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Inside Europe's tech hubs: France's AI push puts it on the rise

In the 13th arrondissement of the French capital Paris is an old rail freight station that has been converted into the world's biggest startup campus.

Known as Station F, the massive complex, which can house 1,000 startups and has corporate partners including U.S. tech giants like Meta and Google, underscores France's push over the last few years to reinvent itself as one of the world's leading tech hubs.

In the second episode of our European tech hubs mini-series for CNBC Tech's "Beyond the Valley" — which you can listen to above — Tom Chitty and I travelled to Station F to talk to its director Roxanne Varza about the growth of the French tech scene over the last few years.

In 2015, taxi drivers in France protested the rise of Uber and startup founders complained about the country's burdensome labor laws that made it difficult for young tech firms to be nimble. From the outside, France had a reputation of being anti-tech and innovation.

But various governments over the years have championed the country's technology ecosystem to push programs like Station F and reforms to laws to help out startups. And with the tech world currently undergoing a boom in artificial intelligence, France is looking to position itself as a leading hub.

French generative AI companies have raised $2.29 billion to date, according to data from Accel and Dealroom, the most of any European country. This has been driven by huge investments in buzzy French AI startups such as Mistral AI and H.

"France is the leader on artificial intelligence in Europe," Bruno Le Maire, France's finance minister, told me at the country's high profile event Viva Tech last month.

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