Macron Unveils $1.9 Billion Technology Push to Rival U.S., China

  • President says France must close artificial-intelligence gap
  • Seeks Germany as partner in data sharing, research offensive

Emmanuel Macron

Photographer: Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg

President Emmanuel Macron pledged to spend 1.5 billion euros ($1.9 billion) over the next five years and allow expanded data-sharing to help make France a leader in artificial intelligence.

Unveiling his strategy for closing Europe’s AI gap with the U.S. and China, Macron said joint projects with Germany will get priority funding. France will take steps to loosen rules on experiments and offer incentives for researchers to work in France, though European rules on privacy would still apply.

“We must not fall into the old French trap of looking at the negative aspects of a new technology and using that as an excuse to refuse the technology,” Macron said in a speech in Paris on Thursday. “We must not be afraid, but we must also not be naive to think that change will by itself bring the proper regulation of its side effects.”

Read more: Math ‘Spiderman’ Is Unlikely Warrior in Macron’s Science Battle

French officials say that after missing out on leading the internet and robotics revolutions, they want to make France a leader in AI. Samsung Electronics Co., Alphabet Inc.’s DeepMind and Fujitsu Ltd. used their presence at the Paris event to announce plans to expand AI research facilities in the Paris region.

Anja Karliczek, Germany’s minister for research, spoke before Macron and said their two countries need to cooperate to exploit the opportunities of AI, while managing the risks to society.

“We want to stay at the forefront of developments,” she said. “German and French companies must stand their ground against strong competition from China and the U.S.”

“The point of technology is to make our lives easier, not take decisions out of our hands,” Karliczek said.

— With assistance by Tony Czuczka, and Helene Fouquet

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