This brochure gives you a quick overview of the EU's main policy and research activities in the area of Artificial Intelligence.


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What is AI?

Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to systems that display intelligent behaviour by analysing their environment and taking actions – with some degree of autonomy – to achieve specific goals.
Many AI approaches critically depend on the availability of data to achieve their results, or use learning methods to reach their performance or improve over time.

AI applications can be:

  • Purely software-based
  • AI embedded in hardware devices

Why is it important?

AI is progressively driving the digitisation of our economies and societies. From helping with repetitive or dangerous tasks to assisting the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, to predicting climate change, AI applications can boost productivity growth, economic gains, societal progress and help achieve environmental sustainability.

  • Better medical diagnosis and healthcare
  • Sustainable use of environmental resources
  • Efficient and cost effective supply chains and public services
  • Improved crop yield, soil health and drastically reduced use of pesticides and fertilizers
  • Faster and safer transportations

Enabled by computing power, availability of data and progress in algorithms, these benefits are turning AI into one of the strategic technologies of the 21st century.

What is the EU doing on AI?

The EU aims to lead the way in developing and deloying AI for all by:

  1. Boosting public and private investments in AI
  2. Fostering skills to make the most of AI and automation at work
  3. Ensuring an appropriate ethical and legal framework

These objectives are the three pillars of the European Strategy on Artificial Intelligence, launched in April 2018.

Boosting the European potential in AI

  • Research excellence centres
  • World-leading position in robotics
  • Strong business-to-business domain
  • Strong industrial and services sectors
  • Industrial data

Investing in AI

Starting from 2004, European financing has supported research and innovation in AI-related fields. This support evolved during the past decade triggering a public-private partnership and initiated one of the world’s biggest civilian research programmes in robotics.

  • AI-Related Areas: €2.6 billion over the duration of Horizon 2020
  • Robotics: €700 million under Horizon 2020 + € 2.1 billion from private investment
  • Skills: € 27 billion in skills development + €2.3 billion specially in digital skills

Strengthening investment

For its next multiannual financial framework (2021-2027) the EU has proposed to invest at least €7 billion in AI through the Horizon Europe and Digital Europe programmes, in order to:

  • foster collaboration in tackling scientific and technological challenges
  • boost development and deployment of AI
  • make AI available to small and medium-sized businesses and public services across all Member States

These funds will enable research in areas such as explainable AI, unsupervised machine learning and data efficiency and advanced human-machine interactions.

Two important initiatives launched under Horizon 2020 that support the building of the European AI community and make Europe a powerhouse for AI:

  • AI on demand platform

    Involving 79 partners, covering 21 countries and funded by €20 million, the “AI4EU” platform will unify Europe’s AI community to facilitate collective work and the sharing of expertise. The programme aims to create a European AI ecosystem, bringing together the knowledge, algorithms, tools and resources available and making it a compelling solution for users. The “AI4EU” platform is expected to become a single access point to all algorithms, tools, resources (including data and computing) to develop AI-based services, products and solutions, knowledge and tools available for all.

  • Networks of European AI research excellence centers

    A €50 million programme to structure collaboration between the AI research community and foster excellence, aims to make Europe “the place to be” for AI scientists. It also promotes cooperation between academia and industry, focusing on science and technology challenges.

The programme is expected to mobilise the best researchers and academia into networks. These networks should allow to create a critical mass on key AI topics and foster exchange between projects, and relevant initiatives.

Digital Europe Programme

The Commission proposes the Digital Europe Programme to complement Horizon Europe with €2.5 billion to:

  • Invest in and open up the use of AI by businesses and public administrations
  • Facilitate the access and the storage of large sets of data and algorithms
  • Strengthen and support existing AI testing and experimentation facilities in areas such as health and mobility in Member States and encourage their cooperation.

