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Hot Montreal artificial intelligence startup Element AI has scored its third high-profile hire in the past month, recruiting former IBM chief innovation officer Linda Bernardi to join as its chief product and strategy officer.

The Seattle-based Ms. Bernardi follows Denis Therien, McGill University's former vice-principal of research and international relations, and Valérie Bécaert, former director of partnerships with Montreal's Institute of Data Valorization, who joined Element AI last month.

The Element AI moves come after the hiring of top-ranked Canadian AI research scientists by giant U.S. tech companies, including Facebook, Google and Uber Technologies, and the sale of a handful of AI startups to the likes of Microsoft. In the face of growing concerns over the loss of talent to these foreign heavyweights, Ottawa and the provinces have committed hundreds of millions of dollars to new AI institutes in Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton.

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Element, co-founded by University of Montreal professor and deep-learning pioneer Yoshua Bengio, has quickly emerged as one of the most heavily financed Canadian AI startups. It raised $102-million (U.S.) in venture funding last June, just eight months after launching with the audacious goal of building a firm that can rival Silicon Valley giants by "democratizing" AI.

The financing came from some of the largest names in the global tech sector, including Silicon Valley venture capital firm Data Collective, tech giants Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp., China's Tencent Holdings Ltd., Fidelity Investments, and Canadian investors Real Ventures, National Bank of Canada and Business Development Bank of Canada.

Montreal has emerged as one of the world's AI hotspots, with Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Thales SA and Samsung Electronics' Advanced Institute of Technology all recently announcing plans to open AI labs there.

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