Government of Canada invests in responsible artificial intelligence research at the Université de Montréal

News release

The investment strengthens Canada’s position as a world leader in artificial intelligence research and innovation

June 9, 2023 – Montréal, Québec

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the greatest technological advances of our generation and already has a significant impact on the daily lives of Canadians. The Government of Canada is also fully aware that we need to promote the responsible development and use of AI and continues to consult with leading AI experts from Canadian industry, civil society and academia through the Advisory Council on AI. We are doubling down on responsible AI to drive economic growth, ensure Canadians are protected in the digital age and preserve Canada’s leadership at the forefront of tomorrow’s economy.

The government is actively working with international partners on the responsible development and use of AI. Canada has gained a strong international reputation as a leader in responsible and ethical AI and continues to collaborate with its international partners, in particular through the G7 and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, to promote prudent and interoperable regulatory approaches to AI. Canada was closely involved in the launch of the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence, through which the 29 member governments work collectively to orient AI technologies toward shared values. Further, the government is directly engaging with leaders from like-minded countries in discussions on the future of global AI regulation.

The government takes seriously concerns about the potential risks associated with rapid, large-scale deployment of advanced generative AI systems, and it is committed to addressing them effectively. That is why the government is proposing a new Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (AIDA) to address the potential risks of AI, build trust in Canada’s AI industry and protect Canadians from a range of harms. AIDA will ensure that Canada is home to the most responsible and trusted AI in the world.

Today, Rachel Bendayan, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance, on behalf of the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, highlighted an investment of more than $124 million at the Université de Montréal for the R3AI: Shifting Paradigms for a Robust, Reasoning, and Responsible Artificial Intelligence and its Adoption initiative through the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF). This funding is part of a $1.4 billion investment in support of 11 large-scale research initiatives. This investment will allow researchers at Canadian universities to capitalize on the strengths of their research areas and attract capital and world-class talent.

The R3AI initiative will implement new responsible AI design and adoption strategies in areas of importance for Canada, including molecule discovery, health systems improvements and climate change mitigation.

By supporting initiatives focused on, among other things, treating and preventing brain and heart diseases, cutting carbon emissions in our communities, and making discoveries through responsible AI use, robotics and advanced computing, CFREF is helping Canadian researchers pioneer global insights and strengthen Canada’s social and technological innovation ecosystems.


“Today's research is tomorrow's innovation. In the case of artificial intelligence, Canada is home to some of the world’s leading AI researchers and the world’s first fully funded AI strategy. Through the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, our government is proud to move even further ahead by investing $124 million into responsible artificial intelligence research. Canada will continue to lead on AI research, governance and innovation, including in drug discovery, health technology and climate change mitigation.”
– The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

"The Université de Montréal is home to ground-breaking research that is key to transforming the responsible adoption of artificial intelligence. The federal government is proud to support our researchers and our local universities with projects that lead to important social and economic benefits for all Canadians”
– Rachel Bendayan, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance

“Canada’s post-secondary institutions are rich in talent and ideas and are committed to building healthier, more sustainable, more inclusive and more prosperous communities. With support from the federal government’s Canada First Research Excellence Fund, they are able to build on these foundations to develop advanced research programs that showcase Canadian talent and lead the world in developing solutions to the critical challenges facing our planet, including environmental sustainability, advanced biotherapeutics, child health and population migration.”
– Ted Hewitt, Chair, Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat Steering Committee; President, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada; and Chair, Canada Research Coordinating Committee

“Our R3AI project takes us down a necessary path: using a strongly interdisciplinary approach to develop reasoned, robust, resolutely responsible artificial intelligence that serves the common good. Thanks to the Canada First Research Excellence Fund grant, the Université de Montréal and its partners will be able to strengthen the leadership we have built up over the years.”
– Daniel Jutras, Rector of the Université de Montréal

Quick facts

  • Created in 2014, the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) supports Canadian post-secondary institutions in their efforts to become global research leaders. The program helps Canadian universities, colleges and polytechnics compete with the best in the world for talent and partnership opportunities. It also supports them in making breakthrough discoveries; seizing emerging opportunities and strategically advancing their greatest strengths on the global stage; and implementing large-scale, transformational and forward-thinking institutional strategies.

  • CFREF invests approximately $200 million per year through a highly competitive peer review process, held every seven years, to support selected Canadian post-secondary institutions in turning their key strengths into world-leading capabilities.

  • CFREF is a tri-agency institutional program administered by the Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat, housed at the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), on behalf of the three federal research funding agencies: the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and SSHRC.

  • Initiatives funded by CFREF are selected through an independent, multidisciplinary and international competitive peer review process. 

  • The first phase of the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy (PCAIS) was launched in 2017, in partnership with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), with a $125 million investment to build a strong Canadian talent pipeline and ecosystem, including the establishment of centres of research, innovation and training at the national AI institutes. Budget 2021 invested more than $443 million in a second phase of the strategy to support AI commercialization, standards, talent and research.

  • Since 2017, over 125 top researchers, half of whom are international researchers drawn to Canada by the strategy and its investments, have been recruited as Canada CIFAR AI Chairs. Moreover, the national AI institutes have trained over 1,600 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. Many of these are international students who have come to Canada because of the recognized strengths of each institute.

Associated links


Sylvain Abramowicz
Senior Advisor
Office of Rachel Bendayan

Laurie Bouchard
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

Media Relations
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

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