Online Artificial Intelligence (AI) Mission France - Background information | RVO.nl

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Online Artificial Intelligence (AI) Mission France - Background information

Artificial Intelligence (AI) will have an impact on our economic and personal well-being. Due to its generic nature, AI will affect all business sectors, our private lives and society as a whole. The effort with which we act now will determine the control over our future. We will notice the effects of our efforts within 10 years from now. So, the Netherlands must build and keep a strong and unique position in the development of AI and its applications. We must work with AI now to determine how to use it to benefit from social and economic challenges. AI is not an end goal; it is a powerful tool that solves economic and social issues.

Common approach

To stimulate Dutch AI activities, the Dutch AI Coalition has been set up (NL AIC). NL AIC is a public-private partnership of governments, industries, educational and research institutes and civil society organisations. Its aim is to speed up AI developments and connect AI initiatives in the Netherlands. And to give the Netherlands a leading position in the knowledge of AI applications. All applications will follow Dutch and European standards and values. NL AIC works as the main booster for AI applications in the Netherlands. Another goal is to realise impactful AI innovations in at least 10 economic and social sectors within 3 years. This is where we apply AI and work on our earning capacity and dealing with societal challenges.

Working groups’ areas of application

AI is a generic technology that, in the end, is suitable for use in all sectors. It is important to focus on specific industries that are relevant to the Netherlands. Industries where we can achieve good results. Industries where we can scale up knowledge and experience for AI’s application in other sectors. There are specific working groups for the following application areas:

  • Energy and Sustainability;
  • Safety, Peace and Law;
  • Technical Industry;
  • Education;
  • Agriculture and Food;
  • Defence;
  • Health and Care;
  • Public and Financial Services, and
  • Mobility, Transportation and Logistics.

Working group leaders and participants will look for the best AI opportunities and challenges in their fields. They will also connect partners and develop a programme.

NL AIC also works together on the knowledge, expertise and results of 5 themes. They are essential for an innovative impact in economic and social application areas. The 5 themes are:

  1. Human Capital: the availability of enough talent, including training courses and follow-up training courses;
  2. Research and Innovation: developing new AI knowledge through scientific and applied research. Making it accessible to stakeholders;
  3. Data Sharing: making data available and sharing data;
  4. Social acceptance, frameworks, inclusion: involving end-users in research, innovation and application. Developing ethical, legal and social frameworks in co-creation;
  5. Startups and Scaleups: tapping into and leveraging resources, data and partners (match-making) for their business developments.

Read more in the action plan on Nlaic.com.

France & AI

In Europe, France is leading the way in AI by seeking international cooperation. On 29 March 2018, President Macron launched his plan to invest €1.5 billion in AI over the next 5 years. His vision was to place France among the world leaders in AI R&D and innovation. The €1.5 billion is invested in:

  • Developing offensive data policy;
  • Focusing on 4 strategic sectors;
  • Boosting French research;
  • Planning the impact of AI on the labour market;
  • Making AI more environmental-friendly;
  • Opening the AI black boxes, and
  • AI as support for inclusivity and diversity.

This strategy has 4 lines of action:

1. Strengthening the French (and by extension, European) ecosystem

The idea is to further develop AI technology into innovations ready to take to the market. France has a leading position with its mathematics and computer science talents. Recent and announced AI investments from global players such as Facebook, Google, Deepmind, and Samsung confirm this vision. The strategy includes a national research programme, led by the National Institute of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics (INRIA). 4 to 5 dedicated institutes have established themselves in research centres across the country already. The ambition is to set up various chairs focused on AI excellence, attracting foreign talent, and preventing a possible ‘brain drain’. To improve the attractiveness of this scientific ecosystem, Macron announced plans to increase the time publicly funded scientists can spend on activities in private companies from 20% to 50%. He has also committed to doubling the number of AI students in the coming years and strengthening AI-relevant courses. All in all, France is investing €1.5 billion in AI, including €400 million for calls for proposals. €100 million was announced at the launch in March 2018 to support start-up companies. France also hopes to attract a further €500 million in private investment. France also wants to create more space for experimental projects.

2. Data and openness of data

Databases are the foundation of AI. Following open science principles, government data and data from publicly funded projects will become open to the public. The areas this can be applied to are health and transport/autonomous vehicles. In France, people are convinced that AI in healthcare can make a difference. It will contribute to preventing pathologies (diseases), help to prescribe personalised medication and detect tumours early on. Other sectors where France sees the potential for innovation are energy and agriculture. Think of the benefits of smarter use of pesticides thanks to better use of (public) data. Data platforms play an important role in this context.

