The European Commission has been working to develop a unified AI Strategy for Europe. So far in 2018, the following initiatives are:
- 10 April 2018: European countries signed a Declaration of Cooperation on Artificial Intelligence
- 25 April 2018: Release of the Commission’s Communication on an approach to boost investment in and the setting of ethical guidelines for AI in Europe
- 14 June 2018: Establishment of the High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence (AI HLG), initially comprising 52 experts from academia, civil society and industry
- 14 June 2018: Launch of the European AI Alliance, a multi-stakeholder forum for discussing issues surrounding AI and allowing members to offer input and feedback to the AI HLG
- 27 June 2018: The first meeting of the AI HLG in Brussels
Declaration of Cooperation on Artificial Intelligence
On 10 April, 25 European countries signed a Declaration of Cooperation on Artificial Intelligence.
Whereas a number of Member States had already announced national initiatives on Artificial Intelligence, these Member States have now declared a strong will to join forces and engage in a European approach to deal with the many and varied issues raised. By teaming up, the opportunities of AI for Europe can be more fully explored, while the challenges can be dealt with collectively.
Cooperation will focus on reinforcing the technology leadership of certain European AI research centres, creating synergies in R&D&I funding schemes across Europe and exchanging views on the impact of AI on society and the economy. Member States will engage in a continuous dialogue with the Commission, which will act as a facilitator.
In its Communication on 25 April, the European Commission proposed a three-pronged approach to:
- increasing public and private investment in AI
- preparing for socio-economic changes brought about by AI; and
- ensuring that an appropriate ethical and legal framework for AI is adopted in the future.
1. Increased public and private investment in AI
It was proposed that:
- the EU (public and private sectors) should increase investments in AI research and innovation by at least €20 billion between now and the end of 2020
- the Commission will increase its investment to €1.5 billion for the period 2018-2020 under the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme
- this investment should trigger an additional €2.5 billion of funding from existing public-private partnerships, for example on big data and robotics
- the Commission will support the development of an "AI-on-demand platform" that will provide access to relevant AI resources in the EU for all users, especially SMEs, companies from non-tech sectors and public administrations. It will offer services and provide support to potential users of the technology, analyse the business case behind AI in their specific circumstances and help them to integrate AI solutions in their processes, products and services; and
- the Commission will aim to stimulate more private investments in AI under the European Fund for Strategic Investments (at least €500 million in 2018-20)
2. Preparing for socio-economic changes brought about by AI
The highlights were:
- the Commission is to encourage Member States to modernise their education and training systems and support labour market transitions; and
- the Commission will 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 (STEM), entrepreneurship and creativity
3. Ensuring that an appropriate ethical and legal framework for AI is adopted
- the Commission will present ethical guidelines on AI development by the end of 2018, based on the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights, taking into account principles such as data protection and transparency
- the ethical guidelines will be developed by the AI HLG, working to gather the feedback from the stakeholders involved with the AI Alliance; and
- by mid-2019 the Commission will also issue guidance on the interpretation of the Product Liability Directive in the light of technological developments, to ensure legal clarity for consumers and producers in case of defective products.
The High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence (AI HLG)
The AI HLG comprises of 52 expert representatives (30 men and 22 women) from academia, civil society and industry who have as a general objective to provide support to the European Commission for the implementation of a European strategy on AI. The members were selected by the European Commission based on a selection process from nearly 500 applications received following the call for applications.
Companies represented with industry representatives include: AXA, Bayer, Bosch, BMW, Element AI, Google, IBM, Nokia Bell Labs, Orange, Santander, SAP, Sigfox, STMicroelectronics, Telenor and Zalando.
European civil society bodies represented in the forum include consumer rights group BEUC; digital rights group Access Now; algorithmic transparency advocacy group AlgorithmWatch; the EESC civil society association; and the ETUC which advocates for workers’ rights and wellbeing.
The AI HLG is tasked to:
- advise the Commission on next steps addressing AI-related mid to long-term challenges and opportunities through recommendations which will feed into the policy development process, the legislative evaluation process and the development of a next-generation digital strategy
- propose to the Commission draft AI ethics guidelines, covering issues such as fairness, safety, transparency, the future of work, democracy and more broadly the impact on the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, including privacy and personal data protection, dignity, consumer protection and non-discrimination; and
- support the Commission on further engagement and outreach mechanisms to interact with a broader set of stakeholders in the context of the AI Alliance, share information and gather their input on the group's and the Commission's work.
The High-Level Expert Group met for the first time on 27 June 2018. Other planned events include other meetings, such as joint meetings with representatives of the Member States, specialised workshops, and consultation with the European AI Alliance.
European AI Alliance
Members of the open, multi-stakeholder AI Alliance are given a dedicated platform where they can offer input and feedback to the AI HLG. The AI HLG will be able to draw on this input when preparing its draft AI Ethics Guidelines and completing its other work.
Moreover, the discussions hosted on the platform will directly contribute to the European debate on AI, and will feed in to the European Commission's policy-making in this area. This will entail:
- members of the Alliance being able to engage in discussions with each other and the experts of the AI HLG in a dedicated forum;
- seeking feedback on specific (closed or open) questions, as well as on draft documents prepared by the AI HLG under a dedicated section;
- providing a specific events section which will keep members informed of the upcoming relevant meetings and events; and
- providing members with access to official documents on AI, and contributing reports and papers to an open library.
In addition, The European Commission plans to host its first Annual AI Alliance Conference in 2019.
The attention the EU is providing to this new technology is in marked contrast to the UK which seems content to follow the EU’s lead.
It is clear that major investment is planned for AI and associated technologies in Europe and the EU is leading the way in attempting to understand the impact of this new technology on society and trying to plan ahead.