To ensure that “France does not miss the train of artificial intelligence”, Emmanuel Macron had announced in March 2018 a plan of 1.5 billion euros to develop the ecosystem of artificial intelligence and attract new researchers. Part of the measures announced were inspired by Cédric Villani’s report, which called for “the awakening of France and Europe” in terms of AI. In the continuity of this plan, this Monday, November 8, 2021, the Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, Frédérique Vidal and the Secretary of State in charge of Digital Transition and Electronic Communications, Cédric O, presented a new phase of the national strategy for AI for which 2 billion euros of public-private co-financing will be allocated.
This €1.5 billion plan had enabled the creation and development of a network of interdisciplinary artificial intelligence institutes (3IA), financial support for chairs of excellence in AI, funding for doctoral programs and public research computing capacities with, in particular, the Jean Zay GENCI/IDRIS/Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique supercomputer which enabled the Minerva project, among others.
Investments for artificial intelligence innovation have increased considerably in recent years as national and regional aid has risen from €170M in 2018 to €1MD in 2021. This year, France Digitale counted 502 start-ups specialized in AI , an 11% increase in 1 year. Among them, six unicorns stand out (ContentSquare, Dental Monitoring, Shift Technology, Alan, Mirakl, Meero).
Emmanuel Macron stressed the importance of French technological sovereignty in the Plan 2030 thanks to high-performance digital trust solutions. To achieve this goal, new AI players will have to be trained and a new step in the national strategy is essential. It is these new measures that Ms. Frédérique Vidal and Cédric O. Ms. Vidal stated:
“The President of the Republic announced in 2018 an ambitious course, to make France a world leader in artificial intelligence. In 4 years, never has a government mobilized so much in favor of training, research and innovation to consolidate our place and continue to attract the best talents. The 2nd phase of the national artificial intelligence strategy that we are announcing today will
accelerate this approach, consistent with the objectives of France 2030, to transform our scientific potential into real economic successes.”
Training new talent
In order to have a leading position in the field of AI at the global level and to be able to recruit new talent while they are very rare, attracting and training the best international candidates in AI is proving to be crucial. More than half of the public investment will therefore be devoted to this“ambitious programme to bring about a network of excellent, world-class institutions and a massive AI training plan” within universities and grandes écoles, i.e. €781M. Cédric O said:
“In line with the ambition of France 2030, talent is at the heart of our strategy: the clusters of excellence and international scope will enable our country to play a reference role in the field of AI and will participate, within a broader training plan, to provide our ecosystem of startups and companies undergoing transformation with the skills they sorely need.
Overall, this ambitious strategy should allow us to “transform the trial” of the first phase and bring out the future AI champions.”
Strengthening and accelerating R&D potential
The previous phase was mainly dedicated to research, this one aims at strengthening and accelerating the R&D potential, the use of new generations of AI can generate significant economic benefits.
With new talents, the competitiveness of French companies will be boosted and they will take the lead in emerging markets such as embedded AI, edge computing, trust technologies for the explicability and reliability of algorithms needed in many advanced sectors (industry 4.0, energy, aeronautics or autonomous vehicle) and the development of an energy-efficient AI
The other main measures for 2025
- Massive investment in new generations of embedded AI, responsible and trusted AI and development platforms for AI software, models and applications, including open-source (€1.22bn);
- Supporting 500 SMEs and ETIs in the adoption and use of AI solutions by 2025(€25M);
- Scaling up existing start-up accelerators, to triple the number of AI start-ups created from a concept stemming from fundamental research by 2025 (€40M);
- The launch of demonstrators for the use of energy-efficient AI in important sectors in order to achieve the objectives of the fight against climate change: sustainable cities, intelligent buildings, mobility, precision agriculture (€120M).
Creation of new networks and improvement of existing ones
The second part of the strategy will use structuring networks and projects:
- The network of the four 3IAs at the heart of public-private research (Prairie in Paris, Aniti in Toulouse, 3IA Côte d’azur in Nice and MIAI Grenoble Alpes) as well as other research centres of excellence such as the Data AI Institute (Paris Saclay University), SCAI (Sorbonne University), Hi! Paris (Institut Polytechnique de Paris).
- The Confiance.ai program, a software platform to certify and secure critical and complex artificial intelligence systems, initiated by the Grand Défi of phase 1 of the strategy and public-private partnership (Renault, Valeo, Airbus, Safran, Thales, Atos, SopraSteria, NavalGroup, Air Liquide, IRT System-X, IRT Saint-Exupéry, CEA, Inria). With the 2nd phase, investments for trusted AI will increase from €45M to €271M
- Scikit-learn, initiated at Inria and the only European software library on data science, whose functionalities and applications will be improved to provide industrial players with a sovereign technological infrastructure for extracting, publishing and exchanging their data, and then exploiting it thanks to a wide range of functionalities.
To enable the rapid implementation of this strategy, a call for projects was launched this Monday, November 8, concerning the development of a new generation embedded offer and the first shift will take place from the end of January 2022. The CEA, INRIA and CNRS are planning a research program around disruptive technologies: 134M€ will be dedicated to it. This program will benefit from academic research in areas ranging from hardware to software, from energy consumption to the development of new architectures.
The revised European Coordinated Plan on Artificial Intelligence and this strategy have common objectives, including the development of a reference offer in embedded AI or an acceleration of the ecological transition thanks to AI.
Two billion euros for this second phase
The strategy will benefit from €1.5 billion in public funds and €500 million in private funds. The future investment programs allocate €557M, €228M for the implementation planned from 2021 to 2022 and €420M for the years 2023 02025. France 2030 will also invest €700M for AI training by 2025.