Artificial intelligence (AI) has taken centre stage in the EU’s policy agenda.

In April 2018, the European Commission (EC) published its blueprint strategy for AI. The plan sets out a timeline for an R&D and regulatory effort that will dominate the agenda of European decision makers in the months ahead. With Europe’s competitiveness, growth and jobs at stake, Member States such as France and Germany are devising their own national AI strategies. Despite lagging behind the US and China in AI investments, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made it clear: ‘We also want to compete and be in the forefront’.

The transformative power of AI is already shifting our healthcare systems, driving efficiencies and pushing the boundaries of our industries and everyday lives. But it is also having profound implications for the broader economy, sparking concerns among policy makers about the social and ethical issues arising from its application. As Europe seeks its path to AI development, its penchant for high data privacy standards and ethics-first approach is poised to have an impact beyond its boundaries, as demonstrated by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Businesses are faced with significant challenges to realise the full potential of AI. These range from financial pressures to skills gap or lack of public trust in AI systems. The three core pillars underpinning Europe’s AI strategy aim to address some of these challenges. The three pillars are:

  1. Boosting capacity and investments;
  2. Preparing for the socio-economic changes;
  3. Ensuring “an appropriate ethical and legal framework” for AI.

The strategy sets out the goal to increase public and private R&D investments in AI to at least €20 billion by the end of 2020 from an estimated total of €4-5 billion last year. Beyond these goals, it remains to be seen whether the EU will manage to secure the required scale of investments to compete with the US and China in the AI economy.

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Gurpreet Brar, General Manager, Brussels