Editorial

Europe says at least €20bn more needs to be pumped into AI research – now

Commissions says Europe is losing ground to the US and China – but where will a post-Brexit UK stand in all this?

Posted 26 April 2018 by

The European Commission says both public and private sector European leaders need to find ways to massively expand the amount of money being committed to exploration of the industrial potential of AI (Artificial Intelligence).

Brussels says the EU should increase investments in AI research and innovation by at least €20bn between now and the end of 2020, with it starting the ball rolling with an extra €1.5bn for the period 2018-2020 out of its Horizon R&D programme.

That could in turn draw in another €2.5bn from existing public-private sector partnerships, but that won’t be enough, say Commissioners – who says they will strive to “continue to create an environment that stimulates investment”, pursuing other vehicles such as trying to push in another €500m via the the European Fund for Strategic Investments framework.

EU planners will also start work with EU member states to have a coordinated plan on AI by the end of the year, with the main aim 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.

Why all the sudden urgency? Well, says the statement, while Europe has “world-class researchers, laboratories and start-ups in the field “, is also holding its own EU in robotics, and has world-leading transport, healthcare and manufacturing sectors that should adopt AI to remain competitive, “fierce international competition requires coordinated action for the EU to be at the forefront of AI development”.

“Just as the steam engine and electricity did in the past, AI is transforming our world. It presents new challenges that Europe should meet together in order for AI to succeed and work for everyone,” noted Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip.

“We need to invest at least €20bn by the end of 2020. The Commission is playing its part: 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.”

Where this leaves a post-Brexit EU – as well, of course, as a post-EU UK – remains very much to be seen.