For nearly two decades now, the University of Alberta has been one of the world’s leading centres for research excellence in the growing field of artificial intelligence (AI). But now, just as AI and machine learning are on the verge of reshaping the entire global economy, and any number of industries and companies that define it, the U of A risks losing its leadership position as many other universities around the world invest in this field of study.
Alberta can’t let that happen. Now is the time to double down on the AI expertise at the U of A and make it the pre-eminent research hub in North America. This requires immediate investment from all levels of government, along with clear commitments to maintain existing funding and support the academic infrastructure that’s already in place. Strong post-secondary institutions are table stakes for economic success and prosperity in the future — and the people currently working and studying at them are some of the biggest assets in a knowledge economy. That’s particularly true when it comes to artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, since they’re what some people call a “horizontal enabler” — one that can help make existing industries in Alberta, from energy to health to agriculture, more efficient and competitive.
We cannot rest on our laurels here. That’s why, in addition to more direct funding of iconic post-secondary institutions like the University of Alberta, the 12 remaining recommendations from the Government of Alberta’s Innovation Capital Working Group should also be adopted immediately. If we’re going to capitalize on the track record of success of Alberta’s AI sector, we need to start placing much bigger bets on its future — before it’s too late.