Mila at the Heart of Quebec’s Artificial Intelligence Ecosystem
Mila – Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute is a research laboratory located in Montréal’s Mile-Ex neighbourhood. It is an international hub of scientific advances that brings the best academic machine learning researchers together. Based on a spirit of openness, collaboration, transparency, and social consciousness, its community of AI specialists develops and assesses new algorithms that allow computers to learn by themselves, for the benefit of businesses and society as a whole.
This non-profit organization is the largest university research centre in the world; it is recognized for its substantial contributions to language modelling, machine translation, object recognition, and generative models. United by a common mission and passion for innovation and growth in the AI sector, research professors and students conduct hundreds of basic research projects, while a significant number of organizations – industrial partners, emerging start-ups, and new, student-run companies – benefit from Mila’s expertise.
A Model of Collaboration Between Academia and Industry
MILA was founded in 1993 by Yoshua Bengio, 2018’s recipient of the A.M. Turing Award (considered to be the Nobel Prize in Computer Science), which he received for his work in the field of deep learning. Over the years, it has grown into a research institute and catalyst for economic and social innovation. AI researchers from seven Quebec academic institutions (Université de Montréal, McGill University, HEC Montréal, Polytechnique Montréal, Université Laval, and Université de Sherbrooke) work together under one roof. Recognized as a centre of excellence in AI by the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy, Mila is home to 70 affiliated professors and more than 600 students studying in a Master’s, Doctorate, DESS graduate or Applied Master’s degree program.
Mila’s model is unique and innovative: in order to accelerate discoveries and the creation of new applications, it has an academic research laboratory as well as spaces available to start-ups launched by Mila students and young Quebec companies supported by the Espace CDPQ/Axe IA; it also hosts a corporate laboratory zone in which Mila’s industrial partners and technology transfer experts can work together. The mutual aid and collaboration between all these players, working at a single location, bring tremendous added value to the institute and contribute to Mila’s success.
Tangible and Useful Discoveries
Mila’s AI researchers have created several applications that have an impact on day-to-day life. Here are some examples:
- Bonjour-santé, a medical appointment scheduling platform used by 2.5 million Quebecers;
- The first machine learning program for concrete, which serves to measure and improve the quality of the material, resulting in savings of 1% to 3% and a reduction of CO2 emissions;
- Korbit, the first AI-powered personalized learning platform;
- Chester, an AI radiology assistant designed to help physicians analyze x-rays and improve diagnoses.
Start-Ups Benefitting from Mila’s Expertise
Supported by the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), the Espace CDPQ/Axe IA, which is located within Mila’s premises, allows nine companies from various sectors and stages to join forces to accelerate the commercialization of their AI-based products or services. They use the on-site expertise and services provided by interns and employees to develop their business.
Businesses Created from Research Conducted at Mila
Mila selects start-ups with great potential from within its research community and supports them by providing space, scientific consultation, entrepreneurial workshops, and access to technological and material resources. Certain research endeavours have led to the launch of promising and flourishing companies such as Imagia, Element AI, Korbit AI, and InVivo AI that offer products and services based on artificial intelligence.