AI is a promising field for European Industries: focus on SME’s

By Dr. Andreas SCHWAB, MEP (EPP Group), Member of the IMCO Committee

Artificial intelligence is already a big part of our everyday lives. We use a virtual personal assistant to organise our working day, our phones suggest songs or restaurants that we might like and even autonomous driving is possible.

There is no doubt that artificial intelligence is the technology of the future.

The development of artificial intelligence is a very promising field, also for the European industry. This is why we need to think about how to provide the best possible framework for innovation so that our European companies and especially SMEs can compete on an international scale with regard to artificial intelligence.

Many SMEs in Europe are active in the area of artificial intelligence, but they can only grow and compete on an international level, if the framework conditions in Europe for artificial intelligence innovation are favourable and take into account their needs.

In this respect, it is important that we avoid fragmentation in Europe. If different rules and regulations apply in different Member States of the EU, SMEs have to adapt to 28 different frameworks for every activity.

This creates a heavy administrative burden and severely hampers innovation. We therefore need to find a European approach to artificial intelligence with a European framework and European cross-border projects that foster innovation and keep administrative hurdles low.

Of course we want our European companies to compete on an international level. With the US and China investing heavily in the development of artificial intelligence, in Europe we have to ask ourselves how we can keep up.

The European Union wants to boost investment in artificial intelligence by about 70 percent to 1.5 billion euros by 2020 to catch up with China and the United States, which are each investing at least three times more than Europe.

Of course this is already a big step in the right direction. However, we need to do more in order not to fall behind further. This means that we need more investment, but we also need to further cross-border research and development of artificial intelligence within Europe.

In order to develop artificial intelligence, large data sets need to be put at the disposal of researchers and companies.

Regulation in the EU is much stricter than in the US and China with regard to this, which might also be one of the reasons why the US and China are ahead of the European Union.

One could therefore argue that we should loosen regulation in order to facilitate the use of big data sets by our companies and especially SMEs. However, it is crucial that we find the right balance between furthering innovation and providing data sets to this end on the one hand, and data protection on the other hand.

This is especially of importance as the success of artificial intelligence also depends highly on the trust of European citizens.

Data protection and cybersecurity are therefore very important for the development of artificial intelligence.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which entered fully into force in May 2018 and is a big step towards the protection of data of European citizens and therefore the trust that European citizens place into digital applications including artificial intelligence.

With regard to cybersecurity, one has to note that the EU is planning on investing 1,8 billion euros into cybersecurity by 2020. The United States have invested 18 billion euros in 2017 alone.

This shows that we are not doing enough. We have to do more in Europe to further our cybersecurity capabilities.

The threat of cyberattacks will only increase as systems are more and more interconnected across borders, meaning that a cyberattack on a system in one Member States can affect other systems across several other Member States.

If we want secure artificial intelligence, we need to ensure cybersecurity throughout Europe.

To conclude, we need a solid European framework for our companies to be able to compete on an international scale.

The European Union should have a coordinated approach to make the most of the opportunities that artificial intelligence presents and in order to address the challenges that come with it.

However, we should develop artificial intelligence by building on our European values and not sacrifice data protection or cybersecurity for innovation.