The European Commission launched a new AI innovation package

06/02/24

On 24 January 2024, the European Commission has introduced a set of measures aimed at supporting European startups and SMEs in the development of trustworthy Artificial Intelligence (AI) that aligns with EU values and regulations. The measures announ...

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On 24 January 2024, the European Commission has introduced a set of measures aimed at supporting European startups and SMEs in the development of trustworthy Artificial Intelligence (AI) that aligns with EU values and regulations. The measures announced yesterday materialise Europe’s commitment to supporting ethical and trustworthy AI into action through a comprehensive set of strategies to support AI startups and foster innovation. This includes a proposal for privileged supercomputer access for AI startups and the wider innovation community, with the following components:

I. An amendment to the EuroHPC Regulation to establish AI Factories, a new pillar in the EU’s supercomputing Joint Undertaking activities. This involves acquiring, upgrading, and operating supercomputers dedicated to AI, enabling rapid machine learning and training of large General Purpose AI (GPAI) models. The initiative also aims to broaden AI usage by providing access to these dedicated supercomputers for a diverse range of public and private users, including startups and SMEs. Additionally, it offers a centralised hub for startups and innovators, supporting the AI startup and research ecosystem by providing facilities for algorithmic development, testing, evaluation, and validation of large-scale AI models, along with supercomputer-friendly programming facilities and other AI-enabling services. Also, encouraging the development of various emerging AI applications based on General Purpose AI models.

II. A decision to establish an AI Office within the Commission, responsible for the development and coordination of AI policy at the European level, as well as overseeing the implementation and enforcement of the forthcoming AI Act.

III. An EU AI Start-Up and Innovation Communication outlining additional key activities, including financial support from the Commission through Horizon Europe and the Digital Europe programme, dedicated to generative AI. This package is expected to generate an additional overall public and private investment of around €4 billion until 2027. Accompanying initiatives include strengthening the EU’s generative AI talent pool through education, training, skilling and reskilling activities, as well as encouraging public and private investments in AI startups and scale-ups, including through venture capital or equity support. Acceleration of the development and deployment of Common European Data Spaces, accessible to the AI community, recognising data as a crucial resource for training and improving AI models. A new Staff Working Document on common European data spaces has also been published to provide the latest developments in the field. The ‘GenAI4EU’ initiative, designed to support the development of novel use cases and emerging applications in Europe’s 14 industrial ecosystems and the public sector. Application areas encompass robotics, health, biotech, manufacturing, mobility, climate and virtual worlds.

Moreover, the Commission is establishing two European Digital Infrastructure Consortiums (EDICs) in collaboration with several Member States:

  • The ‘Alliance for Language Technologies’ (ALT-EDIC) aims to create a common European infrastructure in language technologies, addressing the scarcity of European languages data for AI solutions training, while preserving linguistic diversity and cultural richness. This infrastructure will support the development of European large language models.
  • The ‘CitiVERSE’ EDIC will leverage state-of-the-art AI tools to develop and enhance Local Digital Twins for Smart Communities, assisting cities in simulating and optimising processes, from traffic management to waste management.

In addition to these initiatives, the Commission has adopted a communication outlining its own strategic approach to AI use. This strategic vision anticipates and prepares for the implementation of the EU AI Act, outlining concrete actions on how the Commission plans to build institutional and operational capacity to ensure the development and use of trustworthy, safe and ethical AI. The Commission is also gearing up to support EU public administrations in their adoption and use of Artificial Intelligence.

Looking ahead, the European Parliament and the Council will review the proposed amendments on the Regulation establishing the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking. Simultaneously, the AI Office, scheduled to commence operations in the coming months, will be established within the Commission, playing a pivotal role in implementing the future AI Act at the EU level and supervising the rules for general-purpose AI models and systems. It is expected to become a central coordination body for AI policy at the EU level, collaborating with other Commission departments, EU bodies, Member States and the stakeholder community. With an international focus, the AI Office aims to promote the EU approach to AI governance and contribute to the EU’s international activities on AI, while fostering knowledge and understanding of AI and supporting its uptake and innovation.

Background

For years, the European Commission has been fostering and strengthening collaboration on artificial intelligence (AI) throughout the EU with the aim of enhancing competitiveness and ensuring trust aligned with EU values. The Commission’s White Paper on AI from 2020 outlined a distinct vision for AI in Europe: the development of an ecosystem characterised by excellence and trust. In April 2021, the Commission put forward the EU AI Act along with a new Coordinated Plan involving Member States. This initiative aimed at safeguarding the safety and fundamental rights of individuals and businesses while reinforcing investment and innovation across EU nations. In December 2023 a political agreement was reached on the EU AI Act, which marked the world’s first comprehensive legislation on Artificial Intelligence, designed to foster the development, deployment and adoption of trustworthy AI within the EU.

Explore the European Commission’s Press release on the AI innovation package to support Artificial Intelligence startups and SMEs, on which this article is based on!

BDVA, as the private member of the EuroHPC JU, alongside its Big Data and AI industrial community, is very glad to hear about the recently announced package, which will have a positive impact on all activities. Our Integration and Convergence HPC – Big Data – Artificial Intelligence Task Force focuses on leading several research and innovation activities, with the goal of developing common business and research opportunities.

BDVA has also driven the establishment of the i-Spaces federation, fostering collaboration through information-sharing and joint events, and in 2019, the EUHubs4Data – Federation of Data-Driven Innovation Hubs was launched, as a reference instrument for global data economy growth. Last, but not least, BDVA’s etami Task Force supports trustworthy and ethical AI systems and will help materialise the Commission’s objectives.