STUTTGART, Germany — The French Ministry of Defense approved the final phase of a new big-data and artificial-intelligence (AI) processing capability in development by Athea, a joint venture between Thales and Atos, to be delivered next year.

The Artemis.IA project – where Artemis stands for the French phrase for “architecture for the processing and massive exploitation of multi-source information and artificial intelligence” – has been in the works since 2017. The French military procurement office Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA) issued the procurement notification for Phase 3 of the program on June 24, per a Monday press statement.

The goal of Artemis is to provide France with a sovereign and secure big-data and AI processing platform that can exploit and analyze the massive volumes of data coming off of military equipment and other sensors. “The initial phases of Artemis.IA made it possible to validate, with the users, the technical solutions adopted, and to bring out an industrial ecosystem made up of academic and industrial players (large groups, start-ups as well as small and medium-sized enterprises),” the ministry said in the statement. “The phase that is starting will lead to the creation of the first operational platform, deployed from 2023 for the benefit of the joint intelligence function.”

The first application will be dedicated to “the exploitation of multi-source information,” the ministry added. Built to be modular, Artemis.IA is expected to be employed in the future for other use cases, such as cybersecurity, military health monitoring, predictive maintenance or maritime surveillance. The ministry will provide a development and integration kit for industry and academics to help speed up the deployment of new applications, per the statement.

Atos and Thales formed Athea as a joint venture in April 2021 to hone in on big-data and AI solutions for France and wider Europe. The two companies have been working on Artemis since the demonstration phase began in 2017.

“Data exploitation represents a major challenge to maintain the operational superiority of the armed forces,” said Philippe Gasc, president of Athea, in a July 11 statement. “We are proud to develop a sovereign solution that will enable France to act autonomously in the areas of intelligence, operations command and in the digital space.”

This new contract will be managed by France’s Digital Defense Agency (Agence du Numérique de Défense). It provides for the deployment of an initial operational platform, as well as the development of successive standards along with training and maintenance support over three years, per the ministry.

A funding amount was not provided. The French ministry’s five-year spending plan, known as the loi de programmation militaire (LPM) 2019-2025 earmarks about €700 million ($706 million) toward the development of AI technologies.

Vivienne Machi is a reporter based in Stuttgart, Germany, contributing to Defense News' European coverage. She previously reported for National Defense Magazine, Defense Daily, Via Satellite, Foreign Policy and the Dayton Daily News. She was named the Defence Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2020.

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