The European Commission is to boost its investment in artificial intelligence by about 70% to €1.5bn (£1.3bn) by 2020 to catch up with Asia and the United States, which are each investing at least three times more than Europe.
AI promises to revolutionise sectors from healthcare to transport to agriculture and Europe is keen not to be left behind in the digital race.
The Commission, the EU executive, wants total private and public investment in AI to reach at least €20bn by the end of 2020 to ensure the bloc retains competitiveness and does not face a brain drain.
In the UK, similar proposals have been made within the UK’s new Industrial Strategy.
In 2016 European private investments in AI totalled around €2.4-3.2bn, compared to Asia’s almost €10bn and America’s €18bn.
Andrus Ansip, Vice-President of the European Commission, said: “Just as the steam engine and electricity did in the past, AI is transforming our world.
“Today (25 April), 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.”
Other European countries such as France and Britain have also made AI investment a priority. French President Emmanuel Macron promised €1.5bn of public money for AI in March.
The Commission said its €1.5bn investment ought to trigger an additional €2.5bn from existing public-private partnerships, for example on big data and robotics.
To help stimulate investment the Commission also proposed legislation to open up more public-sector data for re-use, such as the data held by transport authorities and utilities.
The tech industry welcomed the AI initiative but cautioned that investment should not be hindered by burdensome regulation, for example a proposed restriction on text and data mining (TDM) by companies.
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