UAE gets serious about dominating in GenAI with launch of model Falcon

  • UAE has formed a Ministry of AI, which may be the first of its type globally

  • TII of the UAE Government claims Falcon outperforms Meta’s Llama 3 and Google’s Gemma 7B under some metrics 

  • Falcon is part of the UAE’s ambitions to dominate the global AI landscape

Earlier this week, the UAE Government's research arm, Technology Innovation Institute (TII), released the second version of its open-source Generative AI model, Falcon 2, similar to Google’s Gemini and OpenAI’s ChatGPT. 

It launched two versions of Falcon 2: Falcon 11B, a Large Language Model (LLM) trained on 5.5 trillion tokens with 11 billion parameters and Falcon 2 11B VLM for conversion of visual inputs into textual outputs. Falcom 2 11B VLM is TII’s first multimodal model and it claims to be the only LLM model in the “top tier market that has this image-to-text conversion capability.” The first version of Falcon was launched last year. 

TII claims that Falcon 2 11B has been tested against several prominent AI models. Based on some metrics, it surpassed the performance of Meta’s recently launched Llama 3 and performed on par with Google’s Gemma 7B. It also comes with multilingual capabilities that can complete tasks in several languages, including English, French, Spanish, German, and Portuguese. 

“With other multimodal models soon coming to the market in various sizes, our aim is to ensure that developers and entities that value their privacy have access to one of the best AI models to enable their AI journey," says Faisal Al Bannai, Secretary General of Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC) and Strategic Research and Advanced Technology Affairs Advisor to the UAE President. 

Last year, the UAE Government’s ATRC formed an AI company, AI71, to commercialize Falcon in medical, educational and legal verticals. “Enabling access to vast storehouses of anonymized data in these verticals – representing a rich and diverse demographic - AI71 will offer a critical differentiator over other serious AI markets today – namely, the UAE’s highly digitized and comparatively mature e-infrastructure,” says the press release.

The launch of the newer version of Falcon is part of the UAE’s effort to focus on new-age technologies like Generative AI, to bring down its economy’s dependence on oil. 

UAE: Seeking Global AI dominance 

UAE’s seriousness in dominating the AI segment is apparent from the fact that it has formed a separate Ministry of AI, which may be the first of its type globally. The country has also come up with National Artificial Intelligence Strategy 2031 to position the country as a “global leader in artificial intelligence by 2031, and to develop an integrated system that employs artificial intelligence in vital areas in the UAE.” 

Several countries, including China, Sweden, and the Netherlands, are developing their own LLMs to ensure sovereign AI. Prominent generative AI tools, like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, are controlled by enterprises that are typically not open to sharing details about the information used to train the models. On the other hand, developing a sovereign AI will enable nations to use information and values specific to their countries.

Earlier this year, the UAE Government set up a technology investment firm, MGX, to target deals in AI and semiconductor segments that could cross $100 bn in assets, as per media reports. A sign of UAE’s growing presence in AI is the recent $1.5 billion investment by tech giant Microsoft in G42, a UAE-based AI tech holding company. This is significant because Microsoft has taken a lead in AI through its investment of $13 billion in OpenAI, which disrupted the market by launching ChatGPT in November 2022.