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This article was published 4/3/2016 (451 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A new community collaboration has been launched in Winnipeg to establish a national centre for the commercialization of machine learning — what many believe will be the foundation of the next stage in the digital revolution.
Called the Enterprise Machine Intelligence and Learning Initiative (EMILI), it has been in development for about nine months and will be introduced at a Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce event today.
Vince Barletta, head of Yes! Winnipeg, said, "We’re creating a new collaborative industry initiative in Manitoba that builds on the existing assets that we have."
He said the diversity of the economy, the existence of other facilities such as the National Microbiology Laboratory and companies that have already commercialized machine-learning technologies such as Sightline Innovation and Invenia Technical Computing in Winnipeg make this city an excellent choice for such an initiative.
'It would be a game-changer for the city. It would be felt on a global scale' -- Matt Hudson, CEO of Invenia Technical Computing
While machine learning is an industry in and of itself, EMILI will work to develop commercial applications across all sectors such as manufacturing, life sciences and agriculture. The business plan calls for training and more research, including taking a leadership role in dealing with ethical issues that emerge.
The proposal is to seek $100 million for five years of funding from the federal government. Organizers believe it will fit in perfectly with the innovation agenda of Justin Trudeau’s new government.
Jim Carr, the newly elected Liberal MP from Winnipeg and the minister of natural resources, has already been briefed on the proposal, and organizers say he has indicated he would assist in championing the initiative in Ottawa.
Carr is scheduled to speak at the event today.
Part of the impetus for the initiative comes from the recent arrival in Winnipeg of Sightline Innovation, which relocated here from Toronto last year.
Its founder and CEO, Wally Trenholm, is a passionate advocate for the importance of establishing a lasting beachhead for this technology that is expected to grow more than 30 per cent a year in the next five years and generate $13.7 billion in global revenues by 2020.
"Winnipeg is already home to global leaders like the virology lab, which is what brought our company here," Trenholm said. "It is something that all Canadians should be proud of. It is the people and the ecosystem that go together very well here. When you put the two together, which we can do in Manitoba, you have some powerful pieces."
Machine-learning technologies have the ability to process massive amounts of data very quickly and automatically learn from the data. It means computers do not have to be restricted to the preprogrammed algorithms.
Ray Bouchard, a partner with Enns Brothers, is chairing the initiative at this point.
"We are really excited about this from a Manitoba perspective because we believe we can really mobilize everyone together in one initiative," he said.
Don Leetch, executive director of the Business Council of Manitoba, said it is the kind of initiative that can create a powerful legacy for the city.
"There is phenomenal potential here," he said. "It is another example of the public-private collaboration that we can do well in Manitoba."
The estimates are it will leverage an additional $400 million in private capital over the first five years.
Matt Hudson, CEO of Invenia Technical Computing, said the establishment of something such as EMILI in Winnipeg would have a "massive impact."
"It would be a game-changer for the city," he said. "It would be felt on a global scale."