why the world of AI loves France – L’Express

why the world of AI loves France – LExpress

The big names from Silicon Valley rarely travel to the Old Continent. Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, however, insisted on making the trip to Paris on February 15. The group announced this Thursday the opening of a new hub dedicated to artificial intelligence (AI). Located at 50 rue d’Amsterdam, in the 9th arrondissement, it brings together more than 300 researchers and engineers from the group and will become a place to share with the dynamic French AI ecosystem.

The fact that the big boss of Alphabet and Google is traveling in person for the occasion shows one thing: the importance that France has taken in the field. While the national scene is lagging behind in previous technological developments – cloud, software, etc. – Paris is this time on the right track. France already has more than 140 generative artificial intelligence start-ups on its soil, one of which in particular, Mistral AI, is the envy of people internationally. The start-up co-founded by Arthur Mensch, Guillaume Lample and Timothée Lacroix in April 2023 has indeed built some of the most powerful large language models (LLMs), in a surprisingly short time.

READ ALSO: Mistral AI: the three challenges awaiting the French prodigy

The driving force behind this French dynamic? The possibility offered in AI, more than in other technologies, that a limited number of people can achieve significant progress. Last December, when Mistral AI completed a generous funding round of 385 million euros, propelling its valuation to around 2 billion dollars, it had… only 22 employees in its ranks.

A network of AI centers in Paris

In such small teams, every brain is a strategic outlet. But the country knows how to produce AI brains. “France is rich in talent through its scientific and mathematical heritage and its excellent training,” points out Joëlle Barral, director of AI research at Google DeepMind. The Gafam seduction operation, carried out by Paris during the 2010s, has also borne fruit.

American tech giants have opened several leading laboratories in the capital: Meta in 2015, DeepMind and its parent company Alphabet in 2018… Thanks to which the best French AI experts were able to train on the most advanced infrastructures. most powerful in the world. This is also the case for the creators of Mistral, one at DeepMind, the other two at Meta. Kyutai, the laboratory of excellence in AI launched in November by Xavier Niel (Iliad), Rodolphe Saadé (CMA CGM) and Eric Schmidt (the former boss of Google) also strengthens the attractiveness of France on the global AI scene. ‘artificial intelligence.

READ ALSO: Generative AI: a miracle method so that they no longer make mistakes?

Our country also has “considerable assets in the scientific field, with its 500,000 researchers [NDLR : de disciplines variées] and leading institutions such as the CNRS, Inria, Paris-Saclay, the Institut Curie, or the PSL University (Paris Sciences & Lettres) including in particular the ENS-PSL”, underlines the Google press release. , which works to establish cooperation with these institutions. Sundar Pichai’s program for February 15 includes a meeting with the management of the Institut Curie, the teams from PSL University and the Women’s Cancer Institute, in order to “imagine new bridges between the worlds of research and AI. However, training AI geniuses is not everything. Many countries are seeking to strengthen their sectors in this area and, with zeros on checks, compete to attract the best profiles. France would be wrong to rest on its laurels.