An additional €700 million will be invested in digital skills. Part of the €1.3 billion dedicated to digital technologies, will finance Digital Innovation Hubs on AI in:

  • Designing and delivering short-term training and courses for enterpreneurs, small business leaders and the workforce
  • Designing and delivering of long-term trainings and master courses for students, IT professionals and the workforce
  • Delivering on-the-job trainings and traineeships for students, young enterpreneurs and graduates
  • Building up and strengthening the network of European Digital Innovation Hubs (aiming to have one Hub in every region)

Joining forces for an “AI made in Europe”

“AI made in Europe” is set to meet citizens’ expectations by responding to societal needs and boosting competitiveness. Member States are committed to join forces with the
European Commission and make Europe a world-leading region for developing and deploying cutting-edge, ethical and secure AI.

The European Strategy on Artificial Intelligence fosters public and private investments to reach:

  • A total of €20 billion to be invested from 2018 to 2020
  • A significant increase of investment after 2020, towards an average of €20 billion per year

Graph describing rise in public EU funding for AI, in billion euros from under 1 in 2014-2017 to 7 in 2021-2027Pie chart detailling EU investment in AI (target Eur 20bn by 2025): 1bn of EU funding, 6bn from national public sector, 13bn from companies

Building a human centric AI

AI can create many opportunities. Yet it can also bring about challenges, for example when it comes to the future of work, and raise ethical as well as legal questions.

  • Will AI replace some tasks or entire professions?
  • Who is accountable for an accident caused during the deployment of AI?
  • Under what conditions, if any, can AI be used for the identification and profiling of individuals?
  • Should machines fitted with AI technology decide whom, when and where to fight without explicit human intervention?

In order to ensure an appropriate ethical and legal framework, based on the Union's values and in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the European Commission worked with multiple stakeholders to define "Trustworthy AI". Trustworthy AI should respect all applicable laws, regulations, should be ethical and robust, and comply with a series of requirements:

Piloting of the ethics guidelines for trustworthy AI

How can developers, deployers or any citizen affected by the use of AI make sure that the 7 Key Requirements are implemented?

In their founding document, the “Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI”, the High-Level Expert Group on AI (AI HLEG) outlined 7 Key Requirements that are complemented by an “assessment list” to support their practical implementation.

In June 2019, the Commission launched a piloting process, inviting all stakeholders to provide feedback on how this assessment list can be improved.

Interested stakeholders can register and participate in the piloting until the 1st of December 2019.

Building on its reputation for safe and high-quality products, Europe’s ethical approach to AI strengthens citizens’ trust in digital development and aims at building a competitive advantage for European AI companies. The definition of the Key Requirements as well as the entire concept of Trustworthy AI is the result of a comprehensive process involving a wide variety of stakeholders through e.g. an ongoing public consultation.

Promoting consensus on trustworthy AI

The High-Level Expert Group on AI

52 experts from:

  • Industry
  • Academia
  • Civil Society

In 2018, the Commission mandated the group to draft two deliverables:

Citizens and other Stakeholders

More than 500 European citizens and international stakeholders provided their input to the first draft of the Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI, shaping the final document, published in April 2019.
This will now be refined through the piloting process.

European AI Alliance

3600 members from Europe and all over the world

A multi-stakeholder forum for engaging in a broad and open discussion of all aspects of AI development and its impact on the economy and society. It is steered by the High-Level Group on AI.
Hosted by Futurium (the European Commission’s platform dedicated to citizens’ discussions on EU policies), the AI Alliance has offered important input to the deliverables of the High-Level Expert Group on AI.

In June 2019, 500 members of the group met in the European AI Alliance Assembly to discuss the latest achievements in AI policy and its future perspectives.

EU Member States and International Community

Technologies, data and algorithms know no borders. The Commission aspires to bring AI ethics to the global stage strengthening cooperation with like-minded partners and playing an active role in international discussions and initiatives.

What is next?

In my first 100 days in office, I will put forward legislation for a coordinated European approach on the human and ethical implications of Artificial Intelligence. This should also look at how we can use big data for innovations that create wealth for our societies and our businesses. I will make sure that we prioritise investments in Artificial Intelligence, both through the Multiannual Financial Framework and through the increased use of public-private partnerships.

Ursula von der Leyen, President-Elect of the European Commission