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Macron announces new investments in tech, says Paris will be ‘city of AI’

French President Emmanuel Macron attends a video conference as part as the AI Summit Seoul 2024 from the Elysee Palace in Paris, Tuesday, May, 21, 2024.
French President Emmanuel Macron attends a video conference as part as the AI Summit Seoul 2024 from the Elysee Palace in Paris, Tuesday, May, 21, 2024. Copyright Yoan Valat, Pool via AP
Copyright Yoan Valat, Pool via AP
By Pascale Davies
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The French president spoke at the Elysée Palace to tech leaders and politicians, saying that this was a moment of “strategic awakening”.

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“The city of lights will become the city of artificial intelligence” Emmanuel Macron told a a gathering of the tech elite, politicians and EU commissioners at the Elysée Palace on Tuesday.

The French president announced on Tuesday a new investment in the artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum ecosystem as well as training programmes to build tech talent.

He spoke ahead of the technology fair VivaTech this week in Paris, which is expected to bring in some 150,000 visitors over the four-day event.

“We need to go one step further (...) because for France and Europe, the battle for artificial intelligence is an existential battle, on which our ability to create wealth will depend,” Macron said.

He said the new fund was of a “significant” amount and that one-quarter of it would come from the French state.

The AI “battle” must be fought around “five major areas: talent, infrastructure, uses, investment and governance”, Macron said.

Café debates

As for talent, a new programme will see an investment of €400 million in nine universities to facilitate AI research sites and grow talent.

The French president also announced training was key and set a target of training 40,000 to 100,000 people per year and made a point that more women should be in the field.

Macron announced other measures to expand citizens’ knowledge of the technology and said they should not be left behind. He said the French independent advisory commission, the Conseil national du numérique would have a €10 million budget to organise debates and “cafés” around AI throughout France.

Franco-German initiative

“The question facing France, Europe, is: are we deciding on the investments, the support policy that will enable us to return fully to international competition?”

“It's a moment of strategic awakening that we're living through, which presupposes profound choices in terms of research, training and investment,” he said.

Macron repeatedly said it would be a French-European AI mission and not a French-first one.

“Our aim is to Europeanise it [AI], and we're going to start with a Franco-German initiative,” he announced, without expanding.

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