Xavier Niel’s Iliad sets out plan to create European AI champion with supercomputer investment

French telecoms and media entrepreneur Xavier Niel is investing €200 million in an AI supercomputer from Nvidia for Scaleway, the cloud computing and web hosting subsidiary of Iliad Group, owner of Free in France and telecom operations in Poland and Italy, as part of a major push to create a European ‘AI champion’.

Xavier Niel

Xavier Niel

In an interview with news agency AFP, Niel said that his goal was to create a European AI champion that could serve enterprises looking to develop their own AI applications.

Niel said that there was an urgent need to build a European AI capability so that European citizens do not become wholly dependent on algorithms created by US or Chinese tech giants.

iliad Group has purchased an NVIDIA DGX SuperPOD equipped with NVIDIA DGX H100 systems and NVIDIA AI Enterprise, said to be the world’s most advanced AI supercomputing platform.

It has been installed at Iliad’s Datacenter 5, located in the Paris region.

Iliad says it is deploying Europe’s most powerful cloud-native AI supercomputer today, adding that the DGX SuperPOD supercomputer provides the computing power necessary to train large language models up to four times faster than computers using earlier versions of GPUs.

Iliad says that its investment represents a first step for the group in achieving its near-term aim of increasing the computing power available to its customers.

The group said that it would offer customers a full suite of cloud-native AI solutions, enabling businesses to use advanced AI training models. Scaleway has also equipped itself with computing power available in smaller meshes so that smaller and more targeted models can be trained.

iliad Group is also creating an excellence lab in Paris dedicated to AI research, in which over €100 million has already been invested

Together with Scaleway, the group is launching its first European conference on artificial intelligence for key industry players, with over 50 specialists taking part. This convention, which will take place on November 17 at Station F and will be attended by Niel, is designed to become Europe’s leading annual AI event, it said.

“Together with our subsidiary, Scaleway, we’ve already been working for several years on developing a European cloud. And by equipping Scaleway with a supercomputer we’re seeking to – and will be able to – create a European AI champion. It comes down to sovereignty: in order to protect our data, we need platforms located within our borders. But it’s not enough to create a champion. An entire ecosystem needs to be built up in France. And because we intend to play a role in that, we’re setting up an AI research lab, investing the necessary resources and hiring the best researchers to work there. Wanting to become an AI champion may seem a slightly crazy gamble. Then again, 25 years ago it was a slightly crazy gamble too wanting to make internet accessible to everyone. But that certainly didn’t stop us,” said Niel in a statement to mark the launch.

“We’re entering AI in the same way as we entered telecoms, with the same pioneering mindset. By acquiring an NVIDIA DGX SuperPOD, the iliad Group has equipped itself with the most powerful cloud-native AI supercomputer deployed to date in Europe. And because the main tenet of our AI strategy is for it to benefit society, the Group is taking part in the creation of an independent AI research lab,” said Iliad Group CEO Thomas Reynaud.

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