Europe reveals four-step AI plan, €20 billion AI funding target, €66m robotics fund
The European Commission (EC) has stepped up its strategy to foster AI in the region, with a four-step plan and a target of €20 billion of private and public investments by the end of 2020, and €20 billion per year afterwards.
The EC will contribute €1.5 billion by 2020, the end of its current Horizon 2020 funding cycle for innovation and development. The proposed funding is 70 per cent higher than in 2014-2017. It will provide at least €7 billion towards AI development during the next funding period, from 2021-2027.
At the same time, the EC has awarded €66 million to robotics projects under its Horizon 2020 development fund to help digitise European companies. Nearly half the money will be dispatched directly to local companies, it said.
In line with its strategy on AI, published in April, the EC proposes closer cooperation between the EC and Member States, plus Norway and Switzerland, in four areas: to increase investment, make more data available, foster talent, and raise trust.
Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip said: “We agreed to work together to pool data – the raw material for AI – in sectors such as healthcare to improve cancer diagnosis and treatment.
“We will coordinate investments: our aim is to reach at least €20 billion of private and public investments by the end of 2020. This is essential for growth and jobs. AI is not a nice-to-have, it is about our future.”
Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel said: “Like electricity in the past, AI is transforming the world. Together with Member States we will increase investments for rolling out AI into all sectors of the economy, support advanced skills and maximise the availability of data.
“The coordinated action plan will ensure Europe reaps the benefits of AI for citizens and businesses and competes globally, while safeguarding trust and respecting ethical values.”
European investment in AI development is “low and fragmented”, the EC acknowledged, compared with the US and China, notably. The new plan seeks to realise “at least” €20 billion of public and private AI investments through to the end of 2020, and €20 billion per year over the next decade.
The EC will further step up its own contribution during the next 2021-2027 funding period, with proceeds from both its new Horizon Europe innovation fund, worth €100 billion in total, and its first ever dedicated digital programme, worth €9.2 billion.
New AI funding initiatives include a drive to set in place national AI strategies in every member state by mid-2019, a research partnership to foster public-private sector collaboration, and a scale-up fund to support AI startups and innovators.
A number of European AI excellence centres will also be established as testing facilities. Its €66 million investment in robotics will also drive forward the European AI movement, it noted.
Meanwhile, its second commitment, to make more data available, will see the creation of common European data spaces to ease data sharing across borders, while ensuring full GDPR compliance.
For the health sector, the EC will support the development of a common health database with anonymised scans of injuries, donated by patients, to improve cancer diagnoses and treatments with AI technology.
Its third commitment, to nurture AU talent, will see the introduction of advanced degrees in AI, and scholarships to fund students through them. Funds for on-the-job training will be available; AI will be made a part of education programmes in other disciplines, including law, the EC said.
Meanwhile, its strategy to tackle data bias and trust, to help with AI adoption, will see Europe publish new ethics guidelines for the development and use of AI. A draft version will be published shortly, before the end of the year, and be finalised in March 2019.
It wants to “bring Europe’s ethical approach to the global stage”, it said.
The separately-announced robotics fund will go to four projects via an expanded network of ‘digital innovation hubs’ (DIHs).
These are: the DIH^2 network, whose target is to “spark disruptive innovations” in 300,000 manufacturing SMEs; the DIH-HERO network, focused on healthcare robotics; the TRINITY network of multidisciplinary DIHs; and the RIMA network, focused on inspection and maintenance technologies.