Concordia Joins Artificial Intelligence “Supercluster”

One of 120 Partners Using Tech to Canada’s Supply Chain Problems

  • The project, described as a “supercluster,” involves “close to 120 industrial partners, world-class research institutions and other organizations” to research AI-powered supply chains. Photo Elisa Barbier

Concordia will be joining SCALE.AI, a project that “will focus on defining a global supply chain platform that will boost artificial intelligence and data science in Canada.” The news was announced in a blog post on Concordia’s website on Feb. 20.

The project, described as a “supercluster,” involves “close to 120 industrial partners, world-class research institutions and other organizations” to research AI-powered supply chains for “retail, manufacturing and infrastructure” industries in Canada.

That means finding new and innovative ways to integrate transport by plane, boat, truck, and rail in supply chains through artificial intelligence so they become more efficient, according to Dr. Christophe Guy, vice-president of Research and Graduate Studies at Concordia.

Think of Amazon’s one-day shipping logistics, but for companies.

The end goal of SCALE.AI, which just received $230 million in funding from the federal government, is to develop structures that will let companies in Canada receive parts and pieces from other companies, say in Spain for example, just when they need it, cutting down on inventory costs.

Eventually, these developments should lead international companies to settle in Canada and profit from these intelligent supply chains.

Professors and graduate students from Concordia will provide insight in both the development of these technologies and their social impact. For example, people working in stockrooms or truck drivers may lose jobs to automation.

“Their jobs will either change in extreme ways or disappear,” said Guy, who also mentioned the project will study those changes and attempt to find how to address them.

“There will be a need for retraining,” he said. Warehouse workers who will lose their jobs driving lifts will need to learn how to supervise robots, for example.

Training for tomorrow’s youth in CEGEPs and technical schools will also need to be overhauled.

Guy estimates that 25 to 50 professors at Concordia will be included in the project, from engineering and computer sciences, management, and the social sciences.

SCALE.AI is one of five supercluster projects which, in total, received $950 million in funding through the federal government’s Innovation Superclusters Initiative. The private sector will match the government’s funding.

The government defines superclusters as “dense area of business activity” where “large and small companies, post-secondary and other research institutions […] energize the economy and act as engines of growth.”

The SCALE.AI supercluster will be co-presided by Louis Roy, CEO of Optel Group, a “multinational, leading global provider of traceability systems” based in Canada, and Hélène Desmarais, president of the board of directors of HEC Montréal.

IVADO, an AI and big data research institute in Montreal, will also contribute to the project.

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