Britain, France ramp up AI investments


France and the UK announce hundreds of millions of dollars of AI investment as Europe plays catch-up with the US and China.

British and French leaders went all out this week to pitch their respective countries as hubs for AI research and development.

Speaking at VivaTech in Paris, one of Europe’s biggest technology trade shows, French President Emmanuel Macron promised that France would invest €500 million euros ($542 million) to make his country an “AI champion.”

"We must simultaneously accelerate research, innovation, and the creation of a powerful ecosystem and participate in regulation whose scope must be as wide as possible," he said.

Macron was speaking just hours after the European Parliament approved the EU’s AI Act, which has still to be agreed by member states. The French president suggested his government would push against regulation that stifles investment and innovation.

"The worst scenario would be a Europe that invests much less than the Americans and the Chinese but starts by creating regulation. This scenario is possible but it would not be the one I would support," he said.

The president shared the stage with the founder of several French startups, including Mistral AI. Founded only a month ago, the company announced this week that it had raised 105 million euros ($114 million) in seed investment, a record in Europe.

Elon Musk is expected to attend VivaTech on Friday (June 16th), and will meet Macron to discuss potential investments in France.

“Tectonic” shift

AI was also a big talking point at the London Tech Week, with the UK keen to keep its crown as Europe’s leading tech powerhouse.

“If our goal is to make this country the best place in the world for tech, AI is surely one of the greatest opportunities before us,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said as he opened the event on Monday (June 12th).

British companies raised £24 billion ($30 billion) in capital in 2022, more than France ($15 billion) and Germany ($11.5 billion) combined, and the UK became the third country in the world last year with a tech sector valued at $1 trillion, behind only the US and China.

“But at a moment like this, when the tectonic plates of technology are shifting… we cannot rest, satisfied with where we stand,” Sunak said.

The UK government said this week it would invest £54 million ($68 million) to develop “secure and trustworthy” AI research, with the country’s universities set to benefit from the scheme.

The British government will also invest £75.6 million ($96 million) in a network of research labs across the country to develop next-generation technology solutions, including AI, for the country’s creative industries. The program will be additionally supported by £63 million ($80 million) investments from industry.

The US and China continue to lead the global AI arms race, with $25 billion invested in AI-related companies in the US this year alone, according to data from Dealroom.co, a private tech investments tracker.

In comparison, $4 billion has been invested in Europe, Britain and Israel included.


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