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VivaTech 2023: Emmanuel Macron unveils ambitious plan to boost French AI and tech start-ups

French President Emmanuel Macron gives a speech at VivaTech on June 17, 2022 in Paris.
French President Emmanuel Macron gives a speech at VivaTech on June 17, 2022 in Paris. Copyright MICHEL EULER/AFP
Copyright MICHEL EULER/AFP
By AFP & Camille Bello
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French President Emmanuel Macron will unveil a new plan to support the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and tech start-ups in France.

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Emmanuel Macron will present a new plan to support the development of French artificial intelligence and, more generally, French tech start-ups at the opening of VivaTech, Europe's biggest tech fair.

Hosted in Paris, the seventh edition of the tech fair boasts over 2,200 exhibitors, including prominent industry leaders, and is set to attract 10,000 business representatives, despite the hefty ticket price of €620 and stands that have been sold for over €100,000.

Attendees can expect to witness an array of cutting-edge products and concepts, such as ski masks with augmented reality capabilities, exoskeletons designed for healthcare professionals, AI-animated Van Gogh masterpieces, and hydrogen-powered vehicles. 

The organisers anticipate approximately 100,000 visitors on the public open day this coming Saturday.

Macron, a regular attendee of the event, has strongly advocated for the "startup nation" vision since 2017. He will be attending VivaTech to connect with entrepreneurs and gain insights into the latest technological trends.

In a tweet posted on Tuesday, Macron expressed his ambition for France to become a leading force and frontrunner in the field of artificial intelligence.

"I want France to be a champion and at the forefront of this new industrial revolution. Tomorrow, at the VivaTech exhibition, I will make announcements to accelerate our progress in financing, education, and research. As Europeans, we must also advance in regulating and mastering this technology,” he tweeted.

Specifically, Macron is expected to unveil new funding initiatives for French AI, including support for French-language language models. The speech is expected around 17:00 CET.

Language models face limitations when it comes to languages other than English. The availability of training data for non-English languages may be limited, resulting in models that are less accurate or fluent in those languages. Additionally, the quality of training data can be lower, and the English-centric models may also reflect biases, lacking a comprehensive understanding of cultural nuances and linguistic patterns specific to other languages.

Macron will also likely unveil new initiatives aimed at incentivising investments in innovation as well as his approach to AI regulation. The French President intends to implement certain provisions of the forthcoming European AI regulation in France without waiting for its official enforcement. This includes the obligation to disclose when content is generated by artificial intelligence, ensuring transparency and accountability.

French AI company raises funding to compete against OpenAI

Accompanying President Macron on stage will be Arthur Mensch, the CEO of Mistral, an AI startup founded by notable experts from Google and Meta (Facebook) that - at just four weeks old - secured an impressive funding round of €105 million to compete against OpenAI - the research lab behind ChatGPT - setting a new record in the French AI sector. 

It is still not clear what Mistral is doing or will be doing, but according to Mensch, Mistral's strategy “involves developing models solely using publicly accessible data to circumvent potential legal complications associated with training data,” he said to TechCrunch.

Mensch also said his company wants to expand the technology's application across various industries.

“At the moment we have proof that AI is useful in some cases,” he said, “but there are still too many workers in different fields being asked to be creative [with AI], and we need to figure this out for them. We want to give them tools that are easy to use to create their own products.”

The substantial funding secured by Mistral has attracted considerable attention, but the highlight of this year's exhibition will be Elon Musk, the CEO of Twitter, Tesla, and SpaceX.

Musk will be taking the stage at the Palais des Sports - the same in which during the 1990s and 2000 Steve Jobs used to present the latest innovations from Apple - to deliver a highly anticipated speech to thousands of mesmerised fans.

Meanwhile, France holds high hopes of being chosen as the location for a future Tesla factory, AFP reported.

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