Robotics and AI experts from Ontario and China discuss opportunities for collaboration

Representatives from Ontario and China gathered in Toronto recently to explore collaborative research and commercialization opportunities relating to artificial intelligence and robotics — key strategic priorities for both regions.

The Ontario-China AI and Robotics Collaboration Workshop, co-hosted by the Ontario Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science, and the Consulate General of China, attracted 130 experts from both academia and industry, including 50 delegates from Chinese universities and technology companies, and 80 representatives from Ontario universities, technology companies and startups. The group discussed the latest trends and technology developments in AI and robotics, and their applications in manufacturing, health care, services and autonomous vehicles. They shared research and commercialization collaboration opportunities, while discussing a wide range of topics, from next-generation AI, brain-inspired computing systems and conversational user interfaces, to surgical robotics for pediatrics, micro-nano robotics, underwater robot technology and more.

"There are many unsolved problems in robotics, and many opportunities for collaborations between like-minded researchers in Ontario and China," says Dr. John McPhee, Professor and Canada Research Chair in System Dynamics at the University of Waterloo, and one of the workshop presenters.

It's this like-mindedness, and the recognition that Ontario and China have complementary research and innovation strengths, that led the Government of Ontario and the Ministry of Science and Technology of China (MOST) to develop a joint research-funding program back in 2011. Known as the Ontario-China Research and Innovation Fund (OCRIF), the program aims to support bilateral strategic technology research collaboration projects by committing up to $2 million a year ($1 million each) until 2022.

To date, 25 successful collaboration projects in eight technology areas have been jointly funded under the OCRIF program. The 2018 OCRIF call for proposals, launching this fall, will focus on AI and robotics.

This most recent workshop, which introduced opportunities for collaboration in robotics and AI, further demonstrates the commitments from Ontario and China to strengthen science and technology collaboration and remain long-term strategic partners in innovation.

"In my experience, the most successful collaborations are those that are built out of existing relationships," says Dr. Elissa Strome, Executive Director of the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), who also spoke at the recent workshop. "I encourage Chinese and Canadian researchers to leverage their existing networks to develop new collaborative projects that will advance research in both countries."

She adds that a reciprocal visit by Ontario scientists, engineers and start-up companies to China would be a great way to learn more about the facilities and technologies under development in China, and further explore opportunities for collaboration.

June 12, 2018
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