Every day there are any number of fascinating research projects, pilots and developments in the field of AI, with an equal number of studies and papers exploring the social, ethical and legal aspects of AI technologies.
Supporters of the technology believe that it will significantly improve the quality of life of citizens, whether at home or at work. A recent report from the European Commission explores the state of AI and robotics across Europe, with the dual aim of both understanding the pace of AI development across the continent, and mapping the skills and technologies to allow for greater collaboration.
The report argues that this collaboration will be crucial to allow European AI firms and research projects to compete internationally. Whilst the recent Startup Genome report highlighted the growth of burgeoning AI ecosystems in smaller cities such as Helsinki and Frankfurt, these hubs are nonetheless more powerful if they can work together with bigger cities such as London.
Understanding the ecosystem
To do that however, the European Commission first had to understand the AI ecosystem in Europe. They ran a workshop with EurAI, the European Artificial Intelligence Association to explore the various academic, industry and government initiatives around AI in each EU country. The report is the principal output of the workshop.
It provides an overview of AI across the continent, with the work being done in each state accompanied by a basic SWOT analysis of each country’s AI infrastructure.
The strongest regions for AI in the EU were identified as the UK, Germany and France, with major hubs identified in London, Berlin, Paris, Madrid, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Barcelona, and Dublin.
The sector raised €3.6 billion for AI-related startups in 2017, with particular focus on startups in healthcare, financial services and automotive. Indeed, some 76% of investment was made in B2B startups.
The workshops concluded with a number of concrete steps to take things further, including:
- Establishment of a European hackathon and/or innovation forum encouraging entrepreneurship.
- Consideration of the establishment of a European research centre for AI modelled on institutions such as CERN.
- Incentivising stronger inter-governmental collaboration to combat fragmentation across Europe.
- Investment and creation of a pan-European data infrastructure that makes high quality data sets available to European researchers and companies, beyond the existing Open Data Portals.
- Support to facilitate and incentivise collaboration using European computational infrastructure and pooling existing resources and capabilities.
- Increased support for working groups/focus sessions and summer schools to train and educate technical researchers (including on ethical concerns surrounding AI and the development of responsible AI).
- Designing mechanisms to re-skill and up-skill the wider population in the use of AI tools and methods.
- An increase in Europe-wide and national research funding for current and potential future AI systems, their novel properties and large-scale/wide-reaching impacts, such as safety.
- Support for explicit studies concerning the integration of AI into society that address and propose novel approaches to increase the societal benefit derived from technical advances.
- Developing incentives and forums to promote stronger interactions between European industry, SMEs and the general public to host large EU AI and robotics conferences (e.g. IJCAI) and showcase European talent and successful projects.
“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. We need to invest at least €20 billion 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,” the Commission conclude.