French telecom group invests millions in local AI industry

The French telecommunications group Iliad announced on Sept. 26 that it plans to invest millions of euros to build up the French artificial intelligence (AI) industry. 

Iliad said it has already invested 100 million euros ($106 million) toward creating what it calls an “excellence lab” to be built in Paris dedicated to AI research. According to the announcement, a team of renowned researchers has already been set up, and Iliad chairman Xavier Niel will spearhead it.

Niel said an “entire ecosystem needs to be built up in France,” and the research lab will play a role in that. The lab’s main purpose will be to build general AI to bring to “everyone’s reach” and make AI research publicly available.

In addition to the lab, Iliad has acquired what it deemed as “the most powerful cloud-native AI supercomputer deployed to date in Europe.” An Nvidia DGX SuperPOD equipped with Nvidia DGX H100 systems has been installed at the company’s Datacenter 5 near Paris.

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On acquiring the Nvidia supercomputer, Niel commented:

“To have clout in the AI market, you need computing power. To have computing power, you need supercomputers. And to have supercomputers, you need to invest. To invest massively.”

The company says the DGX SuperPOD produces the power necessary to rapidly train large language models (LLMs). 

Additionally, a subsidiary company of Iliad called Scaleway now plans to offer its clients access to a full suite of cloud-native AI tools, such as the ability to train various-sized models.

Damien Lucas, the CEO of Scaleway, said with these tools, European companies can “significantly” advance their innovations in AI to be competitive on an international level. 

This news comes shortly after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Sept. 13 an initiative to help AI startups with accelerated access to supercomputers in Europe. 

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