Intel, Microsoft announce plans to expand in Toronto's white-hot tech sector
Toronto’s tech ecosystem is receiving endorsements from two of the world’s largest technology companies, with both Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp. unveiling plans to expand in the city.
Chip-maker Intel is getting back into making dedicated graphics processing units (GPUs) for the first time in two decades, and on Wednesday the company will announce that the key engineering and design work for the project will happen in Toronto.
Intel wouldn’t give specific numbers, but Ari Rauch, vice-president of the company’s visual technologies team, said the number of jobs involved would “start with double digits” and potentially grow from there.
“They will do mainly engineering — both hardware and software systems — (and) some business roles in the space,” Rauch said. “So all the factors of developing product, marketing a product.”
In the case of Microsoft, the company announced Tuesday that it will be opening a new office in downtown Toronto covering four floors in the CIBC Square building currently under construction at 81 Bay St.
Microsoft also said they plan on adding 500 jobs by 2022, along with another 500 positions for co-ops and interns.
In both announcements, the companies said their expansion plans were driven by a search for qualified workers.
“This is one of the most active, dynamic centres for graphics enthusiasts — from the hardware all the way to games, and workloads, and AI (artificial intelligence),” Rauch said.
“For us, it’s extremely exciting to partner with this dynamic and vibrant community.”
Microsoft Canada president Kevin Peesker called Toronto a “hotbed of innovation” and said the move downtown from Microsoft Canada’s current headquarters in Mississauga will help keep the company competitive.
“By relocating our headquarters to downtown Toronto, we will be able to better serve our customers and attract top talent to continue to drive innovation and growth for our Canadian customers and our large partner ecosystem.”
Toronto’s tech sector is particularly hot right now. Last year the World Economic Forum ranked Toronto eighth in terms of the world’s most high-tech cities, and earlier this year CBRE reported that tech jobs in the city are growing at a faster pace than in Silicon Valley.
Among the tech leaders to have shown an interest recently are South Korea-based electronics giant LG, which is planning to open an artificial intelligence research lab in partnership with the University of Toronto; Google parent Alphabet, whose Sidewalk Labs project is exploring smart city technology on the waterfront; and Amazon, which included Toronto in the shortlist of cities bidding to host its massive second headquarters, dubbed HQ2.
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Microsoft’s news release announcing their expansion plans included endorsements from both Mayor John Tory and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“I know our highly-skilled, diverse workforce will continue to attract tech investment in record numbers — growing our economy and creating new opportunities for Canadians across the country,” Trudeau said in the release.
Intel’s GPU project, slated to go to market in 2020, is particularly notable because it involves a market with cutting-edge applications.
Unlike a core processing unit (CPU) which is the powerful, general-purpose heart of a computer, a GPU’s chip architecture is optimized for performing many computations in parallel. This structure is useful for rendering graphics — in, for example, video games — but has also proven well-suited to other emerging industries, such as cryptocurrency mining and artificial intelligence computations.
“Many, many new workloads are taking advantage,” Rauch said.
“The market is growing very nicely, and of course for Intel it’s a great opportunity to bring all the technologies that we’ve developed in house and want to scale and provide solutions.”