Ontario Cuts Back On Research Funding

By Ben Hamill - May 29 2019


Two of Canada’s top research institutes will not be receiving what was promised to them by Ontario’s former provincial government. The Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research both focus mainly on artificial intelligence and machine learning. Ontario’s previous government had pledged $30 million to the Vector Institute for AI. Last year, Vector received $10 million of the pledged $30 million, but will not be receiving any further funds under the provisions of that particular agreement. As for the CA Institute for Advanced Research, it too will be forced to make a number of budget cuts due to the current government’s announcement that the institute will be receiving $4 million less than what was initially pledged to the institution.

According to government spokesperson Sarah Letersky, government is on a mission to try and cut back on a $11.7 billion deficit, and the tightening of the funding budget’s shoestrings doesn’t mean that no further funds will be made available to the institutions in future. Said Letersky, it’s all about setting the province’s financial house in order.

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Cuts Are Only Temporary

Letersky also emphasised yet again the fact that government has a great working relationship with both institutes, and that AI research and development would remain a priority in terms of research funding in future. The immediate cutback of funds should therefore not be misinterpreted as a lack of interest in research development in general. The ideal behind investments made from government’s end of the table, remains one of creating more employment and opportunities for future job-creation.

But all of the best of intentions aside, there is another side to the Canada-based research coin. Many remain firm in the opinion that not enough of the fruit of the provincial research labour actually remains on home soil. In fact, a study shows that fewer than half of the AI and machine learning patents registered have remained in the country in recent times. Government may be funding local research projects, but local Canadians aren’t necessarily benefiting from government’s efforts.

Paid For Twice Over

Former Blackberry tech-boss Jim Balsilie recently went as far as to address a written plea by way of an email to prominent media publication The Canadian Press. In his email, Balsilie says that whilst government may have been funding AI research for going on 30 years, the proceeds of its investments have constantly landed in the hands of foreign nationals. The end-result has been one of Canadian corporations having had to buy back the very tech that it had invented in the first place, albeit in a “processed” or “adapted” shape or form.

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