Burnaby AI firm gains deal with Korean telecom giant as B.C. trade mission wraps

SK Telecom announced a project that will utilize artificial intelligence technology from Quadrant, the machine-learning services unit aimed at business clients of Burnaby-based D-Wave Systems Inc.

B.C. officials are calling their latest East Asia trade mission - focused on Japan and South Korea while skipping perennial destination China - a success culminating in a deal linking a Burnaby company with Korean telecom giant SK Telecom.

Jobs, trade and technology minister Bruce Ralston and state of trade minister George Chow said in a statement that SK Telecom announced a project that will utilize artificial intelligence technology from Quadrant, the machine-learning services unit aimed at business clients of Burnaby-based D-Wave Systems Inc. Details of the deal was not released.

Quadrant general manager Handol Kim said in a release that the the province was “instrumental” in introducing the opportunity to the Burnaby company.

Officials announced in early March that Ralston and Chow would visit Japan and South Korea from March 16 to 22, focusing on new business potential opened up by the recently ratified Comprehensive/Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Canada-South Korea bilateral FTA. The mission was the first of its kind from any Canadian provincial government representative to Japan since the CPTPP came into effect at the end of last year.

Focus on the mission was placed on technology (including clean energy, digital media and information/communications) as well as agrifoods, officials said, adding that they were able to engage conglomerates like Costco Japan and Korea’s Lotte Home Shopping and Elbon International.

B.C.’s provincial trade mission this spring, however, skipped the traditional third stop on the East Asia itinerary in China, the province’s second-largest trade partner. Officials cited the current political climate between Ottawa and Beijing stemming from the Meng Wanzhou arrest in December, as well as the subsequent arrest of two Canadian citizen in China.

Observers have said a visit to China involving government officials at this point would not be fruitful, adding that B.C. and Canada may have to step up efforts to diversify trade beyond China in addition to the United States. On Tuesday, China revoked the canola import permit of a second Canadian company - Regina-based Viterra Inc. - weeks after Beijing also banned shipments from Richardson International, citing pests found in the grains. Observers have widely noted the moves are likely retaliation for Meng's arrest and may extend to other Canadian exports to China over time.

Japan ($5.1 billion in 2018) and South Korea ($2.9 billion) are B.C.’s third- and fourth-largest export markets.