can interact with the academic part of that institute.  Young startups will have a foothold there and build collaboration between startups and researchers at MILA” according to Therence Bois, Co-Founder at InVivo AI, one of the companies that has been accepted into Axe IA.

Bois’ business uses machine learning and deep tech to streamline the development of new medications. This could potentially have a huge impact on the pharmaceutical industry and the tech sector has been taking notice.  Though still at an early stage, he expects that acceptance into Axe IA will bring support and technical expertise from MILA’s research team to help address challenges InVivo could eventually face in developing their product. He says InVivo will eventually work with MILA’s R&D transfer team and leverage their expertise when the time comes. And of course, CDPQ can make numerous introductions for the startups at Axe IA to key figures in the venture capital world as well.

“It will enable us to realize several aspects of our mission, particularly with regard to research and technology transfer. We will work with the resources at Espace CDPQ | Axe IA to take concrete steps to speed up the development of the selected start-ups,” Valérie Pisano, President and CEO of Mila said in a press release. “The daily interaction between the companies’ leaders and our team members will be beneficial to all Mila partners.”

The application process was launched this fall. Following a pre-qualification and evaluation process, selection committees set up by la Caisse and MILA carried out due diligence to evaluate the companies who had applied. The final selection was based on the following four criteria:

  1. Technology: An R&D plan covering the short, medium and long term and setting out clear, measurable results which are consistent with Mila’s values and key focus areas with respect to the development of AI products.
  2. Synergy: The ability to create value within the ecosystem and take advantage of it for business development, namely by contributing to the Mila community.
  3. Entrepreneurial team: The team’s inclination to building the technical and business capabilities required to support planned growth.
  4. The company: The intention to commercialize an AI product or a product with new AI components.

“We heard about the opportunity from a tweet” Bois told MTLinTech, adding “We completed a long application form and then had a phone interview to explain the challenge from a technical standpoint”. He explained that since the goal is to involve researchers at MILA, InVivo needed to show that they are developing deep tech and machine learning that could match up well with researchers at MILA

In the coming months, Espace CDPQ / Axe IA will welcome the following companies into its coworking space:

  • Paladin AI is creating a training platform using AI dedicated to flight crews, technicians and pilots.
  • InVivo AI uses AI to rationalize and mitigate the risks associated with the development of new drugs by predicting their toxicity.
  • Cognitive Chem is developing an independent laboratory dedicated to the discovery of molecules aimed at finding a cure for certain types of cancer.
  • Artic Fox AI uses deep-learning algorithms to optimize imaging analysis aimed at identifying neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
  • UEAT simplifies the lives of restaurant owners by designing online ordering solutions using innovative technology.
  • Mnubo delivers IoT data analysis tools and solutions using AI to connected product and equipment manufacturers, allowing them to track performance and use.
  • Human First facilitates communications among human live chat agents by predicting and automating responses.
  • ENKIDOO enables small retail businesses to optimize the use of their data on sales and inventory, thereby improving management decision making.
  • NOTIO Technologies connects and correlates data in real time, enabling cyclists to improve their performance.

“With this partnership, la Caisse is pursuing its commitment to helping Québec businesses in this new economy thrive and expand,” added Michael Sabia, President and CEO of la Caisse. “By establishing Espace CDPQ | Axe IA within Mila, our goal is to strengthen the collaborative culture between the academic and business communities. Our approach aims to drive the commercialization of new AI projects in Québec.”

For InVivo AI, the partnerships and the network are very valuable, but the company is trying to scale its workforce from 10 employees, and they believe that the credibility and prestige acceptance into Axe IA brings them will also help with recruiting. In the case of InVivo, they are also already coordinating with MILA on a couple of research papers they plan to publish, so it will be practical to share a space with them and boost collaboration further. Furthermore, there may be other companies in the neighbourhood that these AI focussed startups can also collaborate with.

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