AI industry growth and upperbound

How Upper Bound is growing – just like the AI industry in the Edmonton region

AI and Technology
Published On
May 30, 2024

Last week, the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute’s third annual Upper Bound artificial intelligence (AI) conference saw over 5,000 attendees, demonstrating the growth of the AI industry and showcasing the groundbreaking advancements currently happening as well as the future potential of AI. 

The Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii) has been in the Edmonton region since 2002. Amii is a non-profit organization that has not only been supporting AI research, but helping businesses use AI technology. Recently, Amii received a $3 million investment from PrairiesCan to push industry AI adoption in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, furthering Amii’s mission to integrate AI across various sectors.

With their third annual AI conference, Upper Bound, happening last week, the conference has once again shown the evolution of the AI industry since Amii’s founding and the exciting innovations on the horizon. 

Upper Bound builds an international community for the AI industry.

Upper Bound is an annual conference hosted in the Edmonton region by Amii since 2022. The conference works to connect everyone from industry professionals to students and academics to AI enthusiasts.

Cam Linke, the CEO of Amii said that the conference doesn’t just focus on the history of the institute or the things they’re working on, but also on “the incredible community we have here in the Edmonton region and the incredible network [the region] has with researchers across Canada and around the world.” 

“Most AI conferences are targeted around a specific community — researchers or the business community or the start-up community — and I don’t know that there is a conference at the scale of Upper Bound that’s really bringing all of these communities together. When we’re making decisions about what the future of AI is going to be … bringing those different perspectives together all in one place is really important.” 

Linke added that Upper Bound is a really great opportunity to “show off both the incredible community around AI as well as the incredible things that are happening in AI in the Edmonton region and globally.” 

The benefits of long-term government investment

Upper Bound started out as a 20th anniversary celebration of AI leadership in Alberta and Amii has since evolved into much more than that. Today, it’s an international event that draws attendees from around the world and highlights the Edmonton region’s achievements and potential in the field of AI. 

AI wasn’t this prominent field that it is now when Amii was founded 20 years ago, Linke said. “Long-term investment by the provincial government … allowed us to be able to bring some of the brightest minds here and create this cluster of excellence.”   

After Amii was founded, the next 15 years saw the growth of AI, culminating in the creation of the Pan-Canadian AI strategy in 2017. Like the funding into Amii by the Alberta government, the Pan-Canadian AI strategy was a renewed investment into “arguably one of the most important technologies in the world.”  

“Canada was the first country to have a national AI strategy … and that’s what really solidified Canada in AI — that focus around world-leading experts training the world-leading talent that you need to be successful,” Linke added.  

 “Canada continues to invest really strategically and really importantly in the area.”  

“AI being everywhere means that AI literacy needs to be everywhere,” Linke says. 

Despite the drastic growth in the AI industry over the past few years, Linke says a major challenge to AI is the lack understanding, or AI literacy. AI literacy is the ability to not only use AI as a tool or asset, but also to critically evaluate AI content.  

“The continued growth around the literacy and the framework … is a really big part of Upper Bound,” Linke added. 

In addition to fostering AI literacy, Amii recognizes the strategic advantages of developing AI in the Edmonton region, including the province’s accessibility of energy and educated workforce.  

Linke added that AI is still a new industry and will only continue to grow and as AI grows even further, so will the need for AI literacy.  

“When we look to the future what we’re seeing is really just a scaling up of AI use,” Linke said. “AI is a growing part of every industry; it will become a core part of every single industry … and AI being everywhere means that AI literacy needs to be everywhere.”  

Even from the expectations of the past five years, AI has seen an unexpected expansion into a variety of industries. Many experts are aware that this expansion is only going to continue. 

“Five years ago, I think everyone thought the [adoption process] was going to be a little bit slower … no one really saw ChatGPT and the ubiquitous nature of a lot of AI technologies coming. What isn’t a surprise to a lot of people in the industry is that we’re still early in AI and there’s more and more and more to come.” 

“There’s some surprises that some pieces took off, but the importance of AI and it becoming this core part of nearly every industry wasn’t too much of a surprise.” 

Linke added that “there’s new research and implementations being done every day” and as those develop, Amii will continue its commitment to investing in having research and expertise at the intersection of AI across industries — harnessing the potential of AI to propel advancements in each of those fields.  

“It doesn’t matter what industry you’re coming from, you’re able to use machine learning and amplify what you’re doing.” 

Amanda Sparks