Home Off the Top Google’s DeepMind Comes to Edmonton

Google’s DeepMind Comes to Edmonton

U of A Professors Richard Sutton, Michael Bowling and Patrick Pilarski. Photo courtesy of John Ulan.

DeepMind, an artificial intelligence (AI) research and technology company, was founded in London in 2010. The company’s mission is to develop programs that can solve the world’s most complex problems, such as climate change and health care, by using automation, thereby speeding up the process of change. In 2014, Google acquired DeepMind.

DeepMind is coming to Edmonton and will open its first international AI research office in collaboration with the University of Alberta.

Mayor Iveson praised the collaboration: “We are thrilled that DeepMind has chosen Edmonton as its base for global expansion. Having a research lab of this magnitude will strengthen Edmonton’s reputation as an artificial intelligence hub and will help build a network of ideas that will transform our world. DeepMind is defining what’s possible with AI and we’re proud to be part of that story.”

Demis Hassabis, co-founder and CEO of DeepMind, says opening their first lab outside of the UK was a very big decision, but it was one that was made much easier by the respect and admiration of the Canadian research community. Several U of A graduates are actually working at DeepMind, and the tech company has sponsored a university lab and provided funding for PhDs in the past. The ties were already in place for a mutually beneficial collaboration between the two institutions.

Canadian collaborators for DeepMind Alberta are U of A professors Rich Sutton, Michael Bowling, and Patrick Pilarski. The three will maintain their professorships at the University while working with DeepMind. Adam White will join at a later date, as will six additional researchers.

Professor Sutton’s press statement cited, “DeepMind has had a special emphasis on reinforcement learning right from the beginning, and the University of Alberta is the world’s academic leader in reinforcement learning, so it’s very natural we should work together. DeepMind Alberta will turbo-charge the research ecosystem, mirroring the partnerships DeepMind has nurtured with the top academic institutions in the UK.”

Pilarski noted, “There is incredible alignment between DeepMind and the University of Alberta, both famed for their boundary-pushing research. Their complementary areas of expertise are now being combined through DeepMind Alberta, and I look forward to making new scientific breakthroughs together. I’m thrilled that we can do this while continuing to foster and support Edmonton’s AI talent pipeline, and the AI community’s leaders of tomorrow.”

“From the start of DeepMind I’ve always felt a kinship,” added Bowling; “it was like we held the same view of the challenges of AI and how to tackle them. I am now really excited to be joining up with the great team there to work on those challenges together, while also continuing to train the next generation of AI researchers at the University of Alberta. I hope this new research base will help to keep the great talent here in Edmonton, and even bring back some of those who have left!”[1]

To learn more about DeepMind and the collaboration with U of A, visit www.deepmind.com and www.ualberta.ca/news-and-events.

[1] Quote source: deepmind.com/blog/deepmind-office-canada-edmonton