Deloitte launches AI institute in Canada

08 March 2021 3 min. read

Deloitte on Wednesday launched an artificial intelligence (AI)-focused initiative to help foster research and AI adoption across industries, according to a report from BetaKit.

Dubbed the Deloitte AI Institute, the initiative first launched in the US in summer 2020. Since then, the initiative has expanded to China, Germany, the UK, and now Canada.

The Canadian program will host virtual events to educate organizations on AI, and connect them with an ecosystem of partners that can help them adopt and scale AI applications. The virtual institute will include AI partners such as academics, research institutions, and AI firms.

Deloitte has tapped Audrey Ancion, a senior manager in Deloitte’s Omnia AI division, and Anam Sivia, an AI strategy consultant, to lead the institute.

“Our purpose is to advance Canadians’ knowledge of topical AI issues by highlighting exciting research developments, business applications, and invaluable thought leadership on both the risks and power of AI,” Ancion told BetaKit. “The institute provides an unparalleled opportunity to demonstrate how AI is already transforming organizational decision-making, creating dramatic efficiencies, and adding new capabilities while powering sustainable, value-building activities.”

Deloitte launches AI institute in Canada

AI has built up a lot of hype in the last five years, which has naturally caused many investors and companies to wonder if startups and tech-peddling consultancies are trying to sell them a bill of goods. Driverless cars are on the horizon, but for now we make do with unimpressive chatbots and promises of future revolutionary tech.

Artificial general intelligence – the stuff of SkyNet and Blade Runner replicants – is still a long way out, but less sexy applications such as predictive analytics for hyper-targeted ads or document classification are here today. But not every company is going to be wowed by the simple use of the terms “machine learning” or “AI,” and will question whether there will be adequate return on investment in even the more mundane AI applications.

Years into the current AI wave, heads are getting a little cooler. VC firms are asking more questions and throwing less money at just any AI firm that pops into the Valley. There are issues with commercialization and scaling, and a steady march of consolidation.

Canadian industry darling Element AI in September 2019 raised $200 million in a Series B round which included strategy firm McKinsey. The financing round valued the firm at between $600 to $700 million.

Element AI was going to use the money to commercialize its AI solutions – the toughest part of the AI journey. Those efforts fell short. The company was earlier this year purchased for US$230 million by ServiceNow, well below its 2019 valuation. The vast majority of Element AI’s corporate employees were let go following the acquisition, according to the Globe and Mail.

Deloitte’s AI Institute isn’t necessarily there to rebuild unwarranted hype for AI. Maybe it’ll help more clients understand what viable AI business applications exist today – and which companies and industries they’ll actually provide decent ROI to.

The consulting firm, like most other big players, sells an entire array of digital transformation services – including ones that solve more conventional and business-critical issues like getting an e-commerce platform running with Shopify, switching to Salesforce CRM, or building a more effective supply chain with SAP ERP software. The “emerging technology” part of the digital transformation journey may slot in as some module into whatever platform, but it won’t be a deal maker or breaker in the vast majority of digital engagements.

“Artificial intelligence-powered” does sound great though.