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December 2021

Proposed “European AI Act” and “Machinery Product Regulation” will Hamper Innovation, Stifle Small Businesses and Disrupt Manufacturing – Global Robotics Leaders Warn

Top robotics associations and innovators call on European policymakers to amend proposed regulations.

The European Commission’s proposed AI Act and updated regulations on machinery products will cause severe damage to European small businesses, robotics companies and innovation, according to four of the most influential voices in robotics and automation. Together, the International Federation of Robotics, the VDMA Robotics + Automation Association, EUnited Robotics and REInvest Robotics urgently call on European policymakers to revisit and amend the proposals.

While all four organizations embrace the European Commission’s vision to maintain safety, protect human rights and create a harmonized framework for artificial intelligence and robotics, the collective sees the following primary issues with the proposed regulations as currently drafted:

  • The mandatory third-party certification requirements will slow tech innovation across Europe.
  • The restrictions will hinder artificial intelligence adoption and put European companies, especially SMEs and startups, at a competitive disadvantage globally.
  • Disruption risk to regional supply chain, manufacturing and logistics operations will rise if the proposals are implemented and adopted.
  • Compliance with regulation worldwide will become more complex and burdensome.

Patrick Schwarzkopf, Managing Director of the VDMA Robotics + Automation Association and Director of EUnited Robotics, comments: “The EU-Commission’s proposals include burdensome regulations of so-called ‘High-Risk AI’ and ‘High-Risk-machinery.’ They include the introduction of extensive mandatory third-party certification requirements, which will discourage the use of AI and slow down innovation across Europe.”

Dr. Esben Hallundbæk Østergaard, the CEO of REInvest Robotics and founder of Universal Robots, comments: “The proposed legislation will hold back European robotics innovation. This is particularly concerning given robotics is the one emerging tech segment where Europe still has an edge globally. Locally, the legislation will negatively affect thousands of small businesses, factories, and manufacturers that rely on robotics and AI to automate critical operations and overcome labor shortages.”

Dr. Susanne Bieller, General Secretary of the International Federation of Robotics, states, “The International Federation of Robotics calls on European policymakers to amend both drafts to balance the protection of citizens with the market’s need to adopt new technologies and ensure a level-playing field for companies. This is not purely a European issue, as the proposed regulations will severely impact all companies bringing robots to the European market. In the long run, the new regulations will be to the disadvantage of European companies, especially SMEs and startups.”

Recommended policy amendments include limiting the scope of the AI Act to essential human rights risks, relying on manufacturers’ self-declaration of conformity in both AI-Act and the Regulation on Machinery Products, increasing enforcement and governance of the existing approach of the machinery directive, and working to create a global framework that increases safety and ethics while maintaining a level playing field. The recent draft report published on the Regulation on Machinery products by the European Parliament‘s Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) points in this direction by proposing to uphold the crucial principle of self-declaration.

“The approach of the current machinery directive is sufficient. The problem is with governance. We recommend focusing on ensuring that products on the market actually comply with the current EU law, not creating new regulations,” said Østergaard.

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