The national French AI strategy reveals detailed research plans

In March 2018 France presented its national AI strategy “AI for Humanity”, based on a report by Villani, and declared they had allocated a 1,5 billion euros budget over Macron’s term – which is another 4 years.

On the 28th of November, France’s Secretary of State for Digital Affairs – Mounir Mahjoubi – and Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation – Frédérique Vidal – co-presided the first comité de pilotage on the national AI strategy at the IRIT, Toulouse’s computer science research institute. They presented a detailed approach to the national strategy’s most important facet: its research plans. A sum of 665 million euro will be available for the coming 4 years; 60% of these funds are governmental and 40% come from external investment.

It is no secret France is determined to become a rivalling party to the US’s dominant position in the international competition. To make France an attractive choice for French and foreign students and researchers alike, a budget of 70 million euro has been granted to the creation of 200 research chairs. The first 40 chairs will be created by 2019; Inria and the National Research Agency will open the positions in the spring of 2019. France is however actively reaching out to potential partners – such as Germany and Canada. They signed a declaration with the latter to start a project on the creation of an international AI study group focused on developing responsible AI.

The IRIT was congratulated by Vidal on the work already done within the local ecosystem. The aim is to organize four promising ecosystems to harness their combined full potential, called the 3IA’s (interdisciplinary institute for Artificial Intelligence). Four different institutes – Paris, Toulouse, Grenoble and Nice – were chosen to become an interdisciplinary institute on Artificial Intelligence. They will share a sum of 100 million euro from the AI for Humanity budget and will receive another 300 million euro from public-private funds. This will allow them to fund new laboratories and research grants.

60 million was set aside for public-private laboratories, so called “labcoms”, of which 50 are meant to be created. The 60 million euro provided by the government must be met by an investment of equal value from the private party.

The most notable and exciting announcement was the arrival of a new French AI flagship: a supercomputer, worth 115 million euros, with a processing power of over 10 Petaflops. It is meant to be functional in 2020 and will be installed at the “plateau de Saclay” – a scientific research hub to the South-West of Paris.