European Vision for Artificial Intelligence – thinking, investing and sharing together

I often get asked how the Europe will survive in, and benefit from, the era of artificial intelligence. 

I think the answer starts and ends with the idea of united Europe. I think it is self-evident that we need mission-oriented and coordinated mind-set at the EU level. Fragmented patchwork of national policies will not work. We should not be small islands scattered across the Europe, but a connected archipelago working together. 

In order to harness the full European potential we should think togetherinvest together and share our resources together. Let me share some of my ideas on these matters. 

First, we need to think together. We should have networks and hubs that enable us to exchange ideas across the Europe. Knowledge is most valuable when it is shared. That is why we need to have hubs and networks, where our experts from across the Union can bounce their ideas of each other, leading to explosions of innovation.

I think Commission’s idea of a “distributed lighthouse” is a step in the right direction. We have already good examples of this distributed approach. For instance, ELLIS network has done great work in pooling the top European AI talent, resulting in globally competitive network of excellence.  Or consider the ELISE-project, built on top of ELLIS, that has further developed the strategic research agenda for the European AI excellence. We should truly protect and nurture these initiatives. 

Second, we need to invest together. The key issue is not that Europe does not have money. Under the Digital Europe Programme, we have allocated 2.1 billion to AI between 2021 and 2027. Horizon Europe Programme contributed. 2.7 billion between 2021-2027. RRF facility allocated 20% of the total of 750 billion euros to digitalization, including AI. I hope that the member states will use these funds wisely to ambitious projects for AI development. Further, coordinated plan on AI envisions private and public investments to AI to rise to 20 billion euros annually between 2021 and 2027. 

The challenge is allocating these investments in a smart way that benefits us the most in the long-term. To reap the benefits of the new technologies, we cannot afford to be short-sighted. We must have our eyes on the future, with clear common vision and mission-oriented investments. 

Third, we need to share our resources together. Let’s face it. Alone, no European country has the resources to stay on the cutting edge of AI-development. This is true for talent, for computing resources, and especially for data. Together, however, we do have these resources. 

Allowing talent to move effortlessly in the Union builds our common human capital. Focusing on our educational ecosystem helps to unleash the ingenuity of European peoples and create common talent pool that will facilitate the shift towards smarter Europe.

Establishing the European High-performance computing network in Europe has been a great initiative, creating common computing resources. Europe has many prospects to be a world leader in sustainable computing. As an example, in my native Finland, the heat produced by the Lumi (‘Snow’)-supercomputer is used to provide the heating for its home district –  the heat produced by its over 200,000 CPU cores covers around 20 % of the local energy needs in cold north. Such solutions are guideposts towards green and sustainable AI ecosystem in Europ

Lastly, in terms of data, one of my priorities Data Governance Act was the establishment of European data spaces, where the European data could truly be pooled to the benefit all of Europe. Making this data flow across the borders seamlessly will lead to truly pan-European data economy, where data from Slovenia can be used to optimize industrial systems in Portugal, or where the insights on crop yields from France will help farmers in Finland. 

Europe should invest together, think together and share resources together to truly become the powerhouse in AI. The triangle of curious people, vast lakes of data and sustainable computing infrastructure is an engine that pushes Europe forward in artificial intelligence.  

However, we should not focus only on the narrow technological parts of the European AI ecosystem. We should also cherish the fact that we are world leaders in thinking clearly, where we want artificial intelligence to take us. Technology is only a means to an end. 

As the AI Act proposal testifies, Europe has the courage to take helm of the digital transformation and steer it towards future we want to see. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said, to reach a port, we must set sail. Sail, not tie at anchor. Sail, not drift.


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