The robotics and Big Data sectors are showing a strong growth in the European economy. Their value chains, together with a combination of enabling technologies, give Artificial Intelligence the power to transform the economy and society. A responsible use of AI is therefore necessary for its optimal exploitation; one that does not come at the expense of European values. In industrial environments, the integration of production or of material handling phases with data driving the processes, will increase productivity, flexibility and quality. In the field of services, Artificial Intelligence will allow the development of new business models, raise the standards and offer a value, sometimes difficult to imagine, to citizens and businesses.
Today, the need to formulate a common vision is clear. No single initiative, no single country, no single company or market segment can tackle this challenge alone. Solid bases and a network capable of connecting the necessary ecosystem are necessary. This is why at the end of 2018 the Big Data Value Association (BDVA) and the European Robotics Association (euRobotics) began a close collaboration with each other and with other initiatives, including academic and social ones. The first tangible result of this collaboration is the Strategic, Research, Innovation and Deployment Agenda, published in June 2019. This document, in perpetual beta thanks to new contributions from the network of parties interested in taking part, aims to be a reference point for the construction of a Public Private Partnership, PPP, between the associations and the European Commission.
How can a Private Public Partnership be implemented on AI?
The implementation of PPP on AI will target both the European programs under development, extending over the period 2021-2027: Digital Europe, a 9.2 billion euro program, to develop capacity and infrastructure, and Horizon Europe, a 100 billion euro one, for research and innovation. To this end, the proposal of how to carry out the activities for implementing an effective AI will be based on five strategic work areas.
Mobilization of the European AI ecosystem
In the first instance, the partnership for AI will be a focus for the interested parties (industry and services, including researchers) seeking to access the opportunity offered by the application of these new technologies and will be a focal point for the development and implementation of the common strategy on Artificial Intelligence in Europe, based on a good understanding of the strengths of the technology and of the opportunities in line with the European and global AI market.
Skills and acceptance
The challenge facing Europe in order to understand which skills are necessary requires a broad vision in perspective. AI PPP aims to understand the demand and supply of Artificial Intelligence skills in Europe, taking into account the need for multidisciplinary professionals in order to properly link technical and non-technical issues. We must arrive at guaranteeing the existence of adequate study programs to support the demand for specific skills and we must also come to recognize the need for continuous learning. Finally, Europe must take care of its AI talents.
Innovation and market-enabling factors
The objective in this area of work is to ensure that the European environment is able to provide the resources and infrastructures necessary for AI innovation and dissemination: for example, data, IoT infrastructure, edge processing, HPC, test infrastructures. It is essential that innovators (SMEs, start-ups, etc.) should be able to access this technical infrastructure and gain access to skills and funding (public and private) which can help them to implement solutions in response to concrete opportunities. Successful innovation depends, in fact, on the creation of connections, links between interested parties, the market, end users and research experts.
Guidelines and regulations
The document seeks to create a quality market in Europe, modeled on common worldwide standards and regulations and on common approaches to the certification and validation of AI-based products and services. This allows a fluid distribution of innovation within the market, favoring a more rapid implementation of products and services both within and outside Europe. The aim is to increase confidence in Artificial Intelligence by creating understandable guarantees, both in terms of operation and behavior. The impact of the regulation and of certification on product development and implementation is extremely complex, especially when decision-making processes or autonomous learning are involved. AI PPP will increase the understanding of the regulation and will promote the availability of high-quality test environments, accessible to all sectors and regions of Europe.
Promotion of excellence in research
A key objective of the agenda is to promote research excellence in enabling, technological and cross-sector factors, which are of strategic importance in order to achieve a European AI which may be considered reliable. Europe must exploit its current scientific excellence in Artificial Intelligence, strengthen cooperation, reduce research fragmentation and ensure access to international infrastructures (HPC, test infrastructure, European Network of Centers of Excellence on AI, etc.). AI PPP must ensure that research is aligned with the needs of the various sectors and must focus on solutions which promote its dissemination.
Which path must we follow now?
In order to reach a complete definition of this relationship between public and private, there is certainly still a long way to go. The European Commission could come up with a solution, but to date this eventuality still seems far away. The most important thing for participants in European associations is to remain preferential interlocutors of the European Commission, to respond to requests for contributions and clarifications, to work to the best in order to ensure that the next framework program should see them as key company players, to the benefit of European markets, and as innovators, to the benefit of Europe’s positioning in the international scenario of Artificial Intelligence.