A SURVEY OF THE EUROPEAN UNION'S ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE ECOSYSTEM

Compared to other global powers, the European Union (EU) is rarely considered a leading player in the development of artificial intelligence (AI). Why is this, and does this in fact accurately reflect the EU’s activities related to AI? What would it take for the EU to take a more leading role in AI, and to be internationally recognised as such?

 

This new report surveys core components of the EU’s current AI ecosystem, providing the crucial background context for answering these questions. It outlines the EU’s high-level strategy and vision for AI, before looking at three crucial components the EU will need to implement this vision: funding, talent, and collaboration. The report aims to provide deeper insight into EU activities related to AI, to rectify any misconceptions about the EU’s level of involvement in AI development, and identify priorities for strengthening the current ecosystem.

 

Some key takeaways from this review include:

 

  • There is a clear emphasis on ethics and responsibility in the EU’s AI strategy and vision, especially relative to the US and China. The importance of ethics is clear in key publications laying out the EU’s AI strategy, in the makeup of the groups established to implement this strategy (particularly the High-Level Expert Group on AI which recently published a set of Draft Ethics Guidelines on AI), and in recent EU regulation, most notably the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). If the EU can quickly and effectively establish itself as leading in ethical AI, this could help give it a unique competitive advantage.
     

  • One barrier to the EU’s global competitiveness in AI development is a relative lack of VC investment and startup funding. However, the EU is beginning to address these funding challenges, for example with the newly proposed VentureEU fund and the European Fund for Strategic Investment. Though the European funding landscape is slowly changing, it remains to be seen whether these initiatives will be enough to make a meaningful impact.
     

  • Another challenge for the EU is ‘brain drain’ of talented researchers and developers to other continents. Part of the problem is that academic salaries are often not high enough to attract and retain top AI researchers. A number of different strategies for addressing this have been proposed - including boosting academic salaries and numbers of PhD positions, increasing visas to attract overseas talent, and increasing training and reskilling initiatives - but attracting and retaining top AI talent remains a significant barrier to achieving the EU’s vision.
     

  • The EU’s AI ecosystem could be strengthened by increased collaboration between member states, building on the EU’s track record of major collaborative projects including the Human Brain Project and CERN. There are several ongoing and upcoming EU-wide collaborative initiatives, including for example the European Lab for Learning and Intelligent Systems (ELLIS). Successful collaborations could also help address the above two challenges by attracting both more funding and talent.

 

By providing an overview of the EU AI ecosystem and highlighting some important initiatives, this report hopes to open a wider conversation about what EU leadership in AI could look like and what might be needed to get there.

Commentary and Summary: Policy and Investment Recommendations

This document serves as a short overview of the Policy and Investment Recommendations for Trustworthy AI. I introduce their background and purpose, and then dive into the main summary of the 33 recommendations.

Sometimes, I add commentary that does not reflect the original text. Commentary is indicated in italics to avoid confusion.

Coordinated Plan on AI: a summary

End of 2018, the European Commission released two major documents outlining a coordinated plan for AI. It includes a projected aim of €20bn in funding by 2020 and lays the foundation for coordination on AI between European nations, with an invitation for international cooperation.
 

This is a partial overview of the Coordinated Plan on AI that I have cut down, re-structured and edited to highlight the aspects that I am most excited about.

German AI strategy: executive summary translation with commentary

The Federal Government accepts the assignment the rapid progress in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) offers. To that end, it will harness this innovation boost for the benefit of all. We want to safeguard the excellent research location Germany, expand the German economy’s competitiveness and promote the various applications of AI in all areas of society. The latter will be supported in terms of societal progress and in the interest of citizens. The focus for this will be the benefit AI can bring to people and environment.

We will also continue exchanges with all members and groups within society. Germany is well positioned in many areas of AI. The ‘AI made in Germany’ strategy makes use of existing areas of strength and transfers those to areas where the potential of AI hasn’t yet been fully exploited. The 2019 federal budget offers €500m to strengthen the AI strategy for 2019 and the following years. ‚ÄčThe federal government wants to provide €3bn until 2025 for the implementation of the AI strategy. ‚ÄčIt is expected that this commitment will leverage a doubling of financial resources through its impact on business, science and Germany’s sixteen states.

AI cornerstones Germany: translation with commentary

My take-aways are that the document is: very aligned with European Commission’s AI strategy and the Digital Day Declaration - strong focus on knowledge transfer (connecting R&D&I with economy and industry). There is a focus on building AI clusters, research orgs etc. (beginning with FR collab.);  AI for benefit of society (w. mention of a variety of typical european values); and focus on AI impact on employment (incl. re-/up-skilling, adding AI to several subject courses).


It identifies a strong need to support non-traditional innovation and make use of existent potential. It contains various mentions of monitoring AI-related developments, through e.g. international AI observatories.  The document outlines a need to combat brain-drain / attract new experts; better access and usage of available data w/ infringing on citizens’ rights; expand technical infrastructure for AI

It proposes work on verifiability, transparency etc to combat discrimination, manipulation [...]; work on standards setting; also - “AI made in Germany”; and to collaborate internationally (G7, G20), as well as to work with developing regions.

The European AI Landscape: Workshop Report

" Artificial Intelligence (AI) is expected to have enormous impact in addressing many of the greatest societal challenges that face us today, e.g. ageing, transport, and the environment. It is expected that it will help improve the quality of life of citizens both at home and at work. In addition, it will contribute greatly to increasing European industrial competitiveness across all sectors, including small and medium-sized enterprises and non-tech industries.
 

Europe has a leading edge in AI and robotics, as acknowledged by the excellent scientific standing of European researchers, including a number of worldwide AI experts originating from Europe. This strong expertise is also reflected in the level of investment in Europe from world leading companies, either in existing labs or companies, or in creating new major R&D labs in Europe. In addition, Europe has a vibrant start-up landscape. However, these AI resources are scattered throughout Europe, and we must acknowledge that international competition is fierce. Therefore, in order to fully exploit the potential of AI for the benefit of the European economy and society and to guarantee Europe’s leading position in AI, it is essential to join forces at the European level to capitalise on our strengths.
 

As a starting point, it is important to identify clearly Europe’s current ecosystem and the opportunities that it creates. To that end, in January 2018 the European Commission in collaboration with EurAI, the European Artificial Intelligence Association, organised a workshop on the European AI landscape, considering academic, industry, and governmental initiatives, with a view to sharing information and strategies for AI across Europe. The workshop was attended by academics, researchers, and representatives of industry and governments from EU Member States and Associated Countries.
 

This report is an initial snapshot of the European AI landscape. It is a scoping document. It is not intended to be an exhaustive survey for any Member State.

We would like to acknowledge the high level of engagement from the many stakeholders within the European AI community and the depth of the discussion we had. We believe that there is an unprecedented level of promise in how the European Union wishes to support this community and see it succeed.

This is one of the first steps from which we hope to build a strong European AI community and pave the way to beneficial Europe-wide cooperation on AI."

© 2019 Charlotte Stix. 

  • LinkedIn - Black Circle