Published on November 8, 2023, 4:05 pm

Facebook’s parent company Meta is joining forces with Hugging Face and Scaleway to launch a startup program focused on AI at the Station F megacampus in Paris. The primary objective of the program is to promote a more open and collaborative approach to AI development within the French technology landscape.

This announcement comes at a significant time when there is an increasing call for regulation in the AI field, leading to a conflict between the “open” and “closed” AI realms. Major tech companies like Microsoft, Google, and OpenAI are advocating for more regulation while also developing powerful AI technologies themselves. They argue that open-source AI poses risks and can be manipulated by malicious actors. On the other side of the debate, some believe these companies are simply using scare tactics to protect their own interests and limit competition.

Meta aligns itself with the latter viewpoint. Last week, Meta’s chief AI scientist Yann LeCun, along with over 70 other signatories, called for greater openness in AI development, warning against hasty regulatory actions. They emphasized that openness and transparency are vital for achieving safety, security, and accountability in AI.

In light of this context, Meta partnering with Hugging Face seems apt since both organizations share similar views on the open-versus-closed AI debate. While Meta has already been open sourcing its generative AI models, Hugging Face positions itself as an open-source alternative to entities like OpenAI. It actively contributes to community projects such as BigScience and provides open alternatives to platforms like ChatGPT.

From today until December 1st (2023), startups can apply to participate in the new “AI Startup Program” at Station F. Five winners will then proceed to an accelerator program running from January to June. These selected startups will have a common characteristic: they will be working on projects built on open foundation models or demonstrate a willingness to integrate these models into their products and services.

The aim of the program, according to Meta, is to bring the economic and technological benefits of open, state-of-the-art models to the French ecosystem. It is noteworthy that Meta chose to collaborate with Scaleway, an independent European player in cloud infrastructure, rather than major cloud providers like Microsoft or Google.

The winning startups will receive mentoring from researchers and engineers at Meta, gain access to Hugging Face’s platforms and tools, and avail themselves of compute resources from Scaleway. While Meta remains committed to its metaverse ambitions, their focus has shifted due to the growing interest in ChatGPT and generative AI. This new accelerator program reflects their redirection towards more immediate goals in the AI landscape.

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