Dual agreements cement UK-Canada science and innovation ties


THE UK and Canada have signed a dual set of agreements which cements their collaboration on science and innovation, while also laying out a new agreement on AI compute – one of the fundamental building blocks which sits at the heart of how AI is used and developed.

Signed by Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan and Canadian Minister for Innovation, Science, and Industry François-Phillippe Champagne in Ottawa, the Memorandum of Understanding on compute is the latest step in the two countries’ efforts to collaborate on AI research and development. At its core is a commitment to explore how both countries can support researchers and industry with the secure and affordable access to computing capacity, which is needed to drive the training and use of AI systems on both sides of the pond. This includes examining opportunities for collaborations on areas of shared strategic importance such as biomedicine and working both together and with likeminded countries on models for collaboration on compute capability.

Compute is a vital component in the development of AI, enabling a wide range of tasks from processing data to training the latest wave of AI models, making access to computing power increasingly essential. Given the rapid development of the technology, access to compute power is also a vital tool in conducting state of the art research.

Alongside today’s agreement on compute, the UK and Canada have also signed a refreshed partnership to further strengthen wider collaboration on science and innovation. This agreement identifies a number of key technologies such as quantum, AI, semiconductors, engineering biology, and clean energy technology where the UK and Canada will redouble efforts to foster research and bring innovative new solutions to market to help tackle shared global challenges. An additional focus on scientific diplomacy will see both countries exchanging expertise on issues such as international standards, governance and regulation of new technologies, helping to inform discussions with international forums such as the G7 and G20.

Academics and researchers from both countries are increasingly sharing data and developing new partnerships, and have done since the first partnership on science and innovation was agreed in 2017. Between 2020 and 2023 alone, some £350 million was awarded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) on collaborative programmes with Canada. This includes the first industry led partnership between any two countries to develop quantum technologies, and an £8m project in partnership with the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami on arctic ecosystems which funds research projects around climate-driven changes in Inuit Nunangat.

The landmark agreements signed today come as Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan continues a three-day visit to Canada, which has already seen a range of engagements with leading AI companies in Toronto. The Secretary of State will conclude her visit with discussions in Montreal, including a meeting with Yoshua Bengio – world leading AI professor and Turing prize winner – as he leads work on the State of Science report unveiled at November’s AI Safety Summit.

UK Secretary of State for Science, Innovation, and Technology, Michelle Donelan said:

“The UK’s unique partnership with Canada across science, innovation, and technology is built on a shared desire to be an active force for good on the global stage.

“Today’s agreements deepen that relationship even further, as we commit to working side-by-side to address the defining technological challenges of our generation.

“My visit this week and the foundations we have laid will ensure we can continue to lead the way in harnessing the opportunities of new innovations across science and technology for decades to come”.

Canadian Minister for Innovation, Science, and Industry, François-Phillipe Champagne said:

“Canada and the UK have a deep relationship that encourages collaboration to help both countries thrive. Today’s Memorandums of Understanding on scientific research, innovation and AI compute will drive positive impacts across all fields of research and innovation, help businesses accelerate commercialization, and link our leading researchers together.

“These agreements will strengthen our AI companies and enable our researchers, as well as encourage sharing research excellence with the Global South to build international capacity and address worldwide challenges.”

The UK and Canada represent a joint global powerhouse, with our combined economies worth a total of £4tn. The refreshed collaboration on science and innovation agreed today re-enforces the joint commitment to work hand-in-glove across science, innovation, and technology, and is centred on three distinct pillars. The first, a focus on deep science and technology, will see a re-doubling of efforts to work closely on areas of advanced R&D, particularly in the fields of quantum, AI, semiconductors, and engineering biology. Closer ties will also be developed on “commercialising innovation” to support the adoption of emerging technologies and foster research to bring commercial applications to market on both sides of the Atlantic. The renewed partnership will be marked with biennial meetings of the Joint Science and Technology Cooperation Committee, which will continue to identify priority areas of collaboration between the two countries.

In marking the new partnership on Compute, the UK and Canada have also set out their ambition to explore opportunities for collaborations on areas of shared importance like climate research and biomedicine. The agreement also highlights the importance of close collaboration on sustainability in compute, particularly given the significant resources which are required and the subsequent need for improved energy efficiency and measures which will work to reduce associated carbon emissions and environmental impacts.

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