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Europe's artificial intelligence efforts set for EUR 1.5bn boost

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Europe's artificial intelligence efforts set for EUR 1.5bn boost

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(BRUSSELS) - The EU is to boost investment in artificial intelligence by EUR 1.5 bn, the EU Commission announced on Wednesday, as part of a package of measures to boost Europe's competitiveness in the field of AI.

"Just as the steam engine and electricity did in the past, AI is transforming our world," said the Commission's Digital Single Market vice-president Andrus Ansip: "today, we are giving a boost to researchers so that they can develop the next generation of AI technologies and applications, and to companies, so that they can embrace and incorporate them."

The Commission is proposing a three-pronged approach to increase public and private investment in AI, prepare for socio-economic changes, and ensure an appropriate ethical and legal framework. This follows a call from European leaders' for a European approach on AI.

Fierce international competition requires coordinated action for the EU to be at the forefront of AI development, says the EU executive. It says Europe has world-class researchers, laboratories and start-ups in the field of AI. The EU is also strong in robotics and has world-leading transport, healthcare and manufacturing sectors that should adopt AI to remain competitive.

The Commission says the EU (public and private sectors) should increase investments in AI research and innovation by at least €20 billion between now and the end of 2020. To support these efforts, the Commission has announced that it is increasing its investment to €1.5 billion for the period 2018-2020 under the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. This investment, it says, is expected to trigger an additional €2.5 billion of funding from existing public-private partnerships, for example on big data and robotics. It will support the development of AI in key sectors, from transport to health; it will connect and strengthen AI research centres across Europe, and encourage testing and experimentation. The Commission will also support the development of an "AI-on-demand platform" that will provide access to relevant AI resources in the EU for all users.

Additionally, the European Fund for Strategic Investments will be mobilised to provide companies and start-ups with additional support to invest in AI. With the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the aim is to mobilise more than €500 million in total investments by 2020 across a range of key sectors.

The Commission will also continue to create an environment that stimulates investment. As data is the raw material for most AI technologies, the Commission is proposing legislation to open up more data for re-use and measures to make data sharing easier. This covers data from public utilities and the environment as well as research and health data.

With the dawn of artificial intelligence, many jobs will be created, but others will disappear and most will be transformed. So the Commission is encouraging Member States to modernise their education and training systems and support labour market transitions, building on the European Pillar of Social Rights. The Commission will support business-education partnerships to attract and keep more AI talent in Europe, set up dedicated training schemes with financial support from the European Social Fund, and support digital skills, competencies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), entrepreneurship and creativity. Proposals under the EU's next multi-annual financial framework (2021-2027) will include strengthened support for training in advanced digital skills, including AI-specific expertise.

The Commission acknowledges that artificial intelligence could raise new ethical and legal questions, related to liability or potentially biased decision-making. New technologies should not mean new values. The Commission says it will present ethical guidelines on AI development by the end of 2018, based on the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights, taking into account principles such as data protection and transparency, and building on the work of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies. To help develop these guidelines, the Commission will bring together all relevant stakeholders in a European AI Alliance. By mid-2019 the Commission will also issue guidance on the interpretation of the Product Liability Directive in the light of technological developments, to ensure legal clarity for consumers and producers in case of defective products.

The Commission is looking to have 'a coordinated plan on AI' by the end of the year. The main aim is to maximise the impact of investment at the EU and national levels, encourage cooperation across the EU, exchange best practices, and define the way forward together, so as to ensure the EU's global competitiveness in this sector. The Commission will also continue to invest in initiatives which are key for AI, including the development of more efficient electronic components and systems (such as chips specifically built to run AI operations), world-class high-performance computers, as well as flagship projects on quantum technologies and on the mapping of the human brain.

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