NEXT Canada, formerly known as The Next 36, a national non-profit organization committed to advancing Canadian entrepreneurship, has launched NextAI, a new first-of-its-kind artificial intelligence program that will invite entrepreneurs from around the world to build commercially-viable AI ventures based in Toronto.
The announcement was made from the stage at the Machine Learning and the Market for Intelligence conference this morning at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.
“Canada has been at the forefront of artificial intelligence research for decades, and NEXT Canada has supported several AI-focused startups in past programs,” said NextAI Academic Director Graham Taylor. “The launch of NextAI means we’ll see the brightest minds from around the world creating industry-leading AI technology in Canada, cementing our place as a world leader in machine learning innovation.”
The Rotman Machine Learning conference also featured opening remarks from astronaut Chris Hadfield, a keynote by the Chair of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors, who described the White House’s position on AI, as well as presentations from some of the most influential pioneers in machine learning, and insights from investors focused on AI at top Silicon Valley-based VC firms including DFJ, DCVC, Andreessen Horowitz, and Kleiner Perkins.
NextAI is being launched with a variety of public and private partners, including EY, MasterCard, TD and Osler,Hoskin & Harcourt, as well as with the support of tech companies including including IBM, Microsoft and Google.
NextAI will provide seed capital, up to $200,000 in funding, expert advice, and sector-specific tools, and education from faculty at MIT, Harvard, the University of Toronto, and other universities.
The program will bring together global AI talent and entrepreneurs with academic, corporate, and government partners to position Canada as a leader in establishing centres of excellence dedicated to the commercialization of AI applications.
“Canada is the perfect place to shine a light on AI technology since we have the right combination of researchers, companies, and entrepreneurs who are already investing heavily in the space,” said Sam Sebastian, Vice President and Country Director for Google Canada. “This is a win-win for anyone who believes in the potential of AI – it means state-of-the-art AI technology will be developed in our backyard and deployed to solve commercially and socially important problems.”
In September, NEXT Canada appointed Razor Suleman as CEO and rebranded itself from its previous Next 36 identity, which was originally founded as a a national business leadership incubator in 2010.
Open to Canadian and international university students, professionals and entrepreneurs, applications for the program are being accepted beginning today and will close on January 5, 2017, with the program launching officially on February 1, 2017.