According to the EU, AI constitutes one of the biggest challenges of our time; it is transforming the world we are living in, and the way we approach it will define our society of tomorrow.
For those reasons, while technological advances are exponential, the European Commission is developing a unified AI strategy for Europe. Its objective is to create a solid legal framework and to help the EU to become the world leader in robotics.
In April 2018, the European Commission published the "Artificial Intelligence for Europe" Communication. It defined AI as "systems that display intelligent behaviour by analysing their environment and taking actions – with some degree of autonomy – to achieve specific goals".
The Communication provided a detailed description of the approach and steps to be taken at the European level to promote the development and the implementation of AI within the EU. The objectives of this communication were the following:
- To boost the EU's technological and industrial capacity and AI uptake across the EU economy through investments;
- To prepare for socio-economic changes with regards to both the modernisation of education and to the expected changes in the labour market; and
- To ensure that there will be an appropriate ethical and legal framework for AI which will be in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.
The fulfilment of such objectives will require coordination between the EU Member States. To that end, a Declaration of Cooperation was signed on 10 April 10 2018 by which the EU Member States committed to work together with the European Commission on a coordinated Plan on AI.
The AI Coordinated Plan
The AI Coordinated Plan, published on 7 December 2018, proposed joint actions for the European Commission, the EU Member States, Norway and Switzerland. It provides for four main pillars that are to be implemented within the next decade.
1. The maximisation of investments through partnerships
The purpose of these partnerships is to increase the coordination of investments. This will lead to €20 billion of public and private investments between the end of 2018 to the end of 2020. Furthermore it will lead to an annual investment of €20 billion from the year 2020 to 2030.
The fulfilment of this objective will require different joint actions:
- By mid-2019 the Members States are encouraged to put national strategies in place in order to implement the Plan's investment measures;
- Public-Private Partnerships will be organised under Horizon 2020 so that the European Commission, the Member States, industry and academia can work together on a common research and innovation agenda in AI;
- The European Commission will support start-ups and innovations in AI and blockchain in their early stage and companies in their scale-up phase; and
- The EU will enhance national research capacities through European AI research excellence centres.
2. The creation of European data spaces
The EU will create data spaces to permit, encourage and to protect data sharing with due respect for the General Data Protection Regulation. In this way, the free movement of non-personal data will be guaranteed to favour researches and innovations.
3. The enrichment of skills and the promotion of life-long learning
The Coordinated Plan provides for the modernisation of education programmes, the set-up of advanced degrees and, on a human-centred basis the promotion of a digital skill support (especially regarding employees whose jobs will be the most affected by digitalisation).
4. The development of ethical and trustworthy AI
Effective safeguards guaranteeing an appropriate and predictable ethical and regulatory framework are necessary in order for AI to be trusted by EU citizens and companies. For the European Commission, a legal framework guaranteeing a high level of safety and including a liability mechanism in case of abuse or damage is essential.
In this context, the European Commission has appointed a High Level Expert Group on AI which is currently working on AI ethic guidelines. A draft of these guidelines is already available on the European Commission's website here. The key guiding principle principle will be "ethics by design", under which ethical principles are respected when providing AI products and services. A final version of the AI Ethic Guidelines is expected for March 2019.
It is hoped that the Coordinated Plan will provide a roadmap for EU Member States, which will facilitate the effective exploitation by them of the many commercial opportunities offered by AI while at the same time providing meaningful protections against the new risks and challenges posed by AI.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.