French President Emmanuel Macron recently told CNBC’s Karen Tso, “I think we are number one [in AI] in continental Europe, and we have to accelerate.”

With its support for the quickly developing and highly publicised technology, France is making a significant effort to establish itself as Europe’s artificial intelligence hub.

French President Emmanuel Macron recently told CNBC’s Karen Tso, “I think we are number one [in AI] in continental Europe, and we have to accelerate.”

Because AI is regarded as revolutionary and thus strategically significant to governments worldwide, nations are trying to establish themselves as AI hubs. AI is thought to have an impact on a variety of industries, including finance and healthcare, but it has also been drawn into the larger technology conflict between China and the U.S.

The ChatGPT chatbot from American company OpenAI, which has gone viral, is largely to blame for the hype surrounding AI.

Everyone at Viva Tech, France’s annual technology conference, from startups to well-established technology companies to businesses from the cosmetics and banking industries, had AI on the tip of their tongues.

The government’s support for France’s tech push was demonstrated by Macron, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, and Digital Minister Jean-Noel Barrot’s attendance at the event.

According to Macron, France is well-positioned in AI due to its access to talent and the start-ups that are forming around the technology and can establish itself as Europe’s artificial intelligence hub. “We will invest like crazy on training and research,” Macron said to CNBC.

France aspires to catch up to the United States, which is widely recognised as the industry leader in AI.

“Believe me, it is obvious that the United States is leading, and for good reason—it has a sizable domestic market… I want us to invest more, develop more, and accelerate more, in order to clearly close the gap, said Macron.

Even within the European Union, Paris’ ambitions face stiff opposition.

France has a chance to become Europe’s leader, but faces competition from Germany and the UK. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has proposed Britain as a global AI center. To succeed, France must use AI to build on its existing strengths in manufacturing and pharmaceuticals. Dahbura emphasizes strategic investment in AI to build an edge in these areas.

French A.I. companies in focus

AI is dominated by American businesses, with Microsoft and Nvidia among the leaders. France wants to develop two or three “big global players” in the technology because it lacks an AI juggernaut. Macron is a firm believer that startups can expand quickly, and Mistral AI has raised 105 million euros to date. At Viva Tech, additional regional startups displayed their products.

Global A.I. regulation in focus

France’s proposal to become an Artificial Intelligence hub includes a section on technology regulation.

The EU AI Act, a comprehensive first-of-its-kind regulation on artificial intelligence, was approved by the European Parliament. Although it has not yet become law, if it were to, it would introduce a risk-based regulatory approach throughout the EU.

France is generally regarded as a supporter of strict regulation of technology, but it has objected to the EU AI Act’s provisions relating to generative AI, the technology that powers OpenAI’s ChatGPT, because it believes they are overly restrictive.

Concerning the provisions surrounding generative AI, France’s digital minister, Barrot, said, “My concern is that in the recent past few weeks, the EU Parliament… has taken a very sort of strong stance on AI regulation, using, in some sense, this AI act as a way to try and solve too many problems at once.”

France wants a global regulation on artificial intelligence, which it hopes to achieve through the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the G7 group, which also includes the United States and the United Kingdom.

“From my perspective, I believe we do need a regulation, and all the players, including the players from the United States, concur. We require a global regulation, in my opinion,” Macron said.

U.S. seen as frenemy

France views the US as a rival and ally, with French and European companies competing with US giants like Microsoft and Google. However, Washington’s involvement is necessary for global regulation.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire believes fair competition and cooperation on key devices are beneficial for both the US and Europe. He also emphasizes the importance of in-depth discussions with American authorities on the best way to regulate artificial intelligence.