Billionaires including Eric Schmidt plow $300 million into a non-profit that is France’s latest push to catch up in AI

Billionaires Xavier Niel, Rodolphe Saadé and Eric Schmidt have announced the creation of a new non-profit artificial intelligence research laboratory in Paris, marking France’s latest initiative to develop sovereign AI technology.

The Iliad of Niel and that of Saadé CMA-CGM SA will each invest 100 million euros ($108 million), the two businessmen told an AI-Pulse panel. conference in Paris on Friday. Ancient Google CEO Eric Schmidt, also at the event, will invest an undisclosed amount through Schmidt Ventures.

The lab, called Kyutai, will benefit from a total funding of 300 million euros and produce open source research, investors said. Some of its scientists previously worked for Google and Alphabet Inc. Metaplatforms Inc.

France is looking for ways to gain a foothold in AI as countries race to harness the emerging technology for economic growth and influence. American tech giants like Microsoft Corp., Google and Inc. is investing billions of dollars in AI development, eclipsing European efforts.

Niel and Saadé are both seeded investors in the very lively Mistral AI in France, a generative artificial intelligence start-up founded this year and which, in September released his first major language model. They also invested in Poolside AI, whose American founders chose Paris as their base.

CMA CGM, struggling with a slump in the shipping industry, plans to use AI to optimize its operations, human resources and customer relations tools, a company spokesperson told Bloomberg.

Friday’s conference included several scientists hired by the new lab. The group includes former Valeo Patrick Perez, scientific director of SA, Neil Zeghidour and Laurent Mazare, formerly of Google deep mind — and Hervé Jégou, Edouard Grave and Alexandre Defossez, former students of Meta.

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