Facebook Is Making Big Investments in Europe in a Continent-Wide Charm Offensive

January 22, 2018, 12:17 PM UTC

Facebook will double the number of scientists working on artificial intelligence (AI) research at its Paris base to 60, the company has announced.

The firm also said it would invest €10 million ($12.3 million) in increasing the number of AI doctoral scholarships it offers in France from 10 to 40, and providing servers and data for French public institutions.

The investments will take place over the next five years, according to the Financial Times, which noted that the move was the “latest sign of optimism” in the French tech sector.

France is indeed pushing hard on the AI front these days, as is the neighboring U.K. Just days ago, the French and British governments announced extensive new collaborations on AI research.

The Paris facility is Facebook’s only AI research center outside the U.S., where it also has operations working on the technology in Menlo Park and New York.

“We believe in France’s potential to be a leader in AI and want to contribute to the resources necessary to accelerate research in France,” Facebook’s director of AI research in Paris, Antoine Bordes, said, according to the FT.

The social media giant also said it would be providing digital skills training for more than 15,000 women in France, following on from similar drives in the U.K. and Italy. Ireland, Spain, and Sweden will also be part of Facebook’s #SheMeansBusiness push this year.

Facebook will also open new “community skills hubs” in Spain, Poland, and Italy, in a bid to provide training for underrepresented groups. The company has already run a similar program in Berlin, teaching coding and professional skills to refugees and other groups.

“I’m thrilled to share that by 2020, we will have trained one million people and small business owners across Europe in digital skills,” chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said, according to a Tech.eu report.

While these skills initiatives and research investments can probably be largely taken at face value, they also provide Facebook with useful lobbying points at a time when regulators and lawmakers across Europe are taking on the company over issues such as hate speech, privacy and tax.

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