Innovation at the Banque de France
In response to the rapid changes in the modern world, and especially in banking and finance, the Banque de France has set up Le Lab, representing its commitment to innovation.
Financial activities are becoming increasingly digitalised with the rise of blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), dematerialised payments and quantum technology. These developments offer major opportunities that need to be seized, but at the same time pose risks that need to be taken into account to protect the stability of the financial system. The Banque de France actively strives to anticipate and support these changes, in line with its missions as a central bank. This is why it is increasingly adopting a pro-innovation approach, which it has made an integral part of its Building 2024 Together strategic plan.
The Banque de France is working to keep pace with technological change, be it in finance, payments, supervision, research and statistics or public relations. Thanks to its open innovation centre, Le Lab, it is developing new technologies and solutions in all its areas of activity.
In order to innovate while preserving the anchoring role of central bank money, the Banque de France is experimenting with a central bank digital currency (CBDC), in conjunction with commercial banks and partner central banks. The projects conducted so far have demonstrated that CBDC could improve cross-border payments as well as certain interbank processes. The Banque de France has also launched a major series of innovative projects in the field of supervision. It is currently working on 12 experiments, known as SUPTECH, to develop solutions to aid supervisory activities and foster the emergence of “enhanced supervision”. As part of its services to the economy and society, the Banque de France is also working on experiments in financial education (EDUCFI) to improve the effectiveness and reach of the tools on offer.
These innovative projects are being conducted in close liaison with the Banque de France’s directorates, and especially the ACPR’s Fintech-Innovation Hub and the network of “start-up correspondents” in the Directorate General Services to the Economy and Branch Network Activities.
While the range of experiments is broad, particular focus is being placed on the digitalisation of internal processes, cybersecurity and the use of data, especially in the context of AI.
The Banque de France pays close attention to emerging technologies and how they can be used in its day-to-day activities. It is continuously upgrading its information system, and deploying the technological innovations needed to strengthen its security and efficiency, and carry out its central bank missions.
As part of this work, the Bank is experimenting with the use of disruptive technologies in its activities, drawing in particular on the huge potential of AI. It has notably implemented a strategy to develop its own in-house generative AI capabilities.
The Banque de France is a pioneer in the use of blockchain in finance, enabling it to experiment on the future of payment infrastructures. Under the Venus project, for example, it successfully launched a wholesale CBDC in conjunction with the Central Bank of Luxembourg, on a blockchain network operated jointly by both institutions. Anticipating the future is at the heart of what the Banque de France does, and it is already working on the innovations of tomorrow, especially data and transaction security in a future post-quantum world.
The Banque de France collaborates with public and private stakeholders from all corners of the innovation ecosystem.
Its aim is to build the central bank of tomorrow by boosting the number of projects and pooling different skills and knowledge. Through Le Lab, in spring 2023, it launched an online platform to facilitate dialogue with the innovation ecosystem, offering news, events and project tenders open to start-ups, students, researchers and technology firms. Accessible online, the platform allows all innovators interested in transforming the financial world to submit their ideas and projects.
The Banque de France also participates in innovations and scientific debates through its contributions to cutting-edge research on technological developments. Its experts are involved in research projects with centres of excellence in AI and data (Université Paris-Saclay, Telecom Paris-Tech, Institut Léonard de Vinci), as well as in cybersecurity and blockchain (ENS-PSL, INRIA, École Centrale Lyon, CEA List).
As part of its corporate social and environmental responsibility (CSR) policy, the Banque de France takes account of the potential impact of its activities, including that of its information system. It has adopted a digital sobriety approach, and has set itself ambitious targets for limiting the negative externalities of its technology use.
In 2021, the Banque de France signed the international Charter for inclusive AI to help prevent discrimination in the development and use of algorithms. As a result, at the start of 2023, it was awarded GEEIS (Gender Equality European & International Standard AI) certification. It subsequently implemented a trusted AI strategy, comprising an analysis of the potential risks and the deployment of counter-measures.
The Banque de France’s innovation work is part of a much broader European and international agenda. Central banks face similar technological challenges and are increasingly cooperating to innovate, and understand and manage the risks to the financial system.
The Banque de France therefore participates in numerous international initiatives in this field, within the framework of the Eurosystem, but also alongside the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and its network of innovation experts. Together with the Bundesbank, the Banque de France co-hosts the Eursystem BIS Innovation Hub Centre based in Paris and Frankfurt. Inaugurated in March 2023, the centre aims to pool the innovation capabilities of euro area central banks and the BIS network of centres in the following fields: decentralised finance, wholesale CBDC, cybersecurity and green finance.
The Banque de France is developing an increasing number of bilateral partnerships, including with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Milano Hub of the Banca d’Italia, with which it signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in the autumn of 2023.
Do you have an innovative project you think might interest the Banque de France or would you like to take part in one of Le Lab’s project tenders?
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