Microsoft’s new Vancouver-based AI lab plucks researchers from China amid growing international tensions

Kareem Anderson

Microsoft Ai Shanghai Lab

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Microsoft is looking to move its top-talent artificial intelligence researchers out of China and into Canada as geopolitical tensions and competition tightens in the region.

According to on Medium, “four people with knowledge of the plans, dubbed the move as the “Vancouver Plan” further citing that 20 to 40 top level staff members are set to be relocated in Microsoft’s new lab in Vancouver where other international experts will join them.”

While Microsoft denies the existence of an explicit “Vancouver Plan” the company does admit that it is establishing a new lab in Vancouver and its being partly staffed with researchers from Microsoft Research Asia that includes Shanghai’s ML/AI group as well as other MSR labs from around the world. also ads further context to Microsoft’s China exodus citing a researcher speaking with the Financial Times, “there is risk of talent being poached by Chinese companies or employees being harassed by authorities. We have discussed these risks in internal meetings.”

A Microsoft researcher who looks to be part of this Vancouver relation effort alludes to the fact that cooperative AI discussions and projects are becoming more hostile as Chinese tech companies look to bolster their own AI firms with “poached” talent.

Maybe in a third country, outside of the US and China, we can regain the vibrant tech discussion from the old days.

As Microsoft continues to partner with US-based OpenAI on its leading ChatGPT AI platform, plucking top-researchers out of China and relocating them to Vancouver becomes a chess move to retain talent as well as prepares the company for future US scrutiny over increased privacy concerns related to Chinese-based projects.