Facebook to invest €10M in artificial intelligence in France as it 'plays a leading role in global research'

Facebook to invest €10M in artificial intelligence in France as it 'plays a leading role in global research'

Invited by Emmanuel Macron to discuss investment projects, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, announced on Monday, January 22, 2018 that the American social networking giant will invest 10 million euros to strengthen artificial intelligence (AI) research in France.

The decision to triple Facebook’s investment in AI in France comes as the tech giant is on a campaign trail this week in Europe to defend itself against accusations of lax enforcement against hate speech and the spread of false information.

Facebook is also in the crosshairs of a new tax proposed by France and Germany on GAFA, regularly accused of tax optimization in Europe.

Facebook’s Paris-based European AI research center – dubbed FAIR Paris – will double its research staff from 30 to 60 researchers and engineers, according to a Facebook statement.

In addition, the FAIR Paris will:

  • host 40 PhD students, through the funding of scholarships and excellence and doctoral degrees from several universities,
  • to finance 10 servers for the benefit of research institutes and a fund for the collection of open data for the learning of AI algorithms,
  • strengthen its partnership with INRIA and university research,
  • and share its knowledge and skills with research and innovation ecosystems, by making available its Masterclass program on AI initiated at the end of 2017 with the school 42.

In Facebook’s post about these investments, Frenchman Yann LeCun, head of Facebook’s AI division, said:

“France plays a leading role in global artificial intelligence research, and our role is to give keys to success to the community that makes French research shine in the world. I am very proud of our increasingly important commitment to accelerate French and European research in artificial intelligence.”

In an interview with Les Echos, Sheryl Sandberg added that France was “a very good place to make investments”, due to the pool of French entrepreneurs and France’s love for research:

“Your country is full of entrepreneurs, of knowledge… Facebook is looking for talent all over the world and the reason we decided to set up our artificial intelligence research center in France is because there are some of the best researchers in the world here. The French have a real love for research. As for startups, what I saw at Station F last year, it’s amazing! All these French companies are developing products or services that are spreading all over the world.”

Facebook also announced the opening of three new centers in Europe, dedicated to learning digital skills, committing to train one million people over the next two years.

The social network also announced that it wants to train 50,000 people “far from employment (…) by the end of 2019 in partnership with Pôle Emploi” and support 15,000 women in 2018, “as part of the #SheMeansBusiness initiative launched in partnership with Social Builder”.

These major investments announced while Facebook is in the sights of the authorities recall the strategy of Google which had decided to invest in jobs and culture in France while the threat of a “Google tax” hovered in the early 2010s.

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