Startup Element AI to Assess Potential Artificial Intelligence Role for Canada’s Space Sector

Credit: SpaceQ.

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) posted notice today that it plans on awarding a contract to Element AI to assess the potential role artificial intelligence (AI) could have in Canada’s space sector.

Who is Element AI?

Element AI is startup based in Montreal that has garnered plenty of attention and funding in its brief existence, and bills itself as “an artificial intelligence solutions provider.”

Founded last October, the company founders boast serious credentials in the field of AI and include Jean-François Gagné, Nicolas Chapados and Yoshua Bengio. Jean-Sébastien Cournoyer, a partner at Canadian venture capital firm Real Ventures, was also instrumental in getting the company started.

Within months of being founded the company had received its first undisclosed funding from Microsoft Ventures. Subsequently, this past June the company closed a Series A round of funding for US$102 million.

Element AI Founders

Jean-Francois Gagne – a serial entrepreneur who founded and successfully exited two companies in AI and Operations Research. After his last acquisition, he became CPO of the world’s largest supply-chain management software cie, where he oversaw 100+ products and 1400 employees in over 20 countries.

Yoshua Bengio – holds a PhD in Computer Science from McGill University and did postdoc studies at M.I.T. and AT&T Bell Labs. He is the author of two books and more than 300 publications and is one of the three pioneers of Deep Learning, the most impactful recent advance in Machine Learning.

Nicolas Chapados – holds a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Montreal and the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation. He co-founded ApSTAT Technologies in 2001, a machine learning technology transfer firm, as well as, two spin-off companies: Imagia, to provide AI-based actionable predictive oncology analytics atop medical imaging data, and Chapados Couture Capital, a quantitative asset manager.

AI and Space

With today’s Advance Contract Award Notice (ACAN) from the CSA valued at $50,000, Element AI will have until December 22 to conduct its assessment and report back to the CSA.

That assessment “is to identify and evaluate the potential of AI within the Canadian space sector by identifying key areas where AI products and solutions can have the greatest impact.”

According to the ACAN the assessment will include “development and prioritization of a portfolio of AI opportunity areas across the space value chain and related applied sciences.” The portfolio will then lead to a roadmap.

That AI roadmap would:

  • Identify key Canadian strengths and actors, drivers of change, and technology enablers, related to AI, that could shape the future of the Canadian space sector;
  • Engage leading AI researchers and scientists in relevant domains to provide strategic guidance and support the assessment;
  • Define a set of space-related opportunity areas for the application of AI based on the significance of the problems identified, the available data, and existing AI models;
  • Generate AI-enabled value propositions/concepts that could enable or transform the space sector over the long-term;
  • Prioritize AI opportunity areas based on strategic relevance, feasibility and value created for the Canadian space sector;
  • Establish alignment between prioritized AI opportunity areas and Canadian strategic goals in the space sector;
  • Develop a detailed description of the most promising near-term AI space-related applications and outline an implementation plan.

This AI assessment for the space sector is part of broader initiative by the government as outlined in Budget 2017 to grow Canada’s expertise in AI.

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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