William Webster

written by

William Webster

Researcher, Avoncourt Partners GmbH

Culture Blog - Jun 18, 2019

EU risks being left behind in AI race

After research points to an explosive growth in the AI industry, Brussels has called for a € 20 billion cash injection for artificial intelligence research. The European commission wants governments and private companies to boost research and innovation spending on AI, amid rising concerns that Europe has lost too much ground to the US and China, where most leading AI firms are based. Health, transport and agriculture are among the areas the commission would like researchers to prioritise.

Consumer reports point to growth trends

A report from Tractica from the end of 2017 declares that advertising, finance, healthcare, consumer, and aerospace are some of the sectors leading AI adoption, however, growth is expected to be strong across every industry.

“Artificial intelligence has applications and use cases in almost every industry vertical and is considered the next big technological shift, similar to past shifts like the industrial revolution, the computer age, and the smartphone revolution,” says research director Aditya Kaul.

The research firm also predicts that worldwide shipment of consumer robots will also increase fivefold in next five years. The number of units supplied will be 50.7 million in 2022 from 10 million in 2016. In the same period, the market will grow threefold.

In the next eight years, revenue from the AI market will grow 25-fold. The recent track of investments into the field is equally encouraging. In the last four years, investments into AI companies rose nearly 10-fold, reflecting the interest and investor sentiment regarding the new technology. The surging interest in implementing AI systems among institutions and companies across the world is responsible for the exponential growth projection.

A shift in consumer interest

Consumer robotics is shifting from cleaning robots to robotic personal assistants or family companions, experts say. “In addition, robotic toys, which, until now, were largely gimmicks, are transforming into interactive connected play devices that have virtually limitless possibilities, as well as useful educational tools as a part of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)-based curriculum,” says research analyst Manoj Sahi.

Europe risks being left behind

Researchers have said Europe risks being left behind, as the US and China ramp up spending. US tech firms have been luring top British PhD researchers with six-figure salaries. In an attempt to stop the brain drain, leading scientists have drawn up plans for a vast multinational European AI institute. Named the European Lab for Learning and Intelligent Systems – or Ellis – it would have centres in a number of countries, including the UK.

In March 2018, Emmanuel Macron, the French president, announced € 1.5 billion in public funding for artificial intelligence by 2022, in a move to turn France into a “startup nation”. To meet the € 20 billion target, the commission promised to increase its spending by € 1.5 billion in 2018-20, under the EU research programme known as Horizon 2020. It hopes this will trigger € 2.5 billion in extra spending through public-private partnerships.

European hopes

Twenty four European countries, including the UK, France and Germany, signed a declaration in April pledging a European approach to artificial intelligence. “It can … solve key societal challenges, from sustainable healthcare to climate change and from cybersecurity to sustainable migration,” the ministerial declaration said. The EU will need a pragmatic approach, albeit remaining ethical, to reach its goals in AI research and development, delving into the sectors already heavily benefitting from AI integration.