Google's artificial intelligence (AI) division DeepMind recently opted to finance a new research team at the University of Alberta, thus deciding to create yet another unit in Canada instead of the United States. The London-based firm surprised some industry watchers with the move, though its decision is far from unprecedented and Google itself often made related investments in Canada. The Mountain View, California-based tech giant possibly opted to place a larger focus on Canada over the U.S. due to the fact that the Canadian administration has traditionally been more inclined to support AI research through both investments and less direct initiatives, with the government voting to invest $100 million (CAD $125 million) in related fields in 2017 alone. The political landscape in the U.S. differs in a significant manner, with the country's 2018 budget seeing cuts to scientific research, including efforts related to AI development. The National Science Foundation lost approximately $776 million with the 2018 budget and that trend could continue in the coming years, possibly making Google reluctant to commit a significant portion of its AI budget to various stateside endeavors.
President Trump's immigration policies may have also played a role in Google's decision to prioritize Canada in the context of its AI efforts; with many of the company's talent in the field coming from abroad, the Alphabet-owned tech giant is possibly unwilling to risk future problems with immigration authorities in the U.S., whereas Canada is significantly less tough on immigration, provided that the foreigners it's accepting already have employers by the time they arrive to the country. Another important factor in DeepMind's latest decision is the background of its own experts, many of whom have studied and worked in Canada. The company is likely looking at its new investment as a long-term bet, hoping to recruit more experts from universities proven to generate such talent in the future.
Overall, it remains to be seen whether DeepMind will eventually place a larger focus on the U.S., with the company currently pursuing a number of different endeavors ranging from AlphaGo AIs to medical implementations of deep learning on several continents and continuing to expand at a steady rate. An update on its operations and the AI segment in general should follow later this year.