Commission-appointed panel publishes recommendations for artificial intelligence research

27 Jun 2019 | News

Advisory group calls for research roadmap, more researchers and more research capacity, among 33 recommendations for artificial intelligence policy and investment in the EU

A European Commission-appointed panel has recommended the EU develops a roadmap for artificial intelligence research, boosts research funding, trains and attracts more AI researchers and invests in greater AI research capacity.

The suggestions are part of a package of recommendations in a 26 June report by the high-level expert group for AI, appointed by the commission in June 2018.

The report is published as the commission is planning the implementation of the EU’s next major research funding programme Horizon Europe, and looking for suggestions on how to spend the programme’s proposed €94.1 billion budget. While the draft Horizon Europe legislation, agreed in March, highlights AI as a priority, the details are still to be decided.

The expert panel consists of 52 researchers, lobbyists and lawyers chosen by the commission following a call for applications in spring 2018. The EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency is also represented. The 26 June report is the panel’s second; the first, on AI ethics, was published in April.

The latest report recommends Europe should set out a strategic roadmap for AI and a plan to implement it. The roadmap should cut across research disciplines, addressing not only scientific questions but also industrial and social ones. The focus should be on particular areas where AI is likely to prove valuable, such as robotics, the Internet of Things, and machine learning.

Europe needs to “increase and streamline” AI research funding, both in basic and applied research. There should be long-term financial support specifically for AI, simplified research funding instruments, and more technology transfer labs to create a pipeline from academic research to industrial development.

The expert group also wants a commitment that AI projects funded by Horizon Europe or the Digital Europe infrastructure programme will include safeguards and conditions for the ethical guidelines which the group drew up in the earlier report. These include “respect for human autonomy,” “prevention of harm,” “fairness,” and “explicability.”

At the same time, Europe should do more to attract and retain researchers, and guard against a brain drain to international competitors. Young researchers in particular need to feel that Europe is the best place to work in AI.

One way to achieve this is by encouraging academic researchers to collaborate more with industry and the public sector, for example by allowing them to split their time between an academic post and collaborating with external partners. The report also puts a strong focus on encouraging start-ups.

In addition, Europe should build-up its AI research capacity, the expert group says. There should be more funding for research centres and laboratories, with a view to increasing the number of centres of excellence for AI.

The European Commission is currently preparing a Horizon 2020-funded call for proposals to build a ‘European Network of Artificial Intelligence Excellence Centres.’ Details of the call are due to be published on 9 July, with a deadline of November 13.

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