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The federal government says it will invest almost $40-million to support more than a dozen artificial intelligence projects in sectors ranging from manufacturing to retail and aeronautics.

Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne is expected to make the announcement Monday in Montreal.

The $39.3-million in funding will be invested through Montreal-based Scale AI, a technology supercluster funded by the federal and Quebec governments.

Private investors are also participating in the latest financing round, Scale AI’s most significant to date, for a total of $117-million in investments. Of the 15 projects granted funds, six were already being supported by Scale AI.

The funding includes $9.3-million to help Coveo and IVADO Labs – two companies specializing in AI – to develop machine learning and personalization algorithms to help retailers; $8.5-million to help McCain Foods Ltd. reduce potato waste; and $1.5-million to optimize aircraft maintenance for clients of Bombardier Inc.

The projects demonstrate how, in supporting the country’s AI sector, Scale AI is “creating highly skilled jobs, a more resilient supply chain and enabling companies to be more efficient and competitive,” Mr. Champagne said in a statement.

Julien Billot, the CEO of Scale AI, said 2022 was a record-breaking year for his organization, with a total investment of $204-million in 33 industry projects.

“Through each of these funding rounds, Scale AI has contributed to further advancing the adoption of AI for a significant number of companies across Canada,” he said.

Mr. Billot added that his organization’s priorities include projects that can have a positive impact on society as a whole.

But Valerio De Stefano, the Canada research chair in innovation law and society at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, questioned Ottawa’s funding strategy.

“Most of the benefits and profits will be retained by the companies that benefit from this investment,” he said. “One can ask oneself: What is the return from this investment for the community?”

Mr. De Stefano also pointed out that some projects aimed at optimizing productivity could have implications for workers’ rights. This, he said, may warrant broader consultations with stakeholders such as unions before choosing which projects to fund with public money.

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