15 March 2018, Berlin
Ladies and Gentlemen, I would have loved to be with you in person today. But I am grateful that you allow me to address you in this way.
Digitisation has been radically transforming our economy and society. Digitised businesses are more innovative and growing faster; digitised public services are more efficient. But the ongoing revolution of Artificial Intelligence, or AI, will accelerate the transformation even further, bringing new opportunities, and new challenges.
AI already has a direct impact on many of us:
- In healthcare, it saves lives by improving diagnostics and treatments;
- At home, it assists the elderly and disabled fellow citizens;
- In farming, it allows more targeted use of pesticides and fertilisers ;
- On the roads, it decreases the number of accidents and of traffic jams through autonomous vehicles.
AI also offers enormous potential for economic growth and, according to recent studies, its global market is expected to exceed 120 billion Euros already by 2020.
The European Commission has long recognised the importance of this field. Europe was a pioneer in investing in the research and the take-up of AI. The Horizon2020 Program has launched one of the world's largest civilian research programs in AI and Robotics. We have also invested in AI-related areas such as big data, health, transport and Future and Emerging Technologies, accumulating a funding for AI of more than 1.5 Billion Euros to date.
But in the fierce international competition, with huge investments taking place in the US and China, Europe shall spare no efforts to play its role at the forefront of this revolution. It is an absolute necessity in order to keep up our competitiveness and social model. It is only as a main contributor that Europe can shape the conditions under which these technologies are used and ensure that our common values are promoted.
I am expecting the EU, the Member States and the industry to collaborate efficiently so as to invest into this future.
AI also raises some ethical and legal questions. For example, in terms of safety and liability, in case an AI-powered system causes damages, or regarding the transparency and biases of such systems.
We must carefully address all these issues, protect all citizens' interests, and respect the highest ethical standards and European values.
This is why, to ensure that Europe plays a leading role and seizes the opportunities ahead in addressing these challenges, we are working on a comprehensive strategy for AI in Europe. We will present this AI Strategy at the end of April.
It will hinge on three pillars:
- Strengthening Europe's technological and industrial capacity in AI and facilitating its uptake;
- Tackling socio-economic challenges such as the impacts of automation on employment and skills; and
- Addressing new ethical and legal issues such as privacy, liability and safety.
To support the first pillar of the strategy, we will fund an "AI-on-demand platform" in order to disseminate and democratise access to AI technologies. The objective is to enable every European researcher and company, particularly SMEs, to access high-quality software, data and expertise.
We will also upgrade the existing European network of Digital Innovation Hubs in the regions. These local ecosystems developed around competence centres help all companies in their region, large or small, high-tech or not, to test the uptake of advanced technologies, in the future including AI.
For actions on this industrial side, but also for the ethical, legal and socio-economic challenges, it is crucial to engage with all stakeholders around AI-related questions: experts such as scientists and the industry but also citizens, users, consumer organisations, trade unions, policy makers and so on.
To this end, we will set-up a European AI Alliance, acting as a multi-stakeholders forum to work on the future of AI in Europe and its implications for European citizens and the economy. This Alliance should become a worldwide reference platform for the reflection on AI.
We have just published a call for a High-Level Expert Group on AI, which will be key to develop the new AI Alliance.
One deliverable that we expect from the Group and the AI Alliance is a proposal for ethical guidelines on the development and use of AI, as well as on the rights of its users. This work will start very soon.
Please note that the call for the High-Level Expert Group on AI will still be open for a few weeks, until 9 April 2018. If you are interested, don't miss the opportunity to help shape the future of AI in Europe! We need your expertise in this aspiring journey.
Because what we want to achieve is simple but ambitious: We want to create the framework conditions to make Europe the best place to invest in and to develop artificial intelligence, for our common benefit.
Thank you very much.