Artificial Intelligence & Startups in École Polytechnique

The term “artificial intelligence” (#AI) covers a wide range of meanings, including machine learning and deep learning, complex modeling and optimization, natural language processing and many others.

With the very rapid growth of IT tools now available to us, especially computation power, artificial intelligence can be found in an ever increasing number of applications and disciplines. It is now omnipresent, in businesses, in industry, and in our daily life. 

Editor's note:

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Matthieu Somekh
December 20, 2016

At Ecole Polytechnique, artificial intelligence goes back a long way, with or it being or having been actually labeled as “artificial intelligence”. I am tempted to say that artificial intelligence is often like Molière’s Monsieur Jourdain, who famously spoke in prose without being aware of it, although it is far more complex!  

Teaching mathematics plays a central role in the Ingénieur Polytechnicien Program, with courses in data science, in mathematics, vision, learning, in the mathematics of randomness and in modeling. This predisposes students particularly well to gaining a good understanding of artificial intelligence methods and issues, whatever the applications and whatever the organization that is to benefit from their skills.

In addition, a large part of our Research Center is actively involved and recognized in the fields of IT and applied mathematics; this is particularly true of our two laboratories: LIX and CMAP. Machine learning and deep learning lie at the heart of their work, both academically and in their collaboration with industry. 

Ecole Polytechnique’s involvement in artificial intelligence is also present in its entrepreneurship and innovation activities, which now constitute its third strategic pillar, alongside academic affairs and research.

Those of our students and alumni who create startups, whose numbers are growing every year, are increasingly setting up businesses – successful ones – strongly artificial intelligence based.

The survey (see below) of French #AI startups that was drawn up recently by Paul Strachman, an investor at ISAI, was based on no fewer than 180 startups, and reveals that a large proportion of them were founded or cofounded by Ecole Polytechnique graduates. Yet this list does not include many other companies that are more recent and therefore less in sight... for this moment!

This growing trend towards more artificial intelligence in entrepreneurship projects brings to fruition Ecole Polytechnique’s assets and the efforts deployed in this area. Our X-UP accelerator and X-Tech incubator aim to support entrepreneurs whose projects feature significant technological innovation, especially artificial intelligence, which can be found in most projects.

Our support to startups in artificial intelligence relies on our networks of alumni, partners from industry and investors, as well as our laboratories including, naturally, those I mentioned earlier; researchers, doctoral students and postdocs can therefore find themselves being entrepreneurs themselves or supporting our entrepreneurs. These networks are well established in the field of artificial intelligence, which puts us in the privileged position of being able to access experts, mentors, investors and potential partners, be they academic or from industry, all extremely useful to young entrepreneurs in this field.

We also make every effort to build connections between students and startups, via internships or high-potential projects. 

We therefore currently support, and have supported, a number of artificial intelligence projects, thus reinforcing our commitment to this area of excellence at Ecole Polytechnique.

In line with its commitment to entrepreneurship and artificial intelligence, Ecole Polytechnique partnered “Artificial Intelligence: from techniques to business”, an event co-organized by the Orrick agency and the startup, incubated by X-Tech.