25 countries join forces in major European AI collaboration
Twenty five European countries have signed a declaration to jointly develop artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and solutions.
The new commitment is further evidence of the gathering political view of AI as an economic power play. It follows France’s €1.5 billion AI package last month, which contained detail of a cross-border collaboration with Germany. France’s package is the latest in a series of political statements and strategies related to AI.
A fully-fledged AI programme for the European Union (EU) is expected by the end of the month.
The European Commission (EC) said this latest agreement, announced at its ‘digital day’ event in Brussels, will help European member states to make more of the opportunities afforded by AI, including in ‘internet of things’ (IoT) applications in governance, manufacturing, healthcare, energy, and cyber-security. It will also enable them to deal with its various social, ethical and legal challenges collectively.
Andrus Ansip, vice president for the EU’s ‘digital single market’ initiative, said: “In Europe, any successful strategy dealing with AI needs to be cross-border… Cooperation will focus on reinforcing European AI research centres, creating synergies in research, development and innovation funding schemes across Europe, and exchanging views on the impact of AI on society and the economy.”
Signatories include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.
Norway was a signatory, also, as a member of the European single market. Croatia, Cyprus, Greece and Romania abstained.
The Member States agreed to work together on the most important issues raised by Artificial Intelligence, from ensuring Europe’s competitiveness in the research and deployment of AI, to dealing with social, economic, ethical and legal questions.
The Declaration builds further on the achievements and investments of the European research and business community in AI. AI is already used by citizens daily and facilitates both their personal and professional lives. It can also
The EC said AI is contributing towards economic growth through the digitisation of industry, and of society as a whole. It suggested related practices will help to solve challenges with healthcare, climate change, cyber-security and migration.
But it noted also the need for countries to collaborate to deal with its impact on the labour market, and the legal and ethical questions arising from its broad application in society. “An environment of trust and accountability around the development and use of AI is needed to fully profit from the opportunities it brings,” it said.
Both the new EU collaboration and France’s plan to establish itself as an engine room for AI are the latest pronouncements in an intensifying political arms race. The US unveiled its own AI strategy back in 2016, and since then Japan, Canada, the UAE, China and the UK have all produced variations on a theme.