The European Commission has called for a 20 billion euro (£17bn) investment in artificial intelligence across the European Union in order to catch up with Chinese and US research in the area and to avoid losing top talent to other parts of the world.
The Commission said it would increase its investment by about 70 percent to 1.5bn euros by 2020, and wants total public and private investment to reach 20bn euros by the end of that year.
The body said it expects its investment to trigger an additional 2.5bn euros from existing public-private partnerships in related areas such as big data analytics and robotics.
In 2016 European private investments in AI totalled around 2.4bn to 3.2bn euros, compared to 10bn euros in Asia and 18bn euros in the US.
France and Britain have both also made AI investments a priority, with AI one of the key aspects of the UK government’s Industrial Strategy.
“Just as the steam engine and electricity did in the past, AI is transforming our world,” said Commission vice-president Andrus Ansip. “Today, we are giving a boost to researchers so that they can develop the next generation of AI technologies and applications, and to companies, so that they can embrace and incorporate them.”
The Commission wants to target areas including healthcare, transport and agriculture, and proposed legislation that would open up public-sector data for use by AI companies. The data could come from bodies in transport, utilities and other sectors.
It said it would appoint a committee to draw up ethical guidelines on AI with experts from business, academia and civil society. The group is to meet by July to consider questions around AI’s impact on work, social inclusion and privacy.
The EU has proposed a Europe-wide AI institute called the European Lab for Learning and Intelligent Systems (Ellis), with centres in countries across Europe, including in the UK.
Britain is one of 24 European countries that signed a declaration earlier this month in support of a pan-European approach to AI research.
The declaration said artificial intelligence can help with issues including sustainable healthcare, climate change, cybersecurity and migration.
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