June 20, 2024

Microsoft is pulling AI developers from China and moving them to Canada

Microsoft has begun moving many of its top R&D employees from China to Canada. The company is reacting to rising tensions between China and the West, but at the same time wants to protect its technology secrets.

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as Financial Times Microsoft has applied for visas to immigrate to Canada for a surprisingly large number of employees at its key Beijing-based research base. The Microsoft Research Asia (MSRA) department was established a few years ago to recruit talented people from China and surrounding countries who are mainly doing research on AI topics.

Microsoft Denies ‘Vancouver Project’

Microsoft now aims to move MSRA’s top staff from Beijing to Canada’s West Coast metropolis of Vancouver. The so-called “Vancouver plan” is said to initially affect about 20 to 40 employees, although they will apparently not be relocated to the United States but transferred to Canada.

Microsoft denied the so-called “Vancouver project” and said the figures cited by the Financial Times were false. Instead, a new AI lab is being set up in Vancouver to collaborate with developers from other regions already there. In the future, the staff of the new “laboratory” will include people from different regions, including China. As the FT reports, internal concerns are primarily about potential harassment by Chinese authorities. Microsoft fears that particularly experienced and successful employees in the field of AI development will migrate to Chinese companies, meaning its adverse “brain drain”.

Microsoft Research Asia has recently been a major training destination for Chinese developers. Various leading AI developers from Chinese companies previously worked in Microsoft’s local research department. However, Microsoft’s AI development unit in China has come under fire after it was revealed that it was working with a Chinese military university on AI technologies that could be used for surveillance and auditing.

Summary

  • Microsoft moves AI researchers from China to Canada
  • The “Vancouver Project” initially affects 20-40 employees.
  • Microsoft is building a new AI lab in Vancouver.
  • Microsoft is concerned about harassment by Chinese authorities.
  • A review of AI development in China.

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