On December 8, I-Com published the Digital Symposium 2020 with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI), especially analysing its role in Europe.
The US and China continue to be the leaders in artificial intelligence, investing more resources than other countries. The European Union, on the other hand, is trying to keep up, but Brexit has certainly created a further problem for Europe’s competitiveness.
The gap in the overall amount of investments appears to be the most startling reason for Europe lagging behind the US and China. In 2018, according to a Stanford University report, US companies invested $18.7 billion in artificial intelligence, compared to China’s $14.35 billion. The main 5 EU Member States (France, Germany, Sweden, Spain and Belgium) together slightly exceeded the level of UK investments ($1.461 bn vs. $1.27 bn), only slightly surpassing the much less populated Israel ($ 1.044 bn).
However, according to EU Commission data, the European Union is, immediately after the US and China, the main region globally to have a thriving AI ecosystem, populated by over 5,000 companies and 560 research institutes.
If we analyse the situation at single MS level, important differences are highlighted, with some countries keeping pace even at the international level, and others not being very inclined to a full AI adoption. In order to provide an idea of the degree of AI development in European countries, I-Com has developed a synthetic index that takes into account some variables relating to the industrial and research AI ecosystem in the various MSs, as well as the adoption level of some technologies closely linked to it and the analysis of Big Data.
At the top of the ranking we find Finland, the Netherlands and Belgium, with scores of 100, 94 and 89, respectively. These countries, despite being small in population – all together, their inhabitants slightly exceed 34 million, not even half of Germany’s population – have a good industrial ecosystem with a high number of AI companies – 119, 323 and 96, respectively. Furthermore, their companies, with a much higher percentage than the European average (20% vs. 12%) analyse Big Data. France (77) and Germany (68) follow at a distance, in seventh and eleventh position. The two largest EU countries, while numbering 633 and 711 AI companies, respectively, are far from the podium as, regarding size, their AI industrial and research ecosystems have not yet fully developed their potential. At the bottom of the ranking, we find the Eastern European countries, where both the industrial and research AI ecosystems see a lower number of active players and the level of adoption of AI-related technologies, such as robots and 3D printing, is very low.
Therefore, to ensure inclusive and sustainable growth and to catch up with the US and China, the disparities in AI adoption in Europe must be tackled.
To face these challenges, the European Commission has proposed several initiatives for successful AI adoption in Europe.
The EU began its pro-active AI strategy with the European Commission’s Communication ”AI for Europe”, published on 25 April 2018. Since then, several initiatives have been developed in the field of AI (e.g. Coordinated Plan on AI, Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI, Policy and investment recommendations for trustworthy Artificial Intelligence).
Lastly, the AI White Paper published by the Von der Leyen Commission on 19 February 2020, aims at setting a framework for trustworthy AI, based on excellence and trust. According to the adjusted Commission Work Programme 2020, the legislative proposal on the contents of the white paper, including security, responsibility, fundamental rights and data issues, is expected by the first quarter of 2021.