On 19th of February, EIF Chair Pilar del Castillo MEP invited members for an exchange of views on how Europe can succeed against China and the US in the global race for AI leadership.
Pilar del Castillo MEP set the scene by stating that the EU, at least institutionally, is consolidating its AI strategy, having adopted legislation that will improve data sharing and re-use. Moreover, it has established a regulatory framework, it counts on one of the most ambitious public research programmes in the world and is currently adopting the first pan-European Digital Fund that will help provide Europe with the right capabilities for AI to reach its full potential.
Lucilla Sioli, Director at DG CNECT brought forward the European Commission’s perspective: “Europe wants to be a leader in advanced technologies that are human-centric, ethical by design.” Ms Sioli stated that the EU will be spending 20 bn euros per year in the next decade, as AI will be an important element of the Horizon Europe and Digital Europe programmes. The need for more AI testing and experimentation facilities was highlighted together with the lack of talent that Europe is currently facing. Ms Sioli called for cooperation between the EU and Member States in order to modernise education systems and train more people in Artificial Intelligence. “One of EU’s strengths is the ability to leverage the trust in technology”.
Professor Andrea Renda believes that AI leadership should not be framed as a race. The EU cannot mobilise the same resources, in a top-down approach. In his opinion, “trust is the new oil” and this is where Europe has a competitive advantage. However, the focus should not only be put on AI, but on the fully-fledged internet ecosystem. Moreover, the development of AI should be in accordance with Europe’s Sustainable Development Goals, in order to “show how AI can be used for good”.
“AI is not new to us. The only new dimension is the self-learning element” stated Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, Secretary General of DIGITALEUROPE. According to Ms. Bonefeld, Europe’s investment should go into skills which will eliminate the fear of technology and enable creativity. Moreover, the Public Procurement Systems need to be updated in order to not only give chances to big companies. “It is a chance for the EU to make real-life policy sandboxing”.
Carlos Fernandes of Deutsche Telekom offered a perspective from the telecommunications industry side. He highlighted the huge investment & research gaps: “in 2016, the EU accounted for 1/10 of the combined overall investment of US and China”. However, despite these gaps, Europe’s differentiator is the ‘ethics’ discussion: Europe has always been about transparency, about a human-centric approach when it comes to this type of technologies. We need to take this unique selling point and catapult it.” Mr. Fernandes concluded that telecom operators will be ready to support with data, which is the fuel for AI and once 5G is deployed, everything that can be, will be connected.