Cédric Villani has a solution to stop French AI researchers from fleeing to Facebook or Google — and it's not about paying them better

Cédric Villani has a solution to stop French AI researchers from fleeing to Facebook or Google — and it's not about paying them better

The long-awaited report on France’s artificial intelligence (AI) strategy is due to be made public on Wednesday evening, March 28, 2018.

This morning, at the microphone of France Inter, the deputy Cédric Villani, in charge of the mission on AI, admitted that “one of the most painful parts that had to be looked in the face”, during the drafting of the report on AI, was the problem of the flight of French talent abroad.

“This is a considerable topic. In the report, there is a broad component on improving the working conditions of French brains in our laboratories,” explained Cédric Villani.

The mathematician claimed that the flight of French AI experts is not only explained by the attractive salaries offered by foreign AI research laboratories where some French talents have chosen to work:

“As soon as we talk about conditions, we immediately think about wages, when there are many things that are as important or even more important.”

Of course, it is necessary to pay French researchers better, but according to Cédric Villani, it is also necessary to facilitate their work.

When the deputy questioned French researchers who “jumped the gun” to work at the FAIR laboratory (Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research) in Paris, the Google laboratory in Zürich (Switzerland) or the DeepMind laboratory in London, they talked about salaries but also about:

  • “less administrative pressure to be able to carry out our projects”,
  • “easier recruitment”,
  • “more ease of purchasing equipment”,
  • “more ease of calculations to do our experiments”…

At the microphone of France Inter, Cédric Villani continued by indicating what weighed the most on the French researchers:

“Usually, they answer you first the whole administrative question, the fact of having so many tenders, the fact of having so many justifications to make, a priori the fact that it is so slow to have answers when you want to get started. That’s of course what we have to work on.”

While President Emmanuel Macron dreams that France will become a champion of AI, the deputy in charge of the mission revealed that the country’s strategy in this area will be based on four priority economic sectors: health, transport, defense and the environment.

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