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– Entrepreneurs Back $300 Million AI Non-Profit in France

France is looking for ways to get a foothold in AI as countries race to harness the emerging techno…

A new volunteer artificial intelligence research laboratory has been unveiled in Paris by entrepreneurs Xavier Niel, Rodolphe Saadé, and Eric Schmidt, indicating France’s latest initiative to develop cutting-edge AI systems.

During a segment of the AI-Signal conference in Paris last Friday, the two entrepreneurs announced that Niel’s Iliad and Saadé’s CMA CGM SA each pledged €100 million ($108 million) towards this endeavor. Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, also confirmed an undisclosed investment through Schmidt Ventures.

The project, named kyutai, is set to receive a total funding of €300 million and will focus on open-source research, as disclosed by the investors. Notably, some of the experts involved in this venture have previously worked for Google and Meta Platforms Inc., both subsidiaries of Alphabet.

As countries worldwide harness the potential of AI for economic advancement and global influence, France is actively seeking to carve a niche in this domain. While tech giants in the US such as Microsoft Corp., Google, and Amazon.com Inc. are pouring billions into AI research, Europe’s efforts pale in comparison.

Mistral AI, a prominent French company established this year, introduced its first significant language model in September, with Niel and Saadé serving as initial investors. Moreover, they have also backed Poolside AI, a group of American professionals who chose to establish their base in Paris.

According to a director at CMA CGM, the company aims to leverage AI to optimize its operations, human resources, and customer service tools, particularly within the challenging transport sector.

The conference last Friday was attended by a cohort of experts who have joined the new research facility. Among them are former Valeo SA research director Patrick Perez, along with Neil Zeghidour and Laurent Mazare—both formerly associated with Google’s DeepMind—and Meta scholars Hervé Jégou, Edouard Grave, and Alexandre Defossez.

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Last modified: February 17, 2024
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