3. Regulatory and financial framework

France emphasises the importance of an adequate regulatory and financial framework. It is necessary to help AI innovations towards market introduction. For example, the development of autonomous vehicles, common standards, and the protection of privacy.

4. Ethics and politics

The AI strategy includes a focus on AI ethics to ensure that algorithms that support AI are in everyone's interest. One suggestion is setting up an IPCC for AI, along the lines of the United Nation's 'Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change'. The aim is to have voluntary and independent scientists to test AI research. After all, France sees possible tensions in the use of AI, depending on geographical factors (United States, China) and associated values (role of the state, the dominant role of the private sector, collective versus private interests, transparency in the use of data, democratic decision-making processes, public trust, and so on). The use of algorithms should also guarantee objective decision-making, without bias or discrimination.

The first results were clear soon enough.

AI ambassador appointed

One of the recommendations was to appoint an AI ambassador. Their job is to supervise the correct implementation of the AI strategy by the ministries involved. The ambassador has been appointed.

AI institutes

4 interdisciplinary AI institutes (3IA, Instituts interdisciplinaires d'intelligence artificielle) are now operational: 1 in Grenoble (MIAI @ Grenoble-Alpes), 1 in Nice (3IA Côte d'Azur), 1 in Paris (Prairie) and 1 in Toulouse (Aniti). The task of these institutes is to set up training courses and research on the following themes: health, sustainable development, transport, regions and energy. Together they will be given 100 million euros over 4 years. The business community will also provide 1 euro for every public euro to support the new structures, through research grants or a chair, for example.

Super AI computer

The computer is available. It has a computing power of 14 petaflops and is called 'Jean Zay'. The super calculator is located on the Saclay plateau, the ‘Silicon Valley of Paris’.

Financing

France aims to establish sector policies around major challenges. That is the aim of the Fonds pour l'Innovation et l'Indurken (FII, formerly known as ‘Fonds pour l'innovation de rupture’). The fund contains 10 billion euros but must generate 250 million euros per year. Resources have also been promised to deep-tech startups, through the Banque publique d’investissement (BpiFrance). Thematic Grand Challenges have now also been launched on the market. These Challenges are aimed at stimulating innovative breakthrough and industrial development. €150 million per year has been set aside for this purpose. The first round focused on AI in medical diagnostics and the certification of safe and reliable systems.

Global Partnership

In December 2018, France and Canada confirmed that they would set up a think tank on AI and ethics, the G2IA. This is an international group of experts on artificial intelligence, based on the IPCC model. The GPAI has officially been launched at the initiative of France and Canada, and countries worldwide. The OECD in Paris hosts the secretariat. There are also 2 Centres of Expertise, 1 in Paris and 1 in Montreal.

Industry in France

The French industry is involved in the development and application of AI. In July 2019, France signed an AI Manifesto committing itself to setting up industrial labs and PPPs. Major industries such as Air Liquide, Dassault, EDF, Renault, Safran, Thales, Total, Valeo, Orange, ST Microelectronic, Michelin and Naval have committed themselves to this manifesto. Academia and RTOs such as INRIA, CEA, Polytechnique, Saclay, Sorbonne and Grenoble are also involved. So far, 20 partnerships have been set up, including 5 labs and 10 chairs.

Earlier in 2019, an extensive report was published on the state of the art of AI and the perspectives in France. This report provides, among other things, in-depth sectoral insights in health, agriculture, energy, mobility, and so on.  

France and AI in a European context

France is committed to AI collaboration in a European context. Thus, France has taken the initiative to set up the first European AI Village and margin of the Global Industry. The Global Industry is one of the largest industry events in France. Key figures: 2,500 exhibitors on 100,000m2, 45,861 visitors from 85 countries. The European AI Village, with about 1,000 m2, is part of the Smart Industries module. Participating countries are France, Germany, Finland and Belgium. The Netherlands will take part with a country pavilion with speakers and match-making for participating companies. Due to COVID-19, this event has been postponed until 2021.

Background information on AI and France

Since the launch of the French national AI strategy, the Innovation Attaché Network has posted 43 news stories about AI in France on the Innovation blog of the embassy in Paris. These news items deal with technological developments, realisations, and AI applications on, for example, health and mobility. Please find more reports on this topic on this innovation blog.