The EU, a pioneer in AI regulation

French start-up Mistral AI, recently crowned with a record-breaking €385 million round of funding, has established itself as one of Europe’s two leading champions of artificial intelligence. The move coincides with the EU’s historic adoption of the Artificial Intelligence Act, the world’s first regulation for AI, demonstrating Europe’s commitment to reconciling innovation and regulation in this strategic sector.

 

The European Union (EU) is far outstripped by the USA in the AI race. It cannot compete with Open AI, funded by Microsoft and mobilizing several billion dollars, or even Google, which has just released its Gemini model, as well as Amazon and Meta. However, the old continent is waking up…

 

French start-up Mistral AI, founded in May by experts in the field, announced on December 10 that it had raised a record 385 million euros in funding, making it one of the two champions of artificial intelligence (AI) in Europe. Arthur Mensch, Mistral AI’s CEO, underlined the company’s clear ambition: “to create a European champion with a global vocation in artificial intelligence”.

 

Having already raised 105 million euros in June, this latest round values the company at around 2 billion dollars (1.86 billion euros), propelling it into the ranks of French unicorns. In Europe, only Germany’s Aleph Alpha is as richly endowed, having raised nearly 500 million euros in early November.

 

Mistral AI has attracted the attention of investors including US software publisher Salesforce, bank BNP Paribas, shipping company CMA CGM and chip giant Nvidia. This AI start-up, founded by three French experts who had previously worked for American giants, is already seen as a potential rival to Open AI, the creator of ChatGPT. Arthur Mensch’s partners come from Meta (Facebook): Guillaume Lample is one of the creators of the LLama language model, unveiled by Meta in February, and Timothée Lacroix was also a researcher at Meta.

 

With 22 employees specialized in AI, Mistral AI offers open source language models to companies. The fund-raising demonstrates the excitement surrounding the company, with high-profile investors including Xavier Niel, Rodolphe Saadé and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

 

Europe in the AI race

 

Mistral AI’s fund-raising comes at a time when the European Union is agreeing on future AI regulation that doesn’t stifle innovation. Mistral AI represents a hope for Europe to catch up in this strategic field. The French government’s commitment to tech is also evident, as demonstrated by Arthur Mensch’s presence alongside President Macron at the Vivatech trade show in June, and the support of former Secretary of State for Digital Affairs, Cédric O. The latter can defend the start-up all the way to the top of the state, as he is also a member of the inter-ministerial committee on generative AI created in September by Elisabeth Borne.

 

The final negotiations on the regulation of artificial intelligence in Europe, which began on Wednesday December 6, culminated last Friday in a provisional agreement between the European Parliament and the Council, after more than thirty-five hours of discussions.

 

The first text of its kind in the world, the regulation, named the “Artificial Intelligence Act”, aims to protect fundamental rights, democracy and the environment from the potential risks associated with AI, while stimulating innovation to make Europe a leader in this field.

 

Prohibitions and obligations

 

The text, which will come into force in 2025 at the earliest, will be accompanied by the creation of a European AI Office, which will be able to impose financial penalties of up to 7% of turnover for offending companies, capped at 35 million euros.

 



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Featured photo : © artjazz – stock.adobe.com

Picture of Hugues Reydellet
Hugues Reydellet
Hugues Reydellet is a young and passionate journalist whose favorite subjects are economy, culture, gastronomy, but also cars, and sports. With a sharp pen and an insatiable curiosity, Hugues is constantly on the lookout for new hot information to report.

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