Billions are being pumped into AI research around the globe. If Europe continues to hesitate, however, it runs the risk of being left behind. A new broad-based initiative now aims to speed up the pace.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) will have a huge impact on all societies. Europe is also agreed on that. But development is mainly happening elsewhere. China is right at the forefront in this respect, where this key technology is regarded as a top-level issue. The state plans to invest more than 50 billion euros by 2025 and entice companies from across the globe with an industrial park running into billions. The three Chinese digital corporations Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent have their sights firmly set at the same time on attaining global AI supremacy. A similar scenario is playing out in the U.S. where, alongside public funding, major corporations like Google, IBM, Apple or Microsoft are investing heavily – also in basic research. The level of private investment in the EU is in the region of 2.4 billion euros, while in North America the figure is five to six times higher.
This is one reason why the “old continent” of Europe has been struggling to keep up so far, even though it has played a key role in AI from the outset. All the same, the world’s largest research center is located in Germany – the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI).
Another reason is of a political nature. Possibilities are being explored in Germany, with the federal states competing for the award of a planned research center. Master plans with France should materialize by fall, cabinet committees are being set up, and hopes rest on the digital summit in December . Europe wants to be a global leader for a technology that is growing at an explosive rate.
CLAIRE for AI research
To step up the pace, 600 leading AI experts are now calling on European and national decision-makers in an open letter to drastically increase their support for research excellence and innovation in artificial intelligence (AI). And this should take account of Europe’s strengths: responsible research and innovation that focuses on people. The results should then be incorporated into products, services and social innovations that offer real advantages for European citizens and boost the economy.
25 European countries signed the commitment on April 10, 2018 to increase the financing and coordination of AI research. Two weeks later, the European Commission published initial plans to finance AI research and innovation to the tune of around 20 billion euros.
The initiative calls for the establishment of a Confederation of Laboratories for Artificial Intelligence Research in Europe (CLAIRE). A large central hub will provide research infrastructure, data and computing resources, which would not otherwise be accessible, and make them available to regional centers of excellence and all other partners. As with CERN, the main research will be carried out by researchers and laboratories throughout Europe and the world. The coordination will then ensure sufficient leverage and recognition in all areas.
About the initiative
CLAIRE (“Confederation of Laboratories for Artificial Intelligence Research in Europa”) was launched by Dr. Holger Hoos, Professor for Machine Learning at the Institute of Advanced Computer Science (LIACS) at Leiden University, the Netherlands, together with Dr. Morten Irgens, Vice Rector at Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway and Prof. Philipp Slusallek, Scientific Director at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), Germany. The DFKI is one of the world’s largest non-profit research centers for innovative software technologies based on artificial intelligence methods. The Oslo Metropolitan University (OsloMet) is one of Europe’s youngest universities with a focus on technological changes in living and working environments. Leiden University is the oldest university in the Netherlands and one of the 100 most research-intensive universities worldwide.
Other supporters can now also sign the letter electronically at claire-ai.org.