Tech leadership in Toronto and the ‘Godfather of AI’

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Tech leadership in Toronto and the ‘Godfather of AI’

The TorontoWaterloo Region Corridor is a global centre of talent, growth, innovation and discovery. This 100km stretch is the second largest technology cluster in North America. With 15,000 tech companies, 200,0000 workers and 5,200 start-ups, the second highest density in the world, it’s no surprise that Toronto ranks among the top five cities for venture capital (VC) and angel investments. Setting up business here means being in the heart of a robust economy that is increasingly attractive to global brands such as Netflix, Uber and Microsoft as well as successful homegrown ventures like WealthSimple, Swyft and Wattpad.

The Toronto Region, the city and four regional municipalities, is home to more than six milllion people and one of the highest concentration of AI start-ups in the world, from the MaRS Discovery District, ventureLAB and the Durham College AI/HUB. OpenText is a flexible AI platform which combines open-source Machine Learning with advanced analysis to acquire, manage and analyse big data. Automotive giant General Motors is growing its engineering workforce in the Toronto Region to 1,000, focussing on autonomous vehicle software development.

Toronto’s focus within the world of AI has been on Deep Learning and its academic and commercial achievements have propelled it into the Premier League; in 2019 the Toronto Region claimed to have added more tech jobs to its ecosystem than New York City and San Francisco Bay Area combined. The city’s Vector Institute, an independent, non-profit research institution dedicated to AI, continues to excel in both Deep Learning and Machine Learning, with corporate partners including Google, Shopify, Accenture, Thomson Reuters, Air Canada, and all five major Canadian banks. Under the guidance of chief scientific advisor, professor Geoffrey Hinton, the so-called ‘Godfather of AI’, the Vector Institute trains and attracts researchers who want to lead the world in Machine Learning and Deep Learning research. They also have the flexibility to work on commercial applications with companies or in their own start-ups.

That growth means a steady supply of ‘Bright Young Things’ is needed; according to the 2020 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), the University of Toronto ranks first in Canada, and ninth in the world, for computer science. The university is also a leader in uniting the worlds of academia and business with several entrepreneurship hubs on campus, including the Department of Computer Science Innovation Lab (DCSIL) and the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL), an AI innovation ‘hothouse’ at the Rotman School of Management. The Ontario government has also committed to increasing the number of post-secondary science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates by 25% over the next five years to 50,000, making the province the top producer of STEM graduates in North America.

Alexandre Gagnon, vice president, Amazon Canada, said: “A key reason why Amazon continues to invest in Canada is because of the diverse and exceptionally talented workforce that exists here.”

Toronto’s status as the fastest growing tech hub is a natural fit for the fastest-growing tech conference in North America, ‘Collision,’ considered the ‘Olympics’ of the tech world and described as ‘the stunning future of tech conferences’ by ‘Digital Tech.’ Launched in 2019, the event has run virtually for the last two years; despite the challenges ‘it has successfully continued to leverage the local ecosystem to promote the city and region’s capabilities. In its most recent incarnation, some 38,000 attendees from 141 countries heard from local and international speakers, including almost 50 Canada-based entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and tech-focused journalists as well as some leading Hollywood names such as Ryan Reynolds and Ashton Kutcher. Bright Canadian minds spoke to the influence tech is having in society, including payment innovation, AI in banking cybersecurity and automation in supply chain management. The legacy ripple effect for trade and investment and meaningful interactions for organisations are a surety with Collision locking in Toronto for their 2022 conference.

Toronto Statistics
$4.4 billion in venture capital investments in 2020
6.4 million people fastest-growing region in North America
800,000 businesses a diverse mix of companies and ventures
180 languages spoken one of the world’s most multicultural cities
Eight world-renowned universities a hotbed of academic institutions, organizations, incubators and research facilities and more
$11.3 billion in arts and culture contributions to the city’s GDP

Canada’s vast expanses and wealth of natural resources make it a leader in ‘traditional’ industries, such as mining and forestry; but here too the old world meets the new. Toronto based Redline Communications are design a 5G wireless solution called Industrial 5G, which will provide the necessary speeds and bandwidth to reap the benefits of the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT). Redline is the largest Canadian-owned wireless technology company and has been a leader in network wireless communications for over 20 years. The new project will allow clients to remotely monitor and control AI-enabled machinery so that they can interact and share information in real time, increasing productivity and the safety of workers.

Innovation is also in the blood of Destination Toronto, who launched their 6IX STACK solution for event organisers, a toolkit of solutions with the aim of delivering the largest audiences to events. From a social media playbook, through digital marketing assets and even an attendee microsite, the initiative is designed to make any event in the area even more compelling to potential visitors.

It’s a fine example of the Toronto promise, enhancing its traditional strengths whilst innovating for the future.

Canada’s tech leadership extends beyond Toronto and across the country. Canada has produced 15 Nobel Laureates in Physics, Chemistry and Medicine and can lay claim to inventing, among other things, the alkaline battery, the pager, IMAX, the pacemaker, insulin, the electron microscope, peanut butter and the Wonderbra! It should therefore come as no surprise to know that the country is one of the global leaders in technology and innovation.

But there’s no resting on laurels; the spirit of creativity and innovation is alive and well across the country. Of course, being constantly acknowledged as one of the most beautiful and diverse places in the world to live helps attract the right people, but government at both Federal and Provincial level continue to support initiatives that foster innovation and creativity. According to research conducted by marketing agency BAV Group in association with The Wharton School, Canada came in an impressive sixth place in the league table for entrepreneurship. The nation was ranked as the second-best country for international organisations to have their corporate HQ. However, in April 2021 BAV and Wharton’s analysis of ‘Best Countries’ – based on a range of factors – finally gave Canada the top spot. So, whether you live to work, or work to live, this is the place for you.

While Canada has a strong heritage in industries built around its abundant natural resources, it’s the technology sector that continues to impress. The ICT industry in Canada includes more than 43,000 companies employing over 660,000 employees. ICT industries are the largest investors of research and development (R&D) in the Canadian private sector. In 2019, the sector held a 41.2% share of expenditures in Canada, totalling $7.5 billion.

Thanks to Canada’s depth of intellectual capital, organisations continue to look to Canadian cities as the ideal host destinations for their future conferences, congresses and symposia. It’s a mixture maximised by the Business Events team within Destination Canada their multi-sectoral approach is based on the idea that a successful meeting in a beautiful country with aligned intellectual capital is just the catalyst to a conversation becoming a reality and creating events that leave legacies.

Tech leaders around the world are discovering how they can leverage local expertise when hosting business events in Canada. The Destination Canada Business Events team are your connection to Canadian centres of excellence in Technology, providing inspiration, impartial insights, and introductions. To find out more visit

Featured Image by City of Toronto

Conference & Meetings World is published for the international conference and meetings industry. It tackles the issues facing organisers of international events. The editorial is independent, fresh and news driven, with a global reach.

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