France to spend $1.8b on AI to compete with US, China

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ISLAMABAD:French President Emmanuel Macron promised 1.5 billion euros ($1.85 billion) of public funding into artificial intelligence by 2022 in a bid to reverse a brain drain and catch up with the dominant U.S. and Chinese tech giants.

The investment is part of an AI strategy laid out by the centrist leader at the elite College de France research institute in Paris and builds on a report that points to the assets and drawbacks of France in the field.

Business-friendly Macron wants to turn France into a “start up nation” and bets that easing labor laws and higher investments technology will create jobs, alleviate the domination of Alphabet’s Google, Facebook and lay out the seeds for Europe-based champions.

“There’s no chance of controlling any effects (of these technologies) or having a say on any adverse effect if we’ve missed the start of the war,” the president said on Thursday in front of a row of ministers and top executives, including BNP Paribas Jean-Laurent Bonnafé.

He spoke between two black boards covered with complex equations in the main amphitheatre of the institute, founded in the 16th century.

The first goal is to make better use of the French higher education system that trains computer engineers and mathematicians only to see them leave for jobs at top U.S. tech companies.

Some of them have secured high-level positions Google and Facebook, and Facebook, which opened an AI research center in Paris in 2015.

“What a waste,” said Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire earlier on Thursday. “France pays for the training of doctoral students who then head to the United States.”

(Reuters)

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