Iliad, the prominent French telecom group, has made a significant move by acquiring one of Europe’s most formidable supercomputers. In conjunction with this acquisition, Iliad has unveiled its ambitious plan to establish an AI research laboratory in the heart of Paris, signaling a profound commitment to advancing the field of artificial intelligence within the region.
The announcement, made on September 26, outlines Iliad’s substantial financial investment, amounting to a staggering 100 million euros (equivalent to $106 million). This considerable sum will be channeled towards the creation of an “excellence lab” dedicated exclusively to cutting-edge AI research. Notably, a team of highly esteemed researchers has already been assembled to spearhead this initiative, with Xavier Niel, the Chairman of Iliad, leading the charge.
In discussing the lab’s overarching mission, Niel emphasized the need to cultivate an entire ecosystem centered around AI innovation in France. The research laboratory is poised to play a pivotal role in achieving this vision. Its primary objective is to develop general AI capabilities, with the ultimate goal of democratizing access to AI research for a broader audience.
In a parallel development, Iliad has secured what it proudly heralds as “Europe’s most powerful cloud-native AI supercomputer.” This formidable computing resource, known as the Nvidia DGX SuperPOD, is equipped with cutting-edge Nvidia DGX H100 systems and is strategically housed at Datacenter 5, located in close proximity to Paris.
As Niel aptly put it, “In the fiercely competitive AI landscape, computational prowess is the key to success. And to wield such power, one must invest substantially.” The acquisition of the DGX SuperPOD represents a pivotal step in bolstering Iliad’s computational capabilities, particularly for the rapid training of large language models (LLMs).
Furthermore, a subsidiary of Iliad, Scaleway, has ambitious plans to offer its clientele access to a comprehensive suite of cloud-native AI tools, including the capability to train models of varying sizes. Damien Lucas, the CEO of Scaleway, envisions these tools as a means for European companies to significantly elevate their AI innovations on the global stage, enhancing their competitiveness.
This groundbreaking development follows closely on the heels of a noteworthy announcement by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on September 13. Her initiative aims to expedite access to supercomputing resources for AI startups across Europe, a move that synergizes with Iliad’s commitment to propelling the continent’s AI ecosystem to new heights.