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DeepMind expands to Canada with new research office in Edmonton, Alberta


Demis Hassabis

DeepMind has always been a unique hybrid of startup culture and academia, and we’ve been lucky to collaborate with many of the best researchers from around the world. Today we’re thrilled to announce our next phase: the opening of DeepMind’s first ever international AI research office in Edmonton, Canada, in close collaboration with the University of Alberta (UAlberta).

It was a big decision for us to open our first non-UK research lab, and the fact we’re doing so in Edmonton is a sign of the deep admiration and respect we have for the Canadian research community. In fact, we’ve had particularly strong links with the UAlberta for many years: nearly a dozen of its outstanding graduates have joined us at DeepMind, and we’ve sponsored the machine learning lab to provide additional funding for PhDs over the past few years.

‘DeepMind Alberta’ will be led by the pioneer of reinforcement learning - and DeepMind’s first ever advisor from back in 2010 - Rich Sutton, together with Michael Bowling and Patrick Pilarski. All three will maintain their professorships at UAlberta, and continue to teach and contribute to the academic community. They’ll be joined by Adam White, who will be returning to Canada to join the university as an adjunct professor, and six more researchers who co-authored the influential DeepStack paper published earlier this year in Science. The team will work on core scientific research.

University of Alberta computing science professors and artificial intelligence researchers (L to R) Richard Sutton, Michael Bowling, and Patrick Pilarski will work with DeepMind at the company's first research office outside the UK in Edmonton, Canada [Credit: John Ulan]

As well as continuing to contribute to the academic community through teaching and research, we intend to provide additional funding to support long-term AI programs at UAlberta. Our hope is that this collaboration will help turbo-charge Edmonton’s growth as a technology and research hub, attracting even more world-class AI researchers to the region and helping to keep them there too.

Collaborating with UAlberta to open a lab feels like a natural extension of what we do here in London. Shane Legg and I met as postdocs at University College London’s (UCL) Gatsby unit where we first started working together, and we’ve worked hard to continue contributing to the academic ecosystem. We publish in major international journals, including three Nature papers in the past two years, while many of our team maintain professorships and supervise students at Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial College London as well as MIT and beyond. We even teach machine learning modules at UCL and Oxford to help advance the broader AI field beyond DeepMind.

In the UK, we feel we’ve helped played an important role in encouraging and supporting the AI community to flourish - from start-ups and universities, to new organisations like the Turing Institute - and we hope that we can contribute to the success of Canada’s pioneering centres of research too. It’s an honour for us to work with Rich, Michael, Patrick and their team, together with the University of Alberta, and we look forward to many more scientific breakthroughs in the years ahead!

Read more about the announcement from UAlberta here.

Here's what others have to say about DeepMind Alberta

DeepMind has had a special emphasis on reinforcement learning right from the beginning, and the University of Alberta is the world's academic leader in reinforcement learning, so it's very natural we should work together. DeepMind Alberta will turbo-charge the research ecosystem, mirroring the partnerships DeepMind has nurtured with the top academic institutions in the UK. This alignment of academic and practitioner-led research will drive a whole host of new scientific breakthroughs right here in Canada, propelling the field of AI forwards into exciting new territory.

Rich Sutton

There is incredible alignment between DeepMind and the University of Alberta, both famed for their boundary-pushing research. Their complementary areas of expertise are now being combined through DeepMind Alberta, and I look forward to making new scientific breakthroughs together. I'm thrilled that we can do this while continuing to foster and support Edmonton's AI talent pipeline, and the AI community's leaders of tomorrow.

Patrick Pilarski

From the start of DeepMind I've always felt a kinship, like we held the same view of the challenges of AI and how to tackle them. I am now really excited to be joining up with the great team there to work on those challenges together, while also continuing to train the next generation of AI researchers at the University of Alberta. I hope this new research base will help to keep the great talent here in Edmonton, and even bring back some of those who have left!

Michael Bowling

I am very proud that DeepMind chose Edmonton as its first international research base. This is a testament to the strength of our AI expertise, talent, and leadership. Our researchers have been world leaders in AI for decades, thanks partly to sustained Alberta government support. Artificial intelligence is the future. DeepMind Alberta will help drive that future while helping establish Edmonton, the province, and Canada as a leader in artificial intelligence.

David Turpin, President, University of Alberta

We are thrilled that DeepMind has chosen Edmonton as its base for global expansion. Having a research lab of this magnitude will strengthen Edmonton's reputation as an artificial intelligence hub and help build a network of ideas that will transform our world. DeepMind is defining what's possible with AI and we're proud to be part of that story.

Don Iveson, City of Edmonton Mayor