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European Commission unveils €1.5bn AI funding

Given the UK's new artificial intelligence sector deal, the European Commission is unveiling its own initiative to make Europe a world leader in AI

The European Commission (EC) has announced it will be investing an extra €1.5bn in artificial intelligence (AI) for the period 2018-2020 under the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

The EC’s announcement coincides with the UK government’s £1bn AI sector deal, which will receive £300m of extra government funding.

As part of its funding initiative, the EC said it expects the €1.5bn investment will trigger an additional €2.5bn of funding from existing public-private partnerships, such as on big data and robotics.

Under a three-pronged strategy to build Europe’s AI capabilities, the European Commission said the funding will be used to support the development of AI in key sectors, ranging from transport to health.

It will connect and strengthen AI research centres across Europe, and encourage testing and experimentation. The EC will also support the development of an “AI-on-demand platform” that will provide access to relevant AI resources in the European Union (EU) for all users, it stated.

Vice-president for the digital single market, Andrus Ansip, said: “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 for AI to succeed and work for everyone.

“We need to invest at least €20bn by the end of 2020. The European Commission is playing its part: today, we are giving a boost to researchers so they can develop the next generation of AI technologies and applications, and to companies, so they can embrace and incorporate them.”

Beyond funding, the EC called for member states to modernise their education and training systems and support labour market transitions, building on the European Pillar of Social Rights. This is the second prong of its AI strategy.

The EC said it would 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 (Steam), entrepreneurship and creativity. The third prong concerns an ethical and legal framework for AI.

Read more about AI

  • House of Lords Select Committee calls for government to draw up an ethical code of conduct, which organisations developing AI can sign up to.
  • Study from Sage finds technology early adopters and consumers are ready to try artificial intelligence, but there are concerns over ethics.

The European Commission has set a deadline for the end of 2018 to present ethical guidelines on AI development, based on the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, taking into account principles such as data protection and transparency.

Earlier in April 2018, in the the UK, the House of Lords select committee on AI urged the UK government and industry to focus on ethics. It recommended that ethics should be put at the centre of artificial intelligence adoption to ensure it’s developed for the common good and benefit of humanity.

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