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French telecom group invests millions in local AI industry

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

Iliad said it already invested €100 million – $106 million USD – towards the creation of what it calls an “excellence lab” to be built in Paris that will be dedicated to AI research. According to the announcement a team of renowned researchers has already been set up and it will be spearheaded by Iliad chairman Xavier Niel.

Niel said an “entire ecosystem needs to be built up in France” and the research lab will be playing 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 that:

“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 the president of the European Union, Ursula von der Leyen, announced on Sept. 13 a forthcoming initiative to help AI startups with accelerated access to supercomputers in Europe. 

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