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CogX AI show opens with debate on Europe’s lack of dominance

European researchers have made significant breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, but the dominant players all seem to be based in Silicon Valley

Coinciding with London Tech Week, the CogX 2018 show on artificial intelligence (AI) kicked off at London’s Tobacco Dock with a discussion on why European AI firms are failing to dominate.

Matt Hancock, secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS), said: “From the first diode to the Turing computers to the www, the UK has been the heart [of technology]. The UK is a digital dynamo – this is our moment to take note of that."

But among the subjects raised in public discussions at CogX was the fact that across European countries, the invention of leading-edge technologies has not been followed by commercial success.

The situation is very different in the US, where Silicon Valley giants such as Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft dominate the AI space.

Juergen Schmidhuber, director and professor at the Swiss AI Lab IDSIA (Istituto Dalle Molle di Studi sull’Intelligenza Artificiale), said: “AI was invented by Europeans, but no huge European company is making the big money. They need to scale up things quickly.”

Schmidhuber said Europe does not have an industrial policy that is comparable to the US. “In the US, Amazon and Tesla receive huge government funding,” he noted.

Among the ways European governments could demonstrate their commitment to AI is by funding significant technology parks, such as by having a £2bn AI tech park in London or Berlin, he added.

Although the UK government has intentions to make the UK the number one destination for AI through its industrial strategy, £1bn has been set aside for an AI sector deal – half the amount Schmidhuber suggested should be invested in London alone.

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Antoine Blondeau, co-founder of Sentient Technologies and co-founder and managing partner of Alpha Intelligence Capital, said the concept of having an idea flop is more acceptable in the US than in Europe, which means entrepreneurs may fail several times before going to market with a successful idea. “In Silicon Valley, people are allowed to fail,” he said.

Vishal Chatrath, CEO and co-founder of, suggested that European firms should be bolder. “The first challenge is that there is a lack of confidence in companies, which means they have not been able to scale out,” he said.

Chatrath said 90% of the AI in Silicon Valley is hype, but the companies there understand the opportunity and want to grow and dominate the emerging AI market.

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