European Commission publishes plan prepared with Member States to foster the development and use of AI in Europe

The plan sets out action for closer and more efficient cooperation between Member States, Norway, Switzerland and the Commission in four key areas: increasing investment; making more data available; fostering talent; and ensuring trust.

Representatives of Member States, Norway, Switzerland and the Commission have been meeting over the last six months to identify areas of joint co-operation that will be reviewed and updated on an annual basis. They prioritised areas of public interest, such as healthcare, transport and mobility, security and energy. They agreed to:

Maximise investments through partnerships:

Investment levels for AI in the EU are low and fragmented compared with other parts of the world such as the US and China. In line with the Commission’s AI strategy presented in April 2018, the plan foresees increased co-ordination of investment, leading to more co-operation and at least €20 billion of public and private investments in research and innovation in AI from now until the end of 2020, and more than €20 billion per year from public and private investments over the following decade. The Commission will invest €1.5 billion by 2020, 70% more than in 2014-2017. For the next long-term EU budget (2021-2027) the EU has proposed to invest at least €7 billion from Horizon Europe and the Digital Europe Programme in AI.

Co-operation to achieve these investment objectives includes:

  • National AI strategies: by mid-2019, all Member States should have their own strategies in place outlining investment levels and implementation measures, which will feed into discussions at EU level;
  • A new European AI public-private partnership: a new research and innovation partnership on AI will be set up to foster collaboration between academia and industry in Europe and to define a common strategic research agenda on AI;
  • A new AI scale-up fund: the Commission will support start-ups and innovators in AI and blockchain technology in their early stages as well as companies in their scale-up phase; and
  • Developing and connecting world-leading centres for AI: European AI excellence centres will be developed and connected, world-reference testing facilities will be established in areas such as connected mobility, and the uptake of AI across the economy will be encouraged through Digital Innovation Hubs (€66 million for robotics hubs were also announced). A European Innovation Council pilot initiative will also be launched to support next generation AI technologies.

Create European data spaces

Large, secure and robust datasets need to be available for AI technology to be developed. Together with European countries, the Commission will create common European data spaces to make data sharing across borders seamless, while ensuring full compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation. By mid-2019, the Commission will launch a support centre for data sharing to give practical advice to all European participants in the data economy.

Nurture talent, skills and life-long learning

Talent in Europe is essential for the development and use of AI, but EU countries face shortages of ICT professionals and lack AI-specialised higher education programmes. The Commission, together with European countries, will support advanced degrees in AI through, for example, dedicated scholarships. The Commission will also continue to support digital skills and lifelong learning for the whole of society, especially for workers most affected by AI, as detailed in its AI strategy.

Develop ethical and trustworthy AI

AI raises new ethical questions, for example potentially biased decision-making. To create trust, the plan aims to develop a technology that respects fundamental rights and ethical rules. A European group of experts, representing academia, business and civil society, is working on ethics guidelines for the development and use of AI. A first version will be published by the end of 2018 and the experts will present their final version to the Commission in March 2019 after wide consultation through the European AI Alliance. The ambition is then to bring Europe’s ethical approach to the global stage. The Commission will be opening up co-operation to all non-EU countries that are willing to share the same values.

To read the Commission’s press release in full, click here.