Vector Institute: researching the future
As Canada experiences a rush of investment within the AI sector, the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence is leading the pack.
Foreseeing the possibility to improve the lives of ordinary Canadians, the Toronto-based institute was founded in 2017 with the vision of driving excellence, leadership, knowledge, creation and usage of artificial intelligence (AI).
But what are the basics of AI and machine learning?
Generally, machines are provided known ‘inputs’ and their associated ‘outputs’ and then give a predicted outcome for a set of new ‘inputs’. The machine’s ultimate goal is, based on previous results, to keep making predictions until the error margin (called the ‘cost function’) between the predicted and actual output is as low as possible.
The machine learning process is based around this premise.
Although the technology being developed by the Institute is far from ordinary, the day-to-day operations and concerns of the organisation are the same as any business.
“We’re here to help superstar researchers but our main goal is to strengthen the region,” said Garth Gibson, CEO, in an article with Science Business. “A strong workforce, a compelling place to work, a good tax law and a sense of competitiveness among your people. We have all of that.”
In the business of breakthroughs
News and updates on the Institute’s website are uploaded regularly, with the latest breakthroughs or projects showing potential outlined in scientific detail. Recent projects include:
New neural networks: The Institute has developed new models with the enhanced potential to predict patterns in medicine, finance and even human genetics. Using backpropagation, computers are able to solve a problem using ‘gradient descent’.
Uncovering injuries: Utilising machine-learning, a paper written by researchers Boshra, Dhindsa and Boursalie et al, offers the opinion that computers might be able to recognise symptoms of concussion in patients years after their original injury.
The research team’s algorithm can allegedly achieve an 81% accuracy rate - a percentage which eclipses current clinical capabilities. In addition, the algorithm could determine which specific part of the brain was affected.
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M&A activity key lever for future tech sector growth
Despite the continuing uncertainty of the pandemic, the tech sector has witnessed soaring dealmaking activity over the past year, rocketing in the second half of 2020, with the last quarter of 2020 a record one for M&A activity, and momentum continuing into 2021.
Dealmaking in tech sector soars in past year
And the latest figures bear this out with the number of technology M&A deals totalling US$208.44bn globally in Q1 2021, according to GlobalData. While the US holds top spot both in volume of deals (1034) and total value (US$140.61bn), Europe ranked next with 649 deals (US$44.49bn) with the UK continuing its reign as Europe’s biggest M&A market with 204 deals.
In particular, megadeals – those valued at US$5bn or more – soared in 2020 representing 59% of all global technology sector deal value in 2020, up from 47% in 2019, according to the latest edition of the EY Technology Global Capital Confidence Barometer.
This tech sector trend towards megadeals is backed up by EY’s CCB data, with 16% of tech sector respondents planning to pursue transformative deals valued at US$5bn or more in the near-term.
While technology deal activity “all but stopped at the beginning of 2020 after fluctuating between historic highs and lows, companies pivoted quickly and tech M&A exploded in the second half of the year”, says Barak Ravid, EY Global TMT Leader for Strategy and Transactions.
M&A activity level for tech sector growth
Looking ahead to the future, technology executives are optimistic, with nearly half (47%) expecting profitability to fully rebound this year, according to CCB data, compared to 23% across all sectors, and with more than half (51%) planning to pursue M&A in the next year in order to sustain growth.
According to Ravid, M&A activity is increasingly becoming a key lever for growth as businesses look to recover.
“To position themselves for future revenue growth, tech companies are now adjusting their M&A strategy to focus more on a target’s business resilience, digital technology alignment and to gain market share through consolidation,” says Ravid.
However, with an increasingly competitive deal market and ongoing geopolitical tensions, the majority of tech execs expect to see more competition in the bidding process for assets over the next year, primarily from private capital.