To kick off 2020, the France-Berkeley Fund was pleased to welcome French Ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Étienne on his first official visit to California since taking office. In his lecture to the campus community, organized by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Transportation Studies, Ambassador Étienne emphasized the importance of French-American cooperation in the context of the 21st century “fourth industrial revolution.”
Digital technologies and artificial intelligence, Étienne explained, have profoundly transformed the way we live and work, bringing immense progress and innovation while creating urgent challenges for democracy, security, and equality around the globe. Solutions to these complex issues, the Ambassador predicts, will not come from any single country but rather from international cooperation. He noted the urgency of multilateral political action while acknowledging the need to adapt the international order to better respond to new challenges and new actors. Dialogue, collaboration, and “sincere listening” are now more essential than ever, he said, to foster collective problem-solving and cultivate understanding among government institutions, industry, scholars, and innovators.
France and the United States are crucial partners in this endeavor. Highlighting the integral role of bilateral grant programs in supporting cutting-edge research—the France-Berkeley Fund being the first of its kind—Étienne noted that collaborative partnerships between our two countries are at the heart of scientific breakthroughs such as CRISPR gene editing and the discovery of the Higgs-Boson particle. Shared expertise and reciprocal investment mean that France and the U.S. will continue to work together and learn from each other, the Ambassador remarked, citing joint efforts to address pressing challenges such as climate change, data privacy, and the future of work.
Naming UC Berkeley as a privileged site for cooperation with France and the Francophone world, Ambassador Étienne called upon “the scientists, engineers, students who live at the heart of the machine” to model conscious and engaged citizenship, “seizing all opportunities from the amazing technological revolution we are going through while understanding all their implications for our common and global good.”