In its strategy on artificial intelligence, the European Commission put forward three strands that aim to:
- place Europe ahead of technological developments and encourage the uptake of AI by the public and private sectors
- prepare for socio-economic changes brought about by AI
- ensure an appropriate ethical and legal framework
The three strands of the AI Strategy go hand in hand with the vision for a European ecosystem of excellence and trust. Presented in the white paper on artificial intelligence, this vision proposes:
- measures that will streamline research, foster collaboration between Member States and increase investment into AI development and deployment.
- policy options for a future EU regulatory framework that would determine the types of legal requirements that would apply to relevant actors, with a particular focus on high-risk applications.
This vision will come into practice through two key documents presented by the Commission in its “AI Package” of April 2021:
- the Coordinated Plan on Artificial Intelligence 2021 Review
- Proposal for a Regulation laying down harmonised rules on artificial intelligence
As part of its AI Strategy, the Commission has joined forces with all Member States, as well as Norway and Switzerland, to foster the development and use of AI in Europe. The Commission also aims to coordinate European and national efforts on AI. The first publication of the Coordinated Plan on AI in 2018 laid the foundations for the Commission and its Member States to combine efforts in policy and investment. The 2021 update of the plan aims to accelerate investments, act on AI strategies and programmes and align AI policy and investment coordination.
The Commission’s joint research centre monitors industrial, technological and research capacities, and the uptake of AI technologies across Europe. This work is presented in the AI Watch portal.
Placing Europe ahead
The Commission is increasing its annual investments in AI by 70% under the research and innovation programme Horizon 2020 in order to:
- connect and strengthen AI research centres across Europe
- support the development of an "AI-on-demand platform" that provides access to relevant AI resources in the EU for all users
- support the development of AI applications in key sectors
However, this is only a small proportion of total investments, many of which come from Member States and the private sector. The Commission's actions serve as the glue linking individual efforts, with an aim to make a collective solid investment. The expected impact of such an investment is much greater than the sum of its parts. To this end, the Commission will take more actions to:
- increase the deployment and uptake of AI and robotics made in Europe by creating world reference large scale testing and experimentation facilities in key strategic sectors and technologies (agri-food, healthcare, manufacturing, smart cities and edge AI)
- build on public private partnerships
- accelerate public sector AI adoption by supporting public procurement of AI-based systems and helping to transform public procurement processes themselves
Preparing for socio-economic changes
According to a special report conducted on how AI and automation will transform our world of work, a major shift of economies and all related activities is currently taking place. To be able to manage this transition and make the best out of what technology offers us, we need to review our business models, reorganise tasks and rethink our education systems. This requires:
- a major investment effort in research, education, IT infrastructure, and systems to be shared between public budgets and companies.
- a major rethink of education, developing full courses for adults, instead of a few retraining sessions scattered over the course of a career. We should give young people the capacity to learn rather than feeding them with technical knowledge that can quickly become obsolete.
With this view, the Commission will cooperate with Member States to:
- expand actions aimed at upskilling the existing workforce, within the context of the Digital Education Action plan 2021-2027
- explore options to facilitate the mutual recognition and validation of AI
- implement the measures of the Digital Europe Programme related to advanced digital skills
Member States and the Commission are discussing specific measures, which are listed in a dedicated paragraph of the updated Coordinated Plan on AI.
Ensuring an ethical and legal framework
The European AI Strategy and the Coordinated Plan put forward trust as a prerequisite to ensure a human-centric approach to AI. The Commission published a communication on "Building Trust in Human-Centric Artificial Intelligence” highlighting the key requirements and concepts of trustworthy AI. The High-Level Expert Group on AI (AI HLEG) built on this concept in their ethics guidelines for trustworthy AI.
The goal of an ethical and legal framework for AI, along with the four deliverables presented by the 52 experts in their two years of mandate, has strongly affected the Commission’s vision on AI. The most recent AI white paper reflects this vision.
The Commission proposed the world’s first regulatory framework on AI in April 2021. The proposal introduces requirements for AI systems that pose a high risk to safety and fundamental rights. These requirements include the use of high-quality datasets, traceability, the sharing of information, human oversight measures, and robustness, safety, cybersecurity and accuracy. The proposal also bans particularly dangerous uses of AI such as social scoring by governments or systems that manipulate human behaviour.
Important milestones of the AI Strategy
- April 2021 – Fostering a European approach for Artificial Intelligence
- April 2021 – Proposal for a Regulation laying down harmonised rules on artificial intelligence
- April 2021 – Updated Coordinated Plan on AI
- April 2020 – Impact Assessment
- October 2020 – 2nd European AI Alliance Assembly
- July 2020 – Inception Impact Assessment
- July 2020 – Public Consultation - White Paper on Artificial Intelligence
- July 2020 – Final Assessment List on Trustworthy AI (ALT AI ) of the AIHLEG
- July 2020 – Sectoral Recommendations of Trustworthy AI of the AIHLEG
- February 2020 – White Paper on AI : a European approach to excellence and trust
- December 2019 – Piloting of Assessment list on Trustworthy AI
- June 2019 – 1st European AI Alliance Assembly
- June 2019 – Policy and Investment recommendations of AI HLEG
- April 2019 – Communication: Building Trust in Human Centric Artificial Intelligence
- April 2019 – Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI
- December 2018 – Coordinated Plan on AI (Communication on “ AI Made in Europe” - Press Release)
- December 2018 – Stakeholder Consultation on draft Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI
- June 2018 – Launch of the European AI Alliance
- June 2018 – Set up of the High Level Expert Group on AI (AIHLEG)
- March 2018 - Press Release on AI Expert Group and European AI Alliance
- April 2018 – European AI Strategy (Communication: Artificial Intelligence for Europe – Press Release)
- April 2018 – Staff Working Document: Liability for emerging digital technologies
- April 2018 – Declaration of cooperation on Artificial intelligence