Meta’s new accelerator for European AI startups could be a blessing or a curse

The initiative targets startups that want to integrate open-source foundation models into their products

Meta’s new accelerator for European AI startups could be a blessing or a curse Image by: Tara Winstead

Amid tense relations between big tech and the EU, Meta has announced its second AI startup accelerator in Europe.

The accelerator targets startups that want to integrate open-source foundation models (such as Llama and Mistral 7B) into their products.

To deliver the programme, Meta has once again teamed up with Hugging Face, a US-based open-source platform that hosts machine learning models and tools, and Scaleway, a European cloud provider for AI infrastructure.

The initiative will initially select five startups in the MVP (minimum viable product) or product stage.


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The finalists will receive technical mentoring by teams at Meta’s AI research lab, FAIR. They will also get access to Hugging Face’s platform (which includes Meta’s own Llama models), and to Scaleway’s cluster of several thousand NVIDIA H100 GPUs.

The startups will also benefit from the resources of  the world’s largest startup campus, STATION F in Paris, which will host the accelerator.

Applications are open until August 16, and the programme will run from September 2024 to February 2025.

Big tech’s involvement in European AI

Meta is touting the programme’s potential to accelerate the adoption of open-source AI solutions in the EU.

“We can help European developers innovate faster, bringing growth to their markets and propelling the European ecosystem forwards,” Marco Pancini, Meta’s Head of EU Affairs, said.

Meanwhile, Nick Clegg, Meta’s President of Global Affairs, said the accelerator was part of the possible solutions that could help address an “enormous problem” for Europe.

“All the big AI companies are Chinese and American,” he said in an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera.

The news about the tech giant’s accelerator comes about a week after the company was forced to halt the launch of its GenAI models in Europe, following the request of the Irish data protection authority (DPC) on the grounds of data privacy concerns.

Meta’s partnership with Scaleway shields the initiative from similar issues, guaranteeing data residency in the EU.

But it doesn’t safeguard it from concerns over big tech’s involvement in Europe’s AI scene. As the EU is striving for digital sovereignty, it aims to reduce dependence on technology infrastructure and innovation from external sources.

While the Meta-led accelerator has the potential to boost AI startups in the region, it underscores this reliance. In addition, it could ultimately make a move to the US more attractive or help facilitate an acquisition by larger companies based overseas — striking a blow to the EU’s emerging AI industry.

The UK provides an illuminating example of the consequences. The acquisition of DeepMind and Darktrace, for instance, by US companies has had a serious impact on both the British tech sector and stock market.


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