Facebook, Google Pledge to Expand AI Investments in France

After top Google and Facebook executives met with French president Emmanuel Macron, the tech companies vowed to invest artificial intelligence resources in that country’s capital. Google will create a Paris-based AI lab focused on research into automatic learning, language and computer vision. Facebook, which already has created an AI lab in Paris, plans to double its 50-person team there by 2022 and spend 10 million euros ($12.2 million). Both companies also pledge to train that country’s citizens on digital tools.

Bloomberg reports that, with its new AI lab in Paris, Google’s goal is to “grow this group to a size similar to Google’s existing team of 120 engineers who do applied research in Paris, working on developments for Chrome and YouTube.”

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“France has all the assets to succeed,” said Google chief executive Sundar Pichai, who stated that Google plans “a broader hiring target to reach 1,000 employees” at its Paris headquarters, up from 700 today. “It has top engineers, great entrepreneurs, one of the best education systems in the world, great infrastructure, and successful global companies.”

Both Pichai and Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, with 140 other top executives from several industries, were Macron’s guests at Versailles, where they “were invited to attend presentations by ministers, as well as private meetings and dinner with the president,” all intended to convince more chief executives to invest in France.

SAP SE, Europe’s “biggest software company,” announced it will “invest 2 billion euros over five years in France on research and development,” and that it has also bought French company Recast.AI, “which develops conversational chatbots” and is “part of SAP’s efforts to add voice recognition to its products.”

Two years ago, Macron also “used the grandeur of Versailles to try and convince technology-focused venture-capitalists, including Andreessen Horowitz and Accel Partners, that France is a good place for their money.” He’s also said that he would like to establish “France and Europe as leaders” in AI, competing with the U.S. and China.

Macron hasn’t yet revealed a strategy, however, awaiting a report by Parliament member Cedric Villani. Recently, he “toughened his stance” on such issues as taxes and tech companies.