09 October 2018, Helsinki

Dear Minister Lintilä,

Dear Vice President Katainen, Dear Jyrki

Dear Ministers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for me to be here with you today, in Helsinki, to open the AI Forum 2018.

I would like to start by congratulating Minister Lintila and the organisers of this important conference.

Because indeed, it is not only relevant, but we need platforms such as this one, where all actors can meet to discuss about Artifical intelligences. Policy-makers, political leaders, experts, entrepreneurs and industry leaders – we all have an important role to play in defining a shared European vision for Artificial Intelligence.

Yes Ladies and Gentlemen,

Digital is everywhere, data is everywhere, and so is AI.

This is just the beginning of a new technological revolution.

Hence, the questions that come to my mind is:

How are we going to shape it so that it fully benefits our citizens and our businesses? And how will we shape the development of Artificial Intelligence so that it respects our European values and high ethical standards?

Because yes, this is also a matter of trust. Our citizens need to be reassured and it is in our hands to reassure them.

Thus, Europe needs to be at the forefront of this development. We need to invest and we need to accelerate our actions because the truth is that we is lagging behind.

We invest, public and private actors altogether, barely more than €3 billion euros. Investment is about three times larger in Asia and as much as six times larger in North America!

However, this does not mean that we should give up the race.

Europe has still much to offer and we are clearly not doing this empty-handed. We have strong assets on which we can build: we have excellent research and innovation communities and strong industry in many sectors.

We are also working hard to complete a large and prosperous digital single market: with clear rules on data protection and copyright, free flow of data and the protection of privacy, cybersecurity and many more. On the other hand, we do not yet have the large companies or other centres of AI excellence that can hold our talented researchers and engineers in Europe. Also, we have too few of them to start with – in fact we are facing a major skills shortage.

Here, is where the European Commission’s approach to Artificial Intelligence enters into play.

In fact, after that all Member States signed a declaration of cooperation on AI during the Digital Day 2 in Brussels, it was clear that we needed to present a series of measures to put artificial intelligence at the service of Europeans and of Europe’s competitiveness.

It is true though that many Member States have developed their own strategies. Here, I must congratulate Finland for being a pioneers and having adopted their own vision for artificial intelligence already last year.

However, ladies and gentlemen, I am convinced that together we are stronger.

AI requires a common and shared vision. It requires common actions and strong cooperation among all EU Member States.

That is why, on the 25th April, we published a Communication that outlines our approach to artificial intelligence, to boost investments and set ethical guidelines.

Our Artificial Intelligence strategy focuses on 3 priorities:

First, increasing investments to boost the EU's technological and industrial capacity; second, preparing for socio-economic changes such as in labour markets; and third, ensuring an appropriate ethical and legal framework.

At the heart of our strategy is an ambitious investment plan. The Commission's own investments in AI will increase by 70% to €1.5 billion for the period 2018-2020. Similar efforts by the Member States and industry will bring us to overall public and private investments of €20 billion in this period.

This is just the first step. During the next 10 years, this needs to increase further, to reach at least €20 billion euros per year. Let me repeat this: €20 billion euros per year. It is a large number compared with where we are today. But, we are talking about one of the most transformative technologies we have ever seen. We cannot expect to reap the benefits without a real effort and a further step change.

We have proposed such a step change for the EU budget: The new Digital Europe Programme comes with €2.5 billion earmarked for AI investments. And, in Horizon Europe the Commission proposes to invest €15 billion euros in the ‘Digital and Industry' cluster with AI as a key activity. Taken together, these amounts are the Commission’s share of the €20 billion that are needed.

Now, we count on the European Parliament and the Member States to agree to these funding proposals. And of course, we need all other actors, to step up their investments accordingly.

As you are probably thinking, investments are indeed key but what about cooperation and coordination of actions within the European Union?

You are right. There will be no true advancement if we are not coordinated. And I must say, all shows that we are taking the right track.

At the last Competitiveness Council in Brussels, Ministers from a majority of Member States already declared their full support for joint action. And just yesterday, here in Helsinki, my team met with the Director-Generals from the national ministries to further work on the main orientations for a coordinated action plan.

Our agenda is ambitious - We aim to agree on a first coordinated action plan before December, by building on the current plans and priorities of Member States' investments in AI. The plan will increase the impact of co-investments at EU and national levels by building synergies and cooperation across Member States. Cooperation and pooling of resources are crucial to maximise the impact of our investments. Thus, by avoiding gaps and overlaps, we will ensure that every Euro we invest counts more.

These efforts must aim at strengthening research and innovation, at upgrading AI research infrastructures, at developing AI applications in key sectors, at improving access to data, and at facilitating industrial testing and uptake.

To make the most of these investments, the Commission will also facilitate access to relevant AI resources, including knowledge, data repositories, computing power, tools and algorithms. We will do so through an AI-on-demand platform, that will be launched in January.

Further, and equally important, we must ensure that Europe can access talent.

There is a number of students who want to understand AI, they want to be part of it. Investing in people, and retaining talent in Europe, is crucial. We need more data scientists, more engineers who understand AI, and more philosophers and psychologists who understand AI from a different perspective. I therefore expect that digital skills policy will be a fundamental chapter of all national AI strategies. It certainly is in ours

Ladies and Gentlement,

We cannot talk about artificial intelligence and how will it change our life styles as we know it, without talking about ethics.

This is a paramount matter. Let’s just think about the fact that it will be Japan’s priority for its G20 presidency. It is also a matter that was discussed and that will be discussed in the framework of the G7.

Why? Because it is a concern for our citzens and our industries.

Thus, we must understand how AI development will impact our lives and how we will shape it so that it benefits us all.

It is our duty to ensure that the technology developed is safe, that accountability is clear, that decisions are not biased, and that we, as humans, understand what is happening to us and who is responsible. In other words, we must ensure that AI is developed and applied in an appropriate legal framework and in line with our European values and our fundamental rights and ethical principles.

Further, I am personally convinced that ethical guidelines will be enablers of innovation for artificial intelligence. Trusted AI can be a significant competitive advantage for European companies. Ethics and Business must go hand in hand, since without trust, citizens will not go for the new technology. 

This is why, to make quick progress on AI ethics, the European Commission has set up a dedicated High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence. These dedicated experts have already been working here in Helsinki yesterday. Their first deliverable will be ethics guidelines for the development and use of AI and I will meet the group later today to hear about their progress. A first version of the guidelines should then be open for comments before the end of the year.

At the same time, a wider discussion is also taking place in the European AI Alliance, the dedicated multi-stakeholder platform we have set up. I warmly invite all of you to join the Alliance and the conversation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Before I leave you, allow me a last message.

Artificial intelligence is not science fiction; it is already part of our everyday lives, from using a virtual personal assistant to organise our day, to having our phones suggest songs we might like.

Beyond making our lives easier, smart systems help us solve some of the world's biggest challenges: treating chronic diseases, fighting climate change, and anticipating cybersecurity threats.

AI is, without a doubt, one of the most strategic technologies of the 21st century.

The European Union needs to be at the forefront of these developments

But it is upon us, to ensure that we achieve this common objective.

It is in our hands to ensure Europe’s digital sovereignty.

I thank you very much for your attention and I look forward to listening to all the discussions that will follow.

Thank you.