March 29, 2018

Macron gears up to battle for EU digital supremacy

By Shoshana Kedem

French President Emmanuel Macron will unveil a strategy to help EU tech firms become the next global giants in a speech today.

The strategy, based on a report by award-winning French mathematician Cédric Villani, is expected to call for new measures to enable France’s digital ecosystem flourish.

These will include revisions to data privacy laws and government funding for research and incentives to help lure tech talent back to France, from hubs like Silicon Valley.

In the speech, to be delivered this afternoon at the College de France research centre in Paris, Macron will also highlight the need for EU tech firms to share more data to help bridge the gap in artificial intelligence in Europe and the US and China.

The new strategy comes as the EU risks being left behind in a digital revolution led by the US and China — both of whom have vowed to become the global leaders in AI.

AI forms part of Macron’s campaign pledge to make France the next “startup nation” and a hot-bed for new firms to compete with the likes of Apple, Alphabet’s Google and Facebook.

Villiani, who was appointed as a minister in the technocratic government of France’s youngest president last year, won a Fields medal for mathematics in 2010.

Why It Matters:

Small tech startups based in Paris have thrived in recent years as the city emerges as a European hub for for tech, specialising in engineering and innovations in robotics, AI, and autonomous systems.

Alphabet and Facebook have also targeted the city in their AI expansion plans.

Google announced the launch of a new research lab in Paris in January, while Facebook said it will invest €10 million ($12.2 million) on hardware and equipment in its Paris research centre.

Alongside budget increases, Facebook said it was doubling the team in its Parisian artificial intelligence lab to 100 people by 2022.

South Korean electronics giant Samsung also announced plans to build its third-biggest AI research and development centre in Paris today.

France is the home of the largest concentration of tech talent in the world, a report by Wavestone revealed, with many moving abroad to global hubs like Silicon Valley.

Source: Wavestone


Last year Macron placed digital disruption and innovation at the centre of his economic policy, rolling out a plans for $12 billion innovation fund.

Macron has also been pushing for an EU proposal for a 3% tax on the digital revenues of the biggest technology firms, expected to target the largest US tech giants such as Amazon, Google, and Facebook.

Half of the companies that will be worse affected are based in the US and one-third are European, according to European Commission estimates.

The tech tax comes as firms argue the EU’s new data privacy rules, known as GDPR and due to come into effect 25 May 2018, will hamper the development and use of AI in Europe, and put EU firms at a competitive disadvantage compared to rivals in North America and Asia.

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