France will dedicate 1.5 billion euros (1.85 billion U.S. dollars) to developing artificial intelligence (AI) by 2022, President Emmanuel Macron announced here on Thursday.
During a speech to the "artificial intelligence for humanity" conference, Macron presented strategies to develop new technology in order to make France one of the "world leaders" in AI.
Mathematician and national assembly representative Cedric Villani said AI "concerns the whole society" and spoke of the "wake up call to France and Europe".
The French president said: "We must not have fear or refuse change. We must neither be naive", in order to "define the route which will allow us to have a strategy for AI".
Macron wants to base his strategy on "four principal pillars" revolving around the IA ecosystem in France and the EU, data policy, international competition and ethics and regulation.
The five-year AI plan will involve 1.5 billion euros of public funds of which almost 400 million is marked for projects and disruptive innovation challenges.
Macron praised "the excellence of French schooling in math and computer science which is a major advantage, as can attest many French people in management of the largest global companies in AI (Facebook, Google, Samsung, Deepmind)."
He also celebrated the announcements, made Wednesday night, of the relocation to France of major AI research centers.
Deepmind, the company responsible for AlphaGo, will open in France its first European research center, while Google will endow a chair IA at the French Polytechnic Institute.
Macron on Wednesday night received at the Presidential Palace some 15 top players in the industry, including the French Yann Le Cun (AI head at Facebook), Japanese Noriko Arai, who programmed a robot capable of passing a university exam, and the Britain Demis Hassabis, founder of DeepMind.
"The will of France is to build a research hub on the best global level in AI through a national program... attracting the best researchers worldwide, or even the doubling of capacity for AI training," Macron said Thursday.
The head of the French state intends to cut red tape, putting the accent on research and the reallocation of existing budgets, in order to allow a friendly ecosystem for future AI champions to emerge.
In order to favor the "porosity" between the public and the private, the government intends to simplify administrative steps for launching a start-up, to accelerate the oversight procedures for scientific projects, to increase by 20 to 50 percent the time that a research can dedicate to a private entity.
Macron launched a "call for the general mobilization around data".
"The European way which postulates that everyone must be able to stay in charge of their data is the right one," he said, insisting on the "necessity to construct the framework of a national and European digital sovereignty".
He also announced the "creation of the health data hub, a structure partnering producers and users of data, which will lead the ongoing enrichment and the image of the national system for health data".
France will publish in April its strategy for self-driving vehicles, with the ambition to join the global race in terms of testing and industrialization, he said before mentioning the establishment of an "intergovernmental group of experts on AI" in charge of leading a future-oriented reflection on the ethical impacts of artificial intelligence.