In an effort to accelerate the speed of discovery of University of Alberta researchers and make Artificial Intelligence (AI) skills more accessible for Edmonton’s burgeoning tech sector, the University of Alberta and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have teamed up to launch Artificial Intelligence Discovery Place.
Located in the U of A’s downtown Enterprise Square campus, the centre will provide faculty and students access to AWS Cloud computing technology to advance research and innovation. It will also provide the opportunity to gain valuable AI skills while supporting the development of solutions that address industry, government and societal challenges.
There is a growing need for an AI-ready workforce in Canada, according to the AWS Digital Skills Study. It found that 83 per cent of businesses expect to use AI-powered solutions, but three-quarters say they’re unable to hire the AI talent they need. Moreover, Canadian employers are willing to pay up to 25 per cent more when hiring employees with AI skills.
For researchers like Lawrence Richer, director of the Northern Alberta Clinical Trials and Research Centre and associate dean of research in the College of Health Sciences, this collaboration with AWS will help the U of A to “democratize and decentralize” access to medicine in the province.
He explained that medical apps are the future of medicine; they are the medicine, the intervention and the data collector. However, for an app to make a major impact, it needs to move off a researcher’s computer and into the cloud so it can reach the world.
“If we’re talking about really innovating in the health space, particularly around artificial intelligence, we need to work with a technology leader like AWS — they have the compute resources to really do something substantial,” he said, adding the space will allow researchers to have access to the latest AI services to transform the future of health care even faster.
“It is a monumental leap to be able to innovate and do interesting things at the pace of the idea, not at the pace that it takes to find funding for servers.”
Artificial Intelligence Discovery Place is the latest collaboration between the U of A and AWS. The U of A was one of the first Canadian universities to sign on with AWS to innovate faster with the cloud. From there, the U of A grew the relationship when it moved hundreds of websites and resources that compose its digital ecosystem to the AWS Cloud. This enabled the university to unify its digital strategy and expand its local and global reach.
Working with AWS is helping the U of A accelerate a decades-old strategic vision to help make AI a key component in the effort to diversify the Alberta economy. Key to this pursuit was the creation in 2002 of the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii) — one of Canada’s three national AI hubs.