The 2019 edition of the World Economic Forum (WEF) wrapped up in Davos, Switzerland, today, with Canada making some significant announcements over the course of the week.
More than 65 Canadians descended on the Swiss Alps this week, including senior cabinet ministers, billionaires and executives, but perhaps most notably was Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains, who was wheeling and dealing all week. Here are some highlights.
Canada invests $40 million in Nokia Canada
Perhaps the biggest news out of Davos was the announcement that Canada will be investing up to $40 million in Finnish telecom giant Nokia to conduct research on 5G technology. Said to be the next big wave in wireless tech, 5G will drive innovation in areas like VR/AR, autonomous cars, and better, more reliable internet connections in rural areas.
Bains finalized the deal early this morning in Davos, stating that the infusion of funds will support Nokia Canada’s current workforce of more than 2,000 employees, as well as help create 237 new jobs for the Kanata- and Mississauga-based company. Nokia Canada’s projects, over a multi-year term, are valued at over $214 million
A Government of Canada release today stated that in the deal Nokia will “develop cybersecurity tools to protect telecommunications networks,” and establish a new Nokia Bell Labs to take on the 5G research.
“We are pleased to stand as a strong partner to Canada’s innovation ecosystem by joining forces with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and creating a new Canadian presence for Nokia Bell Labs,” said Rajeev Suri, President and CEO of Nokia. “Together, we will enable a digital future powered by cutting-edge technologies such as 5G, IoT, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning, transforming Canada’s industries, cities, and local communities.”
The announcement of the Nokia deal comes at a tumultuous time in Canadian 5G development as the country’s telcos partner with their respective vendors to build out their 5G networks. Rogers has teamed with Ericsson while Bell and Telus have conducted some trials with Huawei, the Chinese tech giant that is currently under a national security review and whose 5G network products have been banned in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand, three of the five counties in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing group of which Canada is a member.
The Artificial Intelligence Council is created
Earlier in the week, political and tech leaders at the WEF met to discuss the potential for artificial intelligence to not only solve some of the world’s most pressing problems, such as climate change, but to also cause new ones.
On Wednesday the WEF established the AI Council, headed up by Chinese AI expert Kai-Fu Lee and Microsoft President Bradford L. Smith, created to help address many of the issues brought on by the swiftly advancing technology.
“Artificial Intelligence brings great benefits. But people are now facing new challenges, such as ethical issues with AI, personal data protection, and replacement of human job posts,” said Lee during his speech in Davos. “The AI Council is committed to helping people solve this problem.”
The AI Council’s member roster is impressive and not only includes Canadians Bains and well-known Montreal computer scientist Yoshua Bengio, but British Prime Minister Theresa May, Tencent CEO Pony Ma and Salesforce President Alex Dayon among others.
AI was certainly on Bains’ mind during the Forum, tweeting on Wednesday about his meeting with Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Affairs, Peter Altmaier, with whom he chatted about Scale AI, Canada’s AI Supercluster. “We also discussed best practices in AI, including the need to have it anchored in values of diversity, human rights and inclusiveness,” Bains tweeted.
Canada Invests $35 million in Siemens Canada partnership
Minister Bains also announced a research and development partnership between Canadian electronics and engineering firm Siemens Canada, New Brunswick Power and Nova Scotia Power, worth $35.66 million.
Today’s release stated that the partnership will create and maintain up to 241 jobs in Atlantic Canada and will help develop “smart grid” technology that will “help improve power delivery to underserved communities, better integrate renewable energy into the power grid and reduce future electricity costs for consumers.”