Skip links

Donors’ evening: AI in the spotlight

On April 3, 2024, the ENS Foundation welcomed nearly 200 people to celebrate their commitment to the school, around scientific presentations and a cross talk on the major challenges for responsible Artificial Intelligence. Donors and sponsors, as well as ENS students and teachers, were able to exchange views with leading figures in AI research and development in France.

Caroline Guény-Mentré (Director of the Foundation), Stéphane Israël (President of the ENS Foundation) and Frédéric Worms (Director of ENS-PSL) opened the evening by taking stock of the impact of donors on the school:

“Donations to the Foundation have a concrete effect on the school: by promoting greater equality and parity among male and female students – thanks to the Foundation’s scholarships – and by enabling the school to carry out high-level interdisciplinary research projects, which have been the ENS’s strength since its creation,” explained Frédéric Worms.

Stéphane Isräel then spoke about the Foundation’s prospects, in particular the new chairs to come (including the Ardian and MACIF chairs), and the continued development of the QBio laboratory, Europe’s leading center for quantitative biology.

Guests were then treated to scientific presentations by Gabriel Peyré (Director of the Data Science Center at ENS-PSL), Kimia Nadjahi (ENS-PSL), and Stéphane Mallat (Collège de France and ENS-PSL). They are leading figures in Artificial Intelligence research at the École normale supérieure, one of France’s top-ranked institutions for AI training. Presentations ranged from the latest work on generative AI by the Data Science Center, to the challenges ahead for AI deployment, to how AI can be used to make learning mathematics in secondary schools more attractive and effective.

The first part of the evening closed with a long-awaited talk between Anne Bouverot, co-founder of the AI and Society Institute and Chair of the ENS-PSL Board of Directors, and Arthur Mensch, CEO of Mistral AI, moderated by Xavier Lazarus, Campaign Director of the Foundation. The speakers commented on the recommendations of the report by the Commission on Artificial Intelligence, chaired by Anne Bouverot, which was submitted to the French President in March 2024. “AI is a speed sport. France’s trump card in this competition is science,” stressed Arthur Mensch, before discussing with Anne the future of AI and its usefulness for society and various business sectors in France.

Discussions with the public continued over cocktails in the historic Salle des Lettres library. This was also an opportunity for donors to discover the Foundation’s new Donor Wall. Its new location, in the heart of the library, echoes the support of loyal donors and patrons who contribute to the École’s development and influence, and to the preservation of its rich heritage.