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by Guenaelle Collet

Europe has world-class researchers, laboratories and start-ups in the field of AI. The EU is also strong in robotics. However, fierce international competition requires coordinated action for the EU to be at the forefront of AI development.

On 25 April, the European Commission published a series of measures to boost Europe’s competitiveness in the field of AI. The Commission’s approach is three-fold: it aims to increase public and private investment in AI, prepare for socio-economic changes, and ensure an appropriate ethical and legal framework.

On the financial support front, the Commission is increasing its investment to €1.5 billion for the period 2018-2020 under the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

As regards socio-economic challenges and changes to the job market, the Commission is encouraging Member States to modernise their education and training systems and support labour market transitions. The Commission will also directly support business-education partnerships to attract and keep more AI talent in Europe and set up dedicated training schemes with financial support from the European Social Fund. Proposals under the EU’s next multiannual financial framework (2021-2027) will also include strengthened support for training in advanced digital skills, including AI-specific expertise.

As regards ethical and legal frameworks, the Commission would like to set standards for market players in the EU and position the EU industry on the global scene

It is soon to appoint a High Level Expert Group (HLEG) that will steer the work and contribute towards drafting ethical guidelines on AI developments by the end of 2018. Those guidelines should be based on the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, taking into account principles such as data protection and transparency, and building on the work of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies. To help develop these guidelines, the Commission will bring together all relevant stakeholders in a European AI Alliance. Parallel discussions on ethical guidelines are ongoing at G7 level.

Moreover, in order to further create an environment that stimulates investment, the Commission is proposing legislation to open up more data for re-use and measures to make data sharing easier. This covers data from public utilities and the environment as well as research and health data.

On 10 April, 25 Member States expressed their support for such EU positioning by signing a Declaration of cooperation on AI. The composition of the HLEG is expected to be announced in the end of May.

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