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Critical industrial applications: report on current policy measures and policy opportunities

The European Commission (EC) has defined Artificial Intelligence (AI) as one of the most strategically important technologies of the 21st century, and ‘a Europe fit for the digital age’ is one of six headline ambitions for the current EC cycle. On 19 February 2020, the EC presented its ‘Digital Package’, i.e. a white paper on AI (EC2020a), currently open for public consultation, and the European Data Strategy (EC 2020b). The EC has also published a new industrial policy (EC 2020c) and SME strategy (EC 2020d) on 10 March 2020, and is expected to unveil an updated skills agenda, as well as a Digital Services Act and a European Democracy Action Plan, among others, later this year.

The adoption of AI technologies may significantly boost the European economy, but a considerable part of this impact is at risk if SMEs fail to adopt the technology. Given that SMEs are the backbone of the European economy, representing 67% of employment and 57% of value added (EC 2019a), they play a crucial role in capturing this impact potential. However, SMEs also face specific challenges in adopting AI, which are described in detail in the Report on market analysis of prioritised value chains, the most critical AI applications and the conditions for AI rollout.

The study Critical industrial applications: report on current policy measures and policy opportunities identifies five high-priority policy domains that could address the most pressing needs for action to accelerate the development and deployment of AI applications among European SMEs. For each of these policy domains, dedicated sections in the document present key challenges that could be addressed through policy action and highlight existing efforts and examples from relevant contexts.

Collaboration between ecosystem stakeholders is one of the key challenges highlighted, with several actions proposed to address this challenge, such as:

  • Build on and complement the network of industrial clusters, Digital Innovation Hubs, innovation parcs and technology centres across the EU-27, clarify the roles of different network nodes and expand the service offering tailored to SMEs as well as prioritised strategic value chains (SVCs) and critical AI applications within them.
  • Foster SME-AI alliances to bring together SMEs (AI providers and AI users) large industries, start-ups, research partners and public authorities (e.g. for innovation procurement of AI-powered solutions) along SVCs to
    • strengthen SMEs’ reach and bargaining power and
    • foster a stronger market for European AI applications. 
  • Build a digital marketplace for European organisations working with AI. 
  • Create incentives for closer collaboration between researchers and SMEs. 

For a thorough reading please see the attachment. The study was published on op.europa.eu website here

This document has been prepared for the European Commission however it reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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