SEOUL-- The head of Element AI said Thursday that South Korea is a unique artificial intelligence (AI) market with huge potential, as the Canada-based startup joins hands with three local conglomerates to invest in innovative ideas and technology.

Earlier in the day, Element AI aligned itself with South Korea's top mobile carrier, SK Telecom Co., the country's No. 1 carmaker Hyundai Motor Co., and Hanwha Asset Management to create the AI alliance fund. The three companies will each pitch in US$15 million to create the fund worth $45 million that will kick off next year.

"In other regions, people are careful... and what we have seen here is a very high degree of motivation to solve the challenge to implement AI on a large scale," Element AI CEO Jean-Francois Gagne told Yonhap News Agency in Seoul.

Based in Montreal, Element AI is an AI solutions provider co-founded in 2016 by AI authority professor Yoshua Bengio of Montreal University. The startup aims to foster partnerships between the private sector and academia to help push the expansion of AI in all business areas.

"There is a talent crisis and we are one of the largest talent pools in the field. And for us to collaborate with the companies in the region that is extremely motivated makes this very exciting," the entrepreneur said. "The AI alliance fund makes a lot of sense, and, more importantly, it is beyond money."

Under the new fund, the partners will target the most promising sectors of commercial AI applications and infrastructure by using Element AI's extensive domain knowledge, cutting-edge research and the proprietary pipeline as the fund's AI advisor.

Over 36 months Element AI aims to generate momentum by supporting organizations that need new business models, the CEO said, adding that the company will engage with promising entrepreneurs with innovative business models.

"Our position in the marketplace gives us extraordinary access to the most cutting-edge technologies being developed today -- all we need are partners and the capital commitment to seed the future and that is what we are achieving today with this announcement," he said.

The race for AI among tech giants like Google Inc. and Facebook has already begun, which is bringing in top talent to build out their own AI-powered products amid the fourth industrial revolution.

"AI is no longer an option," the entrepreneur said. "AI is a new way to solve problems and it is replacing software very quickly."

Among emerging AI-based technologies such as autonomous vehicles, household robots, and image recognition, Element AI's biggest strength is a time series that is used to estimate how a sequence of observations will continue, the CEO said.

Jean-Francois is a veteran AI entrepreneur and former chief product officer at JDA Software where he was the youngest global c-level executive of a top-20 enterprise software company. He has founded and successfully exited two companies in AI and operations research, and has represented Canada as a technology investment champion speaker for global affairs.

Source: Yonhap News Agency