Europe, competitive tomorrow on AI? The Court of Auditors doubts and investigates

“The leader in artificial intelligence will dominate the world. This 2017 statement comes from Russian President Vladimir Putin. In the current context, these words resonate differently.

They also underline the need for the great powers not to miss the race for competitiveness in the artificial intelligence sector. In 2018, the European Commission adopted a coordinated plan at EU level.

16 billion euros invested in 2020 in AI in Europe

The ambition, recalled by the European Court of Auditors, is to “make Europe the leading global hub for the development and deployment of cutting-edge AI, integrated into products that are as safe as they are ethical”.

This first initiative was completed in 2021. And to finance its ambitions, the EU has notably planned to invest 10 billion euros of its budget in AI between 2014 and 2027. Other funding must be added .

The plan is there, but is it being effectively executed? The stakes are considerable, considers the Court of Auditors. The “digital transition will not happen without artificial intelligence; its industrial policy and its strategic autonomy depend on it”.

And not sure, according to her, that the trajectory currently followed by Europe is the right one. To react, it announces an audit, the conclusions of which will be made in a year. However, the Court already considers that “Europe is lagging behind in key areas, such as funding”.

Europe remains behind for the Court of Auditors

The delay also relates to adoption by enterprises. “Less than one in 10 European companies (8%) used AI in 2021.” France is below the European average at 7% according to Eurostat. The BGC also recently singled out the performance of French organisations.

However, the public sector is even further behind. This is one of the conclusions of the report published last summer by the Council of State. The authors notably reported an “under-exploitation” of AI.

But this work also offered an assessment of public initiatives in the other EU Member States. They therefore noted that the French public sector suffered from the same delay as other European administrations.

Like its neighbours, France “is not experiencing a public AI revolution”. Europe could also miss the meeting. “The stakes for EU competitiveness are too high to afford to miss the boat”, warns Mihails Kozlovs, head of audit at the European Court of Auditors.

The essential creation of a competitive ecosystem

“With this audit, we want to know if the efforts made are sufficient to prevent Europe from letting the train of this major technological revolution pass”, he further specifies. To determine this, the auditors are particularly interested in the financing of a European AI ecosystem.

The funds allocated by the EU must “effectively” support its creation, but also guarantee that it is “well designed and competitive”. In addition, technical or financial performance are not the only parameters to be taken into account for this evaluation.

For the Court of Auditors, the measures and plans of the European Commission must also concern themselves with the strategic importance of AI and the risks to safety and security. Signing checks of a competitive amount to face global competition is not a sufficient condition to guarantee it. Review within a year.

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