New program aims to accelerate AI-fueled growth for small-and-medium-sized businesses

October 20, 2021

October 21, 2021

Tailored to the unique needs of Canada’s growth-oriented small-and-medium sized enterprises (SMEs), the Vector Institute has launched the FastLane program to deliver leading-edge AI knowledge transfer that allows this unique community to capitalize on the transformative power of artificial intelligence. Already more than 50 companies have joined the inaugural cohort of the program looking to build critical AI capabilities within their organizations and access top AI talent in a highly competitive global hiring market.

“Vector was founded to drive excellence and leadership in Canada’s knowledge, creation, and use of AI to foster economic growth and improve the lives of Canadians,” says Garth Gibson, President and CEO of the Vector Institute for artificial intelligence. “Vector’s FastLane program supports Canada’s vibrant small-and-medium-sized businesses and the vital role they play in our economy, by helping them capitalize on the promise of artificial intelligence to unlock their growth and innovation ambitions.” 

The new program, which kicks off during Canada’s Small Business Month, October, provides an expanded suite of programs, training courses, and collaborative projects that enable these fast growing companies to raise their AI fluency, develop a deeper understanding of AI’s business value, experiment with applying AI models to their real-world challenges, and acquire the skills to compete and innovate using AI. Funded in part by the Province of Ontario, the program aims to support Ontario’s small-and-medium-sized businesses to build their global competitiveness.   

“It is essential for Ontario companies to adopt advanced technologies to compete and thrive in a highly competitive global economy,” says Vic Fedeli, Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. “Vector’s FastLane program is a great opportunity for companies to realize the potential of AI towards their own future success and help drive Ontario’s economic growth for decades to come.”

Participants in the program are also able to access Vector’s market-leading recruitment initiatives and dedicated tools such as its Digital Talent Hub, which connect AI-skilled professionals to Canadian companies eager to snap up high-calibre talent amidst intensifying global competition. Vector has built a robust pipeline of emerging AI-skilled talent, including more than 700 graduates from Vector-recognized AI master’s programs and study paths and 1,110+ participants in job-search and workforce-entry initiatives in 2020-21 alone.

The FastLane program builds on Vector’s proven track record working with Canadian companies to accelerate their AI ambitions and drive business value. In addition to its talent recruitment and workforce development initiatives, Vector works with its industry community to deliver training and knowledge transfer that improves products and processes. 

In 2020-21, Vector provided professional development training to more than 4,200 participants from 40+ companies within its sponsor community. Vector’s industry sponsors benefit from access to cutting-edge AI research driven by Vector’s 600+ strong research community which includes some of the world’s brightest minds in machine learning and deep learning. For example, through Vector-led collaborations on applied AI projects, organizations work to address industry-level frameworks and large-scale societal problems. Alternatively, Vector also offers these sponsors face-to-face consulting on company-specific challenges and AI-engineering related questions, allowing these organizations to commercialize the power of AI.  

In developing the FastLane program, Vector’s Industry Innovation team consulted with a wide array of small and medium-sized enterprises across all sectors, to ensure the program addresses their most urgent strategic and practical needs relating to AI. The response was positive:  

  • “Working with the Vector Institute has already helped us refine our AI strategy. Now, through this small-medium-enterprise program, we will be able to better attract and retain the right AI talent. It also enables us to access leading-edge AI technology and training – which we believe will help us to compete globally.” — Michael Curry, CEO, Mycionics Inc, a Putnam, Ontario AgTech firm focused on mushroom farming.
  • “One of our key interests in Vector’s FastLane program is the opportunity to build connections within Vector’s research community. Opening dialogues between some of the world’s leading AI researchers and receiving guidance on new AI advancements is highly valuable to Canadian companies looking to maintain a competitive edge through AI.” Michael Cohen, CEO, QII.AI, a leading drone inspection software company located in Toronto, Ontario.
  • “We are excited by the opportunity to source top quality AI talent and gain insight on the practical application of AI through Vector’s FastLane program. Through this collaboration, we hope to get one step closer to ensuring everyone can come home safely from work everyday!”— Gus Minor, CIO, Sofvie, a Sudbury-based workplace safety software company.

“AI has the potential to increase productivity and create new revenue opportunities to deliver high-quality products and services for small and medium-sized companies. By providing resources and mentoring through the FastLane program, Vector and its partners are helping to enhance Ontario’s SME competitiveness at home and around the globe.” — Nina Tangri, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction

For more information on this program, please visit our webpage here.

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