France to spend 1.5 bln euros on artificial intelligence by 2022

The investment is part of an AI strategy laid out by President Emmanuel Macron

Reuters Agency

France will invest 1.5 billion euros ($1.85 billion) of public money into artificial intelligence research by 2022 in a bid to catch up with the United States and China and reverse a brain drain.

The investment is part of an AI strategy laid out by President Emmanuel Macron at the elite College de France research institute in Paris, the French presidency said.

The goal is to make better use of the French higher education system that trains computer engineers and mathematicians only to see them leave for jobs at top U.S. tech companies.

Some of them have secured high-level positions at Alphabet , the parent company of search engine Google, and Facebook, which opened an AI research centre in Paris in 2015.

Macron's AI plan was inspired by a government-commissioned report by Cedric Villani, the self-styled "Lady Gaga of Mathematics" and winner of the mathematics equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

Villani, who is also a lawmaker in Macron's party, said in the report the brain drain to Silicon Valley companies showed the excellence of French schools.

However, it also points to the need for greater collaboration between government research centres and private companies to keep the best minds at home.

"What a waste," said Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire earlier on Thursday. "France pays for the training of doctoral students who then head to the United States."

In a sign Macron's efforts to woo top scientists and businesses may be starting to bear fruit, Samsung Electronics , Japan's Fujitsu and London-based Google-owned Deepmind announced plans to beef up their operations in Paris earlier.


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