French President Emmanuel Macron attended the country’s premier technology event, Viva Tech. Macron told CNBC that France would “invest like crazy” in artificial intelligence

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PARIS — France is making a major push to position itself as Europe’s hub for artificial intelligence, throwing its weight behind the fast-growing and impressive technology.

“I think we’re number one (in artificial intelligence) in continental Europe, and we have to hurry,” French President Emmanuel Macron told CNBC’s Karen Tsou last week.

Countries are looking to position themselves as hubs for AI, because the technology is considered revolutionary and therefore of strategic importance to governments around the world. Artificial intelligence is seen affecting industries from finance to healthcare, but it has also been caught in the middle of the broader technology battle raging between China and the United States.

The hype around artificial intelligence has arisen in part because of the viral nature of US company OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot.

AI was the phrase on everyone’s lips at France’s annual technology conference Viva Tech, from start-ups to well-established tech companies, along with companies from industries as diverse as cosmetics and banking.

Macron, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and Digital Technology Minister Jean-Noel Barrot attended the event, adding government support to France’s tech push.

“We will invest like crazy in training and research,” Macron told CNBC, adding that France is well positioned in the field of artificial intelligence due to its access to talent and startups around the technology.

French President Emmanuel Macron calls for global regulation of artificial intelligence

While the United States is seen as a leader in artificial intelligence by many metrics, France is hoping to catch up.

“Believe me, the US is clearly number one, for good reason because it’s a huge domestic market… I want us to clearly close the gap and invest much more, develop much more and accelerate much more,” Macron said. .

Paris’ ambitions face stiff competition even within the European Union.

“France definitely has a chance to be a leader in Europe, but it faces stiff competition from Germany and the UK,” Anton Dahbora, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Assured Autonomy, told CNBC by email.

Last week, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made his bid for Britain to become a global hub for artificial intelligence.

For France to be successful, Deborah said, it will need to “use AI to build on economic areas where it is already strong,” such as manufacturing and pharmaceuticals.

“It is an essential time to be strategic to identify specific areas of distinct competency and to invest heavily in AI to build advantage,” said Dahborah.

Focus on French AI companies

The conversation around AI is currently dominated by US companies, with names like Microsoft — which has invested in OpenAI — and chip maker Nvidia staying top of mind.

France does not have an artificial intelligence giant like the United States, but it wants to create two or three “big global players” in technology, according to Macron.

It relies on its startups to grow quickly. Underlining the potential and enormity of AI developments, four-week-old French startup Mistral AI has raised €105 million to fund the company. A number of other local startups were showcasing their wares at Viva Tech.

Focus on global artificial intelligence regulation

The finance minister said France needs to work with the US on regulating AI

France wants global regulation on artificial intelligence, which it hopes to achieve through the Group of Seven countries that includes the United States and Britain, as well as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

“From my point of view… I think we need a regulation and all the players, even the American players, agree to that. I think we need a global regulation,” Macron said.

The United States is seen as the archenemy

France considers the United States both a competitor and an ally. French and European companies will try to compete with American giants like Microsoft and Google, but Washington’s secondary plan is required for any kind of global organization.

“Competition is always a good thing. So we have very close cooperation with the United States, but we also want access to our information and companies in the field of artificial intelligence. So I think having fair competition between the United States and Europe as well as French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told CNBC. Cooperation in some major organs is beneficial to the United States and Europe.

“Also in terms of regulation, I think this is absolutely vital to have an in-depth discussion with US authorities on how best to regulate AI.”


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