LG Electronics Inc, which has been integrating artificial-intelligence functions into its home appliances and smartphones, is launching its first Canadian AI lab, the latest company seeking talent in the country’s burgeoning tech industry. The Seoul-based company, part of the LG Corp conglomerate, plans to open a research lab this fall in central Toronto, Chief Technology Officer IP Park said in a phone interview. The venture will employ “several dozen” people and includes a five-year, multimillion-dollar partnership with the University of Toronto. Park declined to be more precise about how much LG is investing.
Toronto’s tech scene is on a tear. LG competitor Samsung Electronics Co is one of the newcomers, announcing in May it will open its own AI lab in the city, and the country’s largest tech incubator, MaRS Discovery District, plans to open a second Toronto location due to high demand for office space. A recent study said Canada’s largest city created more tech jobs last year than the San Francisco Bay area, Seattle and Washington combined.
Park said that while LG also considered Montreal for its Canadian location, it ultimately chose Toronto because it’s “pioneering in the area of deep learning.” The Toronto lab will be dedicated to fundamental AI research, Park said, and act as an extension of its Silicon Valley AI lab in Santa Clara, California, which focuses on application-driven projects. University of Toronto Vice President of Research and Innovation Vivek Goel said corporate AI labs like this provide Canadian talent with opportunities to work on projects that are not just research driven but have a commercial focus.
“With companies like LG coming in, we have the opportunity to take that fundamental research that we’re so well-known for and give students and trainees opportunities to work with LG scientists and product developers,” Goel said. “If they develop their own startups and ideas in the future, they’ll be able to help build Canadian companies that can scale globally.”