The doors of Porte de Versailles’ cavernous exhibition halls were thrown open on Wednesday for another edition of VivaTechnology – or VivaTech for short.
Founded in 2016, the annual fair in Paris is one of Europe’s top-tier technology events, this year attracting 2,400 start-ups – double the number it hosted in its first year – and more than 2,000 investors looking to fund the next big innovation that could change the world.
Of course, there’s one topic, in particular, you can’t escape at this year’s event: artificial intelligence, or AI.
But that’s not all. Cybersecurity, climate tech, sport, femtech, and more are high on the list of trending topics. Here’s what’s driving discussions in the French capital this week.
The rise of AI
On a day when the European Union passed the world’s first legislation giving lawmakers clearer oversight over the technology, AI is continuing to have its day in the sun on the opening day of VivaTech.
Dominating the agenda for the event’s many speaking events, the technology is prevalent across the exhibition space with large companies and start-ups alike evangelising about the use cases of this transformative tech in their various fields.
AI has induced a heightened sense of foreboding recently, with tech experts including the likes of the “Godfather of AI,” Geoffrey Hinton, sounding the alarm bells over the possible risks to humanity.
A key highlight of the first day of the event was Meta’s Chief AI scientist Yann Le Cun taking to the stage to share his take, saying “AI is an amplifier of human intelligence and when people are smarter, better things happen”.
French president Emmanuel Macron, who officially opened the event and has been a champion of the event in the past, also used the occasion to announce new investment in the development of AI in France.
It comes off the back of the news that four-week-old French start-up Mistral AI secured a record €105 million in European investment.
Elon Musk: Man of the moment or villain? The tech billionaire is certainly a divisive figure and has attracted his share of ire over his takeover of Twitter at the end of 2022. To much fanfare by organisers just before the event, he was announced as one of this year’s keynote speakers.
The year of South Korea
While many countries vie for space at VivaTech, South Korea is this year’s Country of the Year. The event has kept the initiative which was launched at last year’s edition and is an opportunity for the chosen country to throw a spotlight on their tech ecosystems.
South Korea has become a leading tech nation boasting 23 unicorns and an economy where, not unlike the EU, 99 per cent of its companies are start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
#VulvaTech – femtech at the forefront
One of the key pillars of this year’s event is femtech. The sector is exploding in value, exceeding $30 billion (€27.6 billion) in 2022 and is expected to hit $135 billion (€124 billion) in 2023.
In a nod to the importance of the sector, this year’s VivaTech has launched the first-ever Femtech Village where start-ups will be able to display and demonstrate their innovations to help with menstrual and reproductive health, mental health, and more.
In a tongue-in-cheek bid to raise the profile of the femtech sector, the four women behind the company Gapianne have rechristened the event’s branding to VulvaTech.
The future of sport
The coming year is set to be a monumental one for sport in France. The country is gearing up for hosting duties for both the Rugby World Cup and the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. It’s far from surprising then that sport tech is so prominent at this year’s VivaTech.
While it is usually held in one large exhibition hall, VivaTech 2023 has spread into a neighbouring space in Hall 2 where the companies and start-ups are showcasing the latest tech and trends in the industry.
Local sporting heroes, including former French tennis star Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and former French international footballer Blaise Matuidi, will be joining industry experts to discuss the future of sport tech and its social impact.