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September 2018

Robotics and AI in the focus of European Council and Parliament

The recent Competitiveness Council meeting - which took place on 27-28 September in Brussels - again took a closer look at AI and robotics.

The meeting started with a Competitiveness Check-up, focusing on the importance of regional convergence as a factor contributing to the overall increase of productivity growth and competitiveness. It then continued with a public policy debate regarding Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and its role in the future European industrial policy, following-up on similar discussions that took place at the informal meeting of the EU competitiveness ministers, held in Vienna on 15 and 16 July 2018. Moreover, the meeting looked at the EU's long-term budget and the EU's post-2020 research framework programme, Horizon Europe.

Margaret Schramboeck, Austrian Federal Minister for Digital and Economic Affairs, stated: "Capturing the full potential of digitization is crucial for the competitiveness of the EU economy. Our discussions today are a first step towards an EU action plan on artificial intelligence, which will help boost growth and jobs." Artificial Intelligence is seen as key and all countries agreed that they need to start action and to make progress in this field. The US, Asia and China are already travelling fast. Europe must not miss this train either. Schramboeck repeated her motto "regulate, not strangulate" - so regulate only where it is really needed. And we need to create trust in digital technologies.

Ministers underlined the importance of close cooperation and of sharing best practices on this issue in order to arrive at a coordinated approach at EU level, which is as a key component of a future EU industrial strategy. Substantial and impactful investments have to be made in favour of research in disruptive innovation, setting up the network of digital innovation hubs, promoting data sharing, standardisation, high-performance computing infrastructure and the development and spreading of digital skills amongst workers, while paying particular attention to start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises. The need to address the gender digital gap was also stressed.

Some ministers highlighted in this context that the public sector should create the necessary legal framework for the free flow of public data. In that context, respect for personal data and intellectual property rights, as well as the need to fight any threats to cybersecurity were considered as important elements for the public to adhere to the new data culture.

The Council asked the High Level working group on competitiveness and growth to prepare discussions at Council level on a coordinated action plan on artificial intelligence in early 2019.

The Competitiveness council is the official meeting of member states' ministers and state secretaries responsible for Internal market and Industry & Research.

Robotics and AI are also in the focus of the European Parliament: 
In reaction to the Communication on "Artificial Intelligence for Europe" published by the European Commission in April, the European Parliament has started another own-initiative report procedure affecting robotics.

The ITRE Committee (Committee for Industry, Research and Energy) envisaged a report entitled “A comprehensive European industrial policy on artificial intelligence and robotics”. Other committees, including IMCO (Internal Market and Consumer Protection), JURI (Legal Affairs) and LIBE (Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs) Committees, will be associated for drafting this report.

So far, no draft is available.

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