Google boosts Paris’s ambition to become Europe’s AI epicentre

PARIS  -  US tech giant Google opened Thursday an AI research hub in Paris, part of a trend for big tech firms to base teams working on cutting-edge products in European centres. Google already employs thousands of people at its engi­neering facility in Zurich, a city that also houses AI-focused teams from Meta, Apple and Microsoft. Amazon, another major player in AI research, has teams based in several locations in Germany and Britain. AI covers a broad range of technologies based on algorithms and big data processing, which help to power everything from online advertising to smartphone cameras. Google’s Parisian hub will host at least 300 researchers in the French capital, the US firm said in a statement. The aim was to train at least 100,000 AI profes­sionals by the end of 2025. Google CEO Sundar Pichai praised Paris during the opening event, calling it a “global centre of innovation”. “It’s a magnet for tech talent, including more than 40 nationalities within our local engineering teams,” he said. The Google boss earlier met French President Emmanuel Ma­cron, who has long pushed the French capital as a cutting-edge hub. Paris has had notable suc­cesses, with Meta establishing an AI research team there in 2015 led by its AI chief Yann LeCun, one of the world’s pre-eminent academ­ics in the field. At the Google event, officials talked of creating a Euro­pean Silicon Valley in the Paris region -- a long-held dream. But the French city is playing catch-up with European centres like Berlin, Zurich and London and southern England. Google DeepMind started life as a British startup before the US giant bought it, and its main of­fices are in London. Zurich hosts one of Google’s largest engineering facilities outside the United States -- employees there even have a nickname, “Zooglers”. Microsoft also operates a centre dedicated to AI and Mixed Reality in Zurich and its director, Marc Pollefeys, told AFP the city has everything needed for an AI hub -- including aspects that Paris will struggle to replicate. “You need a number of elements in place to really anchor the ecosystem,” he said.

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