A McKinsey analyst says Toronto’s artificial intelligence industry is poised to “skyrocket” as the city builds the necessary infrastructure to become a global AI hub.

Business consulting firm McKinsey recently named Toronto one of 16 global hubs focused on the advancement of technologies including AI, calling the city an attractive destination for tech entrepreneurs.

McKinsey partner Federico Berruti told BNN Bloomberg that Toronto and Canada have had a “long history of pioneering many aspects of the foundational AI movements.”

“Canada also is an attractive place to work, and it has grown significantly in this area… it's translated into significant funding from the investment community,” Berruti said in a Monday television interview, noting that there has been a major jump in tech workers in the last few years.

“I think all of the foundational ingredients are in place for this to skyrocket.”

AI INFRASTRUCTURE

Toronto’s AI infrastructure has been growing along with its population of tech workers.

The Vector Institute, an independent non-profit dedicated to AI research, opened in Toronto in 2017. It provides training, fosters private and government partnerships in the field and supports start-ups and students.

Last month, British-Dutch consumer goods company Unilever chose Toronto as the site for its first global AI lab. Unilever called Toronto a “strategic” location, noting its concentration of AI expertise already present.

OBSTACLES

Despite his optimism about the future of AI in Toronto, Berruti said governments and the business community must embrace the industry in order for it to grow.

“Canadian compensation, for example, with respect to the tech community, continues to not be as competitive as other areas. In fact, some estimate it to be 40 to 50 per cent lower than U.S. counterparts,” he said.

“There continues to be a bit of a brain drain around this, and investors always keep part of their eye looking at Silicon Valley on these types of tools and technology developments.”

Berruti also noted that some Canadian technology companies that see strong growth often opt to move their operations elsewhere as they expand.

“We can’t continue that way,” he said.

“If we want it to be a Canadian success story, we need to have these institutes, incubators, universities, regulatory components, and the companies come together to make the right kind of situation for the ingredients to go to the next level.”

With files from Bloomberg News