(Bloomberg) — French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire urged Germany and other European economies to invest massively in artificial intelligence and green industry or risk falling behind the US.
Le Maire said no one country or even the euro area combined was capable of matching the level of investment in AI carried out by Microsoft Corp. alone.
“It’s essential that all European countries, and especially euro-zone countries, and especially Germany, which is one of the great economic powers of the zone, realize there’s an absolute imperative to invest massively in AI so as not to depend on American technologies,” Le Maire told France Inter radio Thursday.
France is looking for ways to get a foothold in AI as countries race to harness the emerging technology for economic growth and influence. US tech giants such as Microsoft, Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Amazon.com Inc. are putting billions of dollars into developing AI, dwarfing European efforts. Microsoft is the largest investor in startup OpenAI with about $13 billion.
“There is insufficient collective awareness, there’s a risk that the European economy will fall behind the American economy for one reason, which is the loss of productivity,” Le Maire said. “This loss of productivity is due to one thing: we don’t innovate enough.”
He urged the European Union to make progress on a capital markets union to provide companies access to financing.
He pointed to Paris-based startup Mistral AI, which in September announced its first generative AI model to compete with US leaders, saying it should be able to raise billions of euros.
The minister praised efforts by billionaires Xavier Niel, Rodolphe Saadé and Eric Schmidt, who earlier this month announced a new nonprofit AI research lab in Paris. Niel’s Iliad and Saadé’s CMA CGM SA will each invest €100 million ($109 million), with total funding of about €300 million.
“We have the best scientists, good laboratories, great companies, initiatives like that of Rodolphe Saadé and Xavier Niel, but we need states to provide support, and for them to be able to raise tens of billions, not just tens of millions or hundreds of millions,” Le Maire said.
He also called for massive funding of green industry, including renewable energies, wind farms, and nuclear power in the case of France, which generates most of its electricity from reactors.
European officials have said they fear unprecedented spending in US President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act will lure companies across the Atlantic.
–With assistance from Benoit Berthelot.
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