France and UK governments in major AI tie-up, focused on research and innovation
The French and UK governments have signed a five-year accord to work together to improve digital services through state-level collaboration on artificial intelligence (AI), data and digital administration.
Mounir Mahjoubi and Matt Hancock, digital secretaries for France and the UK respectively, ratified the deal today at the Digital Colloque event in Paris, a summit of more than 350 businesses, researchers and officials from both countries.
Hancock commented: “The UK is a digital dynamo, increasingly recognised across the world as a place where ingenuity and innovation can flourish. We are home to four in ten of Europe’s tech businesses worth more than $1 billion and London is the AI capital of Europe.
“France is also doing great work in this area, and these new partnerships show the strength and depth of our respective tech industries and are the first stage in us developing a closer working relationship. This will help us better serve our citizens and provide a boost for our digital economies.”
In tandem, leading research centres in both countries have joined forces to collaborate on artificial intelligence and data analytics. DATAIA in France and the Alan Turing Institute in the UK will join their research programmes around shared interests, and promote wider collaboration between the French and UK digital sectors.
Notably, the two institutions will collaborate on research into issues like fairness and transparency in the design and implementation of algorithms in the application of AI-related mechanisms. They will also share expertise, host joint workshops, and negotiate on funding calls.
Alan Wilson, chief executive of The Alan Turing Institute, said: “The Institute and DATAIA share a vision for building research in data science and AI which crosses disciplinary boundaries and recognises the societal implications of data and algorithms. It is a pleasure to kickstart this engagement and we look forward to working with them to advance UK and French excellence in this area.”
Meanwhile, London start-up accelerator Entrepreneur First will open a fifth international office in Paris.
AI, distinguished from analytics and automation, will spur industrial innovation and productivity, according to recent reports and pilots.
The Brexit-bound UK announced a £1 billion joint investment to stimulate the country’s AI industry in April. The move followed on the heels of a push by the European Commission to raise €20 billion of new funds for AI development in the European Union, which the UK is quitting in March 2019. It also followed France president Emmanuel Macron’s €1.5 billion national AI package at the end of March, and attends similar state sponsored AI programmes from most developed nations.
Curiously, the US is preceived to be behind other nations in trems of its industrial-digital strategy, with one seior industry commentator observing a “two-speed market” between the US on one side and Europea and Asia on the other. The US tech industry has been at the forefront of the AI movement, as it has all developments in digital technology in the last 30 years. Federal interventionism has been rare, especially in an industry that is increasingly propping up the wider economy.
Even so, the last US presidential administration, under Barack Obama, was quick to research the risks and rewards of the technology, publishing at least two key papers in late 2016 – a review of and a plan – that describe a loose programme to establish the country as the undisputed king of industrial AI, and to hoist up and shore up its economy at the same time.
However, the Trump administration was quick to shelve the recommendations. Nevertheless, the White House hosted 100 government officials, research academics, and business leaders in May to discuss AI in the context of funding, regulation, workers and “military advantage” in May.