Artificial intelligence, a priority development
As part of France’s National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research Strategy, ANR deployed a series of calls for proposals in 2019 to contribute to the development of AI research and build a network of the many organisations involved in the subject across the country. The Agency also developed its international action to develop AI with a concern for ethical and societal issues.
Launched in 2018, the national AI research strategy is based on developing research with the aim of ensuring a long-term place for France among the top five countries for AI expertise worldwide and making it the European leader. With the national AI for Humanity plan (2018-2022), ANR is especially involved in an area of the National Research Strategy entitled Talents, which aims to encourage the best talents to settle in France in the long term in order to train future generations in their turn. The Agency’s actions in this context always prioritise AI development with a concern for the common good, responding to the ethical challenges raised by the subject. Within the ANR, artificial intelligence falls under both the Investments for the Future programmes and the Work Programme.
3IA institutes: building artificial intelligence hubs
After a call for expressions of interest issued in autumn 2018 as part of the Priority Research Programme (PIA 3), with scientific management from Inria, an international panel completed its selection of 3IA institutes in 2019. Four proposals were selected for funding: PRAIRIE (Paris), MIAI (Grenoble), 3IA Côte-d’Azur (Nice) and ANITI (Toulouse). Each funds its activities with three-way contributions from the public institution, the ANR (PIA) and industrial partners. The PIA subsidy represents €74.5 million. The purpose of these four artificial intelligence hubs is to support the national effort to double the number of AI graduates by 2022 in a variety of application areas: health, environment, mobility and transport, defence and security. Building on these national hubs, local networks draw on 27 to 45 chairs (depending on the site) in the priority themes of the 3IAs. Their mission is to reinforce the link between the institutes and their ecosystems.
ANR calls for proposals in AI
The Artificial Intelligence Teaching and Research Chairs call launched by ANR supplements the local networks based on the 3IAs. A jury of 30 experts from 13 countries reviewed 173 applications, and 43 selected chairs are now being co-funded by the Agency with €600,000 over four years, four of them co-funded by the French Defence Innovation Agency (AID) and institutions, SMEs and major groups such as Safran, Valéo, Philips etc. They are targeted at the priority sectors in the AI for Humanity plan. To continue the development of AI teaching, the Agency launched another call in 2019 relating to doctoral contracts. Out of 29 applications, 22 institutions were selected for a total of 274 doctoral contracts in the fields of health, chemistry and materials. These programmes cover five years, enabling doctoral students to be recruited until 2022.
Supporting the development of artificial intelligence ecosystems
Finally, within its generic call for proposals, ANR devoted €17.6 million to about 40 projects dedicated to AI in 2019, many of them with a strong interdisciplinary dimension. All these actions by the Agency support the development of artificial intelligence ecosystems. In partnership with Inria, a mapping of all the projects funded under the National Plan has been undertaken in order to coordinate and manage a network of the players involved.