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Microsoft to invest £3.4bn in the technology sector in France

Written by Thu 16 May 2024

Microsoft has announced a plan to invest £3.4 billion ($4.3 billion) in the technology industry in France for widespread technology adoption and lasting benefits to jobs and the economy.

The announcement described a three-part plan encompassing start-up funding, job training, and cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) infrastructure support.

Vice Chair and President at Microsoft, Brad Smith, said ‘This major investment demonstrates a steadfast commitment to supporting digital innovation and economic growth in France’.

“We are building state-of-the-art cloud and AI infrastructure, training people with AI skills, and supporting French startups as they use our technology with confidence to grow in a fair and responsible way,” added Smith.

AI-enabled data centres

The company has promised to improve cloud and AI infrastructure by expanding data centre capabilities at existing facilities in Paris and Marseille. Microsoft will also build a new data centre campus in the Grand Est region of Alsace.

“With this major project, the Grand Est region is making Alsace a benchmark region for artificial intelligence in France and Europe,” said Franck Leroy, President of the Conseil regional du Grand-Est.

Leroy highlighted that this project will enhance regional and business competitiveness while ensuring data security.

The new data centre campus will be focused on AI-specific needs including advanced compute power, heightened efficiency, scalability, and sustainability requirements.

This is intended to help meet an increased demand for AI that is apparent in France and on a global scale. A Microsoft-owned and operated data centre will also make Microsoft offerings that have been AI-enabled more accessible to the French market.

Microsoft is also pursuing its first renewable energy contracts in France, to improve the environmental impact of its facilities in France. The company expects to have a total of 100MW of renewable energy products active in the country by the end of next year.

Upskilling programme

In addition to a substantial investment in infrastructure, Microsoft has also stated a goal to train one million French citizens over the next three years. This will involve partnerships between Microsoft and institutions including Government entities, universities, non-profits, and training service organisations.

Through these partnerships, the company will launch upskilling programmes focusing on increasing AI fluency in job seekers: improving the technical and business skills that AI adoption requires, with a specific focus on ‘promoting safe and responsible AI development’.

Upskilling efforts will include deploying AI training programmes at Microsoft Experience Centers and a developer-focused GenAI proficiency effort. Microsoft will also devote resources to inclusion, promoting women’s access to AI training and technology opportunities.

Supporting startups

Finally, Microsoft has dedicated a portion of its investment to accelerating AI-based startups in France. The Microsoft GenAI Studio programme aims to engage 2,500 French startups through 2027.  This will include a four-month programme at Station F and a nationwide tour including in-person workshops, hands-on sessions, and engagement activities in Microsoft Experience Labs and local incubators and accelerators.

Director at Station F, Roxanne Varza, said the investment is a ‘huge milestone’ for Station F’s startups and campus.

“We are thrilled to announce the launch of Microsoft’s Gen AI studio on campus, further strengthening our offering for AI companies. Microsoft will not only leverage its own expertise but that of its extensive AI network for the studio.

The investment in France has followed a similar investment by Microsoft in Germany. In February, Microsoft announced it will invest £2.7 billion ($4 billion) in Germany over the next two years.

The President of Microsoft, Brad Smith, said its largest investment in Germany in 40 years aims to double its artificial intelligence (AI) and data centre capacity while expanding training programmes for 1.2 million people.

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Written by Thu 16 May 2024

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