Artificial Intelligence
5 April 2019

Artificial intelligence: a time of historical technological revolution

Bruno Le Maire, on a visit to an artificial intelligence (AI) development laboratory in Bezons (Val d’Oise) on 4 April 2019, and Florence Parly, on a visit to the DATAIA Convergence Institute in Saclay (Essonne) on 5 April, both spoke on the theme of artificial intelligence and the crucial importance of this disruptive technology.
So, what is AI? We could call it a "brain" that has been digitally reconstructed and implanted into machines capable of performing simple but also more complex tasks which until now have been performed by humans. One example is the driverless car, capable of completing a journey while respecting road safety regulations, all without anyone at the wheel.

All sectors are affected, such as banking and finance, transport and logistics, and health with expert diagnostic support systems. This list is not exhaustive. Artificial brains are, moreover, capable of learning and progressing.

"We are at a time of historical technological revolution", said Minister of Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire, on a visit in Bezons (Val d’Oise), on 4 April 2019, to the Atos AI Lab, a company dedicated to artificial intelligence.

This is an analysis shared by the Minister for the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, who was on a visit to the DataIA Convergence Institute in Saclay today: "it is clear", the French Armed Forces must invest in AI. "It’s a strategic technology essential to our operational superiority", she said.

Indeed, beyond driverless vehicles, big data processing and futuristic AI-guided robot demonstrations, artificial intelligence has a strategic dimension linked to sovereignty.

Conquering our technological sovereignty

The AI revolution is not just about technological and commercial development. It is, according to Bruno Le Maire, about "political sovereignty." For the Minister, there can be no "political sovereignty without technological sovereignty, and no technological sovereignty without full mastery of AI." AI is the cornerstone of France’s technological independence.

This is why, from the very first days of his five-year mandate, the President of the Republic has sought to define French AI strategy to make it "the backbone of France’s technological assertion", said Bruno Le Maire.

On 8 September 2017, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe entrusted a task to Cédric Villani, mathematician and MP for Essonne, its aim being to lay the foundations of an ambitious French AI strategy, with four main priority areas: defence, environment, health and transport.

France’s artificial intelligence strategy was once again presented, on 29 March 2018, by the President of the Republic during the "AI for Humanity" conference at the Collège de France.

French Defence is ready

"AI is nothing more or less than the guarantee of the highest level of protection for French people" and "within the Ministry [for the Armed Forces], we are all, without exception, making this technological shift", stated Florence Parly.

She added: “We will invest €100 million per year between 2019 and 2025 in core AI technologies. […] This effort involves all weapons programmes."

In the field of equipment, several areas of investment can be identified: decision and planning support, intelligence, robotics and cyberspace...

An AI for defence coordination cell, composed of a dozen or so multidisciplinary experts, will be responsible for coordinating the Ministry’s action in the area of AI. By 2023, the cell will be supported by a network of 200 AI specialists. "This network will develop the use of AI in all fields, from the theatre of operation to financial affairs management and aeronautical Maintenance in Operational Condition (MCO)", the Minister said.

Financing that meets the challenge

Developing AI in all areas of application is also one of the key points raised by Bruno Le Maire, particularly in respect of SMEs. AI can improve their operational performance, logistics monitoring and quality management. "SMEs who master AI will gain in competitiveness. The success of SMEs will depend on their ability to incorporate AI into their manufacturing processes", he said.

The development of AI requires "very heavy" investment amounting to "hundreds of millions of euros". The resources taken into account by the Government through the provision of financing sufficient to meet the challenges involved include:
  • €800 million for the start-up and initial marketing of AI projects under the "Deep Tech" plan;
  • €30 million respectively to support two disruptive innovation projects: improving health diagnostics and AI certification to avoid algorithm bias.
The economy, defence, health, transport, industry… the AI revolution is happening now, "it is now that we must free up the financial resources to innovate and invest. It is now that we must support our researchers to ensure research that is at the forefront of this technological revolution. It is now that we must forge strategic partnerships in order to face this revolution", said the Minister of Economy and Finance.