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European Commission backs business in promoting artificial intelligence

IA European Commission companies measures

The European Commission is launching a package of measures to support start-ups and SMEs in promoting trustworthy artificial intelligence (AI). This initiative comes because of the political agreement reached in December 2023 on the EU AI Law. In a note issued at the end of January, Brussels said it had taken the “first step” last November with the launch of the “Large AI Grand Challenge.” This is an initiative piloted by the European AI-Boost project, coordinated by Zabala Innovation, in collaboration with EuroHPC.

It aims to select up to four promising European AI SMEs that will share a prize of one million euros and have access to EuroHPC’s supercomputing facilities (LUMI or Leonardo) to drive the development of large-scale AI models in Europe.

“This Large AI Grand Challenge is the first of seven competitions to be organised within AI-Boost in collaboration with the European AI community,” says Jaume Cot, European Programmes team leader at Zabala Innovation, who adds: “Our goal is to create a programme of open competitions that can contribute to boosting AI in Europe.”

By fostering collaboration between key stakeholders in the AI community, AI-Boost will define compelling AI challenges with the potential to lead to dependable, human-centric solutions for the real world. To achieve this, the project is already establishing important synergies with key AI associations in Europe.

Fostering AI in the EU

The package of measures promoted by the European Commission addresses several crucial areas for the promotion of AI in Europe.

AI factories and access to supercomputers. The amendment of the EuroHPC Regulation is the central pillar of this initiative. It seeks the creation of AI factories through the acquisition, modernisation, and operation of supercomputers. This will facilitate machine learning and the training of general-purpose AI models. Access to these supercomputers will be extended especially for start-ups and SMEs, thus boosting innovation and research in algorithmic development.

EU Office for AI and Communication. Another step will be the creation of a specific office within the Commission to oversee the development and coordination of AI policy in Europe. This office will not only implement the AI Law at EU level but will also become a central coordinating body for policies in this field. The recent EU communication details additional key activities, including, among others, significant financial support with funds from Horizon Europe and the Digital Europe programme, with an investment of around €4 billion until 2027.

Investments and promotion of innovation. The package also seeks to strengthen the EU’s talent pool in the field of generative AI, through education, training, and retraining activities. In addition, public and private investments in AI start-ups will be promoted, notably through venture capital and equity support, with new initiatives from the European Innovation Council’s accelerator programme and InvestEU.

European Common Data Spaces and GenAI4EU. The package accelerates the promotion and implementation of European Common Data Spaces, recognising the importance of data as a fundamental resource for shaping and improving AI models. The GenAI4EU initiative will support the development of innovative use cases and emerging applications, from robotics to health, biotechnology, manufacturing, mobility, climate, and virtual worlds.

European Digital Infrastructure Consortia. The creation of two European digital infrastructure consortia, ALT-EDIC and CitiVERSE EDIC, highlights the importance of fostering a common infrastructure in language technologies and applying AI tools to enhance local digital twins, respectively.

Strategic planning

Next steps include the review of the proposed amendments to the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking Regulation by the European Parliament and the Council. Simultaneously, the Office for Artificial Intelligence will be established, with a focus on the implementation of the AI Act at EU level. In addition, Member States will set up European infrastructure consortia ALT-EDIC and CitiVERSE EDIC, with support from the Commission.

This approach builds on years of European cooperation to strengthen AI across the EU. From the White Paper on AI in 2020 to the provisional adoption of the AI Act in December 2023, the EU has outlined its vision of an ecosystem based on excellence and trust.