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January 29, 2019

90,000-square-foot MILA AI institute opens in Montreal

The transformation of an old garment district in Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie into Montreal’s artificial intelligence hub took another step forward on Monday with the inauguration of the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms’ new headquarters.

The organization, a partnership between the Université de Montréal and McGill university, aims to bring together the different parts of Montreal’s AI “ecosystem,” said Valérie Pisano, the president and CEO of MILA.

Around 700 people will work at the 90,000 square foot facility on St-Urbain St. in the Marconi-Alexandra sector, the area now often known as Mile-Ex.

Among them, 350 researchers, including students and professors; 100 students in a professional master’s program; and 150 people who work for private companies that have offices in the centre, Pisano said.

While the facility will host corporate labs and startups, Pisano said MILA will continue to focus on fundamental research, particularly in the areas of deep learning and reinforcement learning — two artificial intelligence techniques — as well as the commercialization of research.

Excellence in fundamental research is what sets MILA apart, said Yoshua Bengio, MILA’s scientific director and a U de M professor. Bengio, one of the pioneers of deep learning, founded the lab that eventually grew into MILA.

The institute is now home to a critical mass of researchers in deep learning and their research is attracting partners and other researchers, he said.

Montreal has a “little bit of headway” when it comes to AI research, Bengio said, “but the rest of the world isn’t waiting and is pressing on the gas like crazy and investing billions and billions of dollars. We know countries like China are investing massively … it’s important to think about what we have here and how we build MILA so that we can compete in this global environment.”

In May 2017, the Quebec government promised $100 million in funding for MILA over the following five years. Economy Minster Pierre Fitzgibbon said the Coalition Avenir Québec would honour that commitment.

Keep reading in the Montreal Gazette


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