Artificial intelligence in healthcare, also known as Health AI, is an overarching term used to describe the use of machine-learning algorithms and software, or artificial intelligence (AI), to mimic human cognition in the analysis, presentation, and comprehension of complex medical and health care data.

The global healthcare AI market was valued at US$ 4.8 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach US$ 99.5 billion by 2027. The CAGR in this time frame is estimated to be 42.8%.

The opportunity in this emerging sector is massive, and early adopters will have a distinct advantage, but pharmaceutical companies are facing challenges when it comes to AI adoption including:

  • Knowledge gap: According to a survey conducted by Gartner, 42% of respondents do not fully understand the benefits of AI for their business.
  • Talent shortage: Globally, there is a shortage of trained and experienced staff in the AI market, restricting its growth.
  • Data availability: There isn’t a single repository of health data and privacy and other issues can make it challenging to access data. 
  • Cost: Skilled labour and development of technology can be costly when building AI systems.

Leveraging AI for drug discovery

Beyond chatbots – harnessing the power of AI in the life sciences sector.

There’s incredible opportunity for AI applications in drug discovery and this session provides an overview of some of the exciting things taking place in the Edmonton region’s Health AI ecosystem. 

This webinar includes conversations with industry experts from the University of Alberta, Roche, DrugBank and 48Hour Discovery who are applying AI and ML technologies to real life challenges in pharmacology, drug discovery and oncology.

Why choose the Edmonton Metropolitan Region?

We’re at the intersection of world leading research in AI and biotechnology. The Edmonton Region combines a university ranked 3rd globally for AI research, health datasets from 4.5 million people, world-class medical infrastructure and a thriving research and development (R&D)  ecosystem. 

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The Edmonton region is home to the University of Alberta, which ranks 3rd in the world for research related to artificial intelligence and machine learning and is recognized internationally for its pioneering research in the field of reinforcement learning.

Through the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii), the region is a core member of the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy (along with Vector in Toronto and Mila in Montreal)and has named 26 Canada CIFAR AI chairs. The region’s reputation as a hub for AI and reinforcement learning has attracted corporate investment from tech giants such as Google, IBM, Microsoft, Volkswagen Data Lab, Imperial Oil, and Hoffmann-La Roche. Amii’s mandate is to bridge the gap between world-leading research and industry and has forged more that 75 formal industry relationships since 2018.

The Edmonton region is home to seven post-secondary institutions and has the highest post-secondary rate in Canada – making it the highest performing region in the most educated OECD country. The University of Alberta is one of the top five engineering schools in Canada and is ranked 3rd globally in AI research. The University of Alberta’s Computer Science division has more than 40 researchers, with approximately half of them working directly on artificial intelligence and machine learning.

In 2017, approximately 30% of computer science graduates in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region were qualified for ‘computer and information systems managers’ positions – the highest paid computer science-related occupation (the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area qualified only 23%.) This suggests the region has a well-established and highly-skilled talent pipeline being taught by some of the world’s pre-eminent researchers including:

Dr. Richard Sutton is considered by many to be the pre-eminent leader in AI and machine learning (ML) and has been named the pioneer of reinforcement learning (RL). In fact, Dr. Sutton is the most-cited researcher worldwide in reinforcement learning. He is a computer science professor at the University of Alberta.

Dr. Michael Bowling who also teaches at the University of Alberta, was instrumental in establishing the subfield of deep reinforcement learning through his Arcade Learning Environment, launched in 2013.


Alberta Health Services (AHS) is Canada’s largest single healthcare system (4.5 million patients) and has demonstrated a willingness to partner with industry to adopt AI tools. In collaboration with Amii, AHS has been integrating AI and health in a real-world setting since 2015.

Edmonton maintains an open data portal and adopts the international Open Data Charter. This promotes and supports free and open access to datasets.

There is an abundance of open data in Alberta’s health sector.

  • The Alberta Real World Evidence Consortium has one of the world’s most comprehensive health data sets.
  • Edmonton Health City is currently pursuing initiatives focused on the generation and use of synthetic data in order to increase opportunities for data accessibility and drive innovation in the life sciences sector.
  • The region is also home to DrugBank – the world’s largest online database of drug and drug target information.

One of the key cost drivers for research heavy fields like AI is talent – and the Edmonton region shows up well in this regard when compared to competing jurisdictions in Canada. The cost for talent in Edmonton is 70.5% of the cost in Toronto and 73.8% of the cost in Montreal.

The price of office space in Edmonton is also very competitive when compared to competing jurisdictions. According to CBRE’s Q4 2020 office and industrial statistics, office rental space costs $20.65 per square foot in Edmonton and vacancy rates are approximately 19%. Office rental costs in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal were $44.54, $35.94, and $24.65 per square foot, respectively.

Investment Opportunity

Technology and innovation in Health AI have the capacity to solve a large number of healthcare challenges including:

  • Preventative medicine
  • Early detection/diagnosis
  • Decision making in medically complex scenarios
  • Treatment planning

The global economic downturn will lead to middle-income countries looking for more efficient health spending solutions. Wealthy countries will be increasingly focused on managing an aging population. AI has the capacity to supply solutions for both.

Explore the Health tech ecosystem in the Edmonton region

Start Alberta is the digital platform and gathering space for Alberta’s tech community.

Click on the company logos to learn more about how these innovative companies are leveraging health data and AI technologies to accelerate their research and development and commercialization of their discoveries. Explore company data in depth alongside their stories on founders, investors, and events in the Edmonton region and ecosystem. There are many other companies in the Edmonton region that are very active in the Health AI sector. Contact us to learn more about them and what they are currently working on. 


Resources to get you started

How Edmonton Global can help

Brent Jensen

Director, Business Development
As a foreign direct investment (FDI) and international business development company, we work as an ally to attract investment to, and promote trade from, Canada and our region. We’re ready to connect with you and support your work. From market research to helping you make connections to industry experts, to helping you identify businesses that align with your trade mission objectives and opportunities - I'm here to help. 

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