BMO pumps cash into new AI lab in Montreal

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BMO Financial group will invest $2 million into a new artificial intelligence lab in Montreal designed to help startups make the transition from science projects to high-growth companies.

The bank is working with Creative Destruction Lab on a new program in Montreal that will usher 28 artificial intelligence startups through a six-month accelerator program.

Artificial intelligence is increasingly valuable to banks and payments providers in handling security and customer relationships related to mobile, Internet of Things and other digital technologies.

"The CDL-Montreal program represents a stimulant challenge, not only for our startup companies but also for all the partners involved in this innovative project," Fil Papich, co-head of BMO capital markets in Quebec, said in a Wednesday press release.

In operating as the site for the lab, business school and research university HEC Montréal has made a significant commitment to building bridges between BMO and the top emerging technology companies, Papich said. "It provides us with a valuable perspective on providing products and services that enable technology entrepreneurs to accomplish their business ventures," he added.

The 28 participants were whittled down from a list of 200 seed-stage applicants, the majority of which already have a patent or are in the process of obtaining one, BMO said.

The six-month internship will offer business and technology mentoring, equity opportunities and business development partnerships.

"The talented entrepreneurs that we get the chance to work with through this program have so much to offer to our industry," Andrew Irvine, head of Canadian business banking and BMO partners for BMO Bank of Montreal, said in the release.

"We look forward to collaborating with them and helping to provide opportunities that will enhance the financial technology landscape and ultimately provide a better customer experience," Irvine said.

AI and data science startups are getting much attention in Montreal. BMO's involvement in the CDL lab comes shortly after an announcement by Broealis AI, an RBC Institute for Research, to open a new academic and research lab in the city early next year. RBC is also joining BMO in supporting the Creative Destruction Lab initiative.

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