Meta warns that Europe is falling behind in AI innovation

Social media giant is backing new round of supports for artificial intelligence sector

Meta’s head of global affairs Nick Clegg: 'We’re trading on past glories; none of the world’s top 10 start-up ecosystems are in Europe.' Photograph: Riccardo Savi/Getty Images

Meta has warned that Europe is falling behind in innovation in the AI sector. as it backs a new round of supports to help boost development of artificial intelligence start-ups in the European Union (EU)

The social media giant, which recently paused plans to use public posts on Instagram and Facebook to train its own AI models, said it will work with open-source platform Hugging Face and cloud company Scaleway to deliver the second round of the AI Startup Programme, which will be based at Station F in Paris.

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The programme will be open to EU start-ups that want to integrate any open-foundation models into their products, and will run from September 2024 to February 2025.

The move comes amid concerns that the EU is falling behind in the adoption of new technologies.


“We’re trading on past glories; none of the world’s top 10 start-up ecosystems are in Europe,” said Meta’s head of global affairs Nick Clegg. “Given that AI offers such a huge potential to lift economic performance… it seems to us it’s pretty damn important if it can play such a crucial role in lifting the fortunes of Europe that it should be as widely accessible as possible.”

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The programme will support five start-ups initially, although Mr Clegg said there was the chance to grow it further in the future.

Mr Clegg said that although regulation of AI “had its place”, there was also a need to look at how to support innovation.

“For too long, political energy has gone into passing new rules in Brussels. But new rules don’t create new jobs. New rules don’t create new companies,” he said. “Given its sheer size, the European Union should do more to try and catch up with the adoption and development of new technologies in the US and not confuse taking a lead on regulation with taking a lead on the technology.”

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The company paused plans to use public data on its platforms to train AI models following a request from data privacy regulators. Mr Clegg said Meta had engaged with the Data Protection Commissioner in a “deliberate and open manner” before announcing its plans. Failing to use European data to train the AI models would result in “American companies serving an American diet to European consumers”, he said.

Meta is not the only company delaying its AI plans in Europe. Apple last week said it would delay the rollout of Apple Intelligence in the EU due to regulatory uncertainties around the Digital Markets Act.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist