AI excellence thriving from the lab to the market

The Communication on boosting startups and innovation in trustworthy AI outlines concrete joint actions for the Commission and Member States to create global leadership on trustworthy AI.

Strategies for developing and adopting trustworthy AI

The strategic framework set out in the Communication on boosting startups and innovation in trustworthy artificial intelligence aims to foster an innovative, fair, open and contestable AI market. It not only bolstering European companies at home but also empowers them to compete confidently on the global stage. This Communication build upon the existing European approach to excellence in AI, in particular the Coordinated Plan on AI.

The 2021 review of the Coordinated Plan includes proposals to make the EU the place where artificial intelligence (AI) excellence thrives from the lab to the market by promoting research in AI, encouraging its uptake, and funding innovation. The Commission strategy for supporting the development and adoption of trustworthy AI solutions is a values-driven approach which covers the whole lifecycle and focuses on building an ecosystem of excellence. The key actions seek to:

  • foster collaboration between stakeholders through Public-Private Partnerships (PPP);
  • build and mobilise AI research capabilities;
  • provide facilities for developers and companies to test and experiment with their latest AI-based technologies in real-world environments;
  • develop a European marketplace for trustworthy AI solutions, connecting resources and services;
  • fund and scale innovative ideas and solutions for AI.

European partnership on AI, Data and Robotics

The European Partnership on AI, Data and Robotics Association (ADRA) was officially launched in June 2021 with the signature of the Memorandum of Understanding between the European Commission and the ADR association. ADRA was awarded 2,6 Billion Euros under the funding programmes Horizon 2020 (2014-2020) and Horizon Europe (2021-2027). This public-private partnership brings together communities from three key communities – AI, Data and Robotics –  and five organisations: BDVA, CLAIREELLISEurAI and euRobotics .

In 2024, ADRA counts more than 133 members, from startups, SMEs, big industry as well as research organisations and RTOs. In November 2023, ADRA organised its first event – the ADR Forum which focused on Generative AI. ADRA engages with many stakeholders (including the industry), to tackle the challenges of generative AI. This lead to the establishment  of 2 taskforces in 2023:

  • GenAI – dedicated to addressing challenges related to generative AI.
  • Generative AI for Robotics – focused on generative AI applications in the field of robotics.

Getting world reference AI capabilities in Europe

The European Networks of Excellence in AI (NoEs) bring together the brightest AI minds in Europe to tackle challenging AI problems. NoEs benefit from funding under both Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe and are driving research and development forward. These world-class networks encompass a significant portion of Europe’s top AI expertise. They foster synergy and a critical mass in European AI to help translating AI advancements into tangible real-world impacts across various domains.

As of 2023, the EU AI & Robotics NoEs community includes the following nine projects:

NoEs are strongly linked to ADRA. NoEs are the private side of a public-private partnership that plays a key role in bringing knowledge from the European research community to industry.

World-class testing and experimentation facilities

From January 2023, 4 sectorial testing and experimentation facilities (TEFs) have started providing European SMEs with the means to test their latest AI-based technologies  (Technology Readiness Levels 6-8)  in real or close-to-real conditions. TEF services involve support for full integration, the testing, experimentation, and validation of AI-based solutions in the sectors served by the four TEFs:

The TEFs are co-funded by the Commission and Member States with a total investment of over 220 million Euros and help innovators to test their close-to-market AI solutions before introducing them to the market.

In March 2024, the four Testing and Experimentation Facilities (TEFs) held their official event, signalling their readiness to engage with businesses. These TEFs provide technical assistance to AI innovators, allowing them to evaluate and experiment with their cutting-edge AI software and hardware in real-world scenarios (specifically, at Technology Readiness Levels 6-8). The services offered encompass full integration support, as well as testing, experimentation, and validation of AI-based solutions across the sectors served by these four TEFs:

The European AI-on-demand platform

The AI on demand platform aims at building a bridge between European AI research, industry and public services. It is a catalyst to light up collaboration between academia and businesses but also among other stakeholders, reducing the gap between AI research and innovators. The European AI-on-Demand wants to enable the latest  AI advances to be rapidly transformed into real AI products and services deployed into the market.

The platform is supported by an ecosystem of projects funded under Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe (focus on research), and Digital Europe programme (focus on industry and public administration). The current version of the platform includes several services:

  • An assets catalogue
  • A powerful Virtual AI lab where researchers can explore the contents related to AIoD (Artificial Intelligence of Data) across multiple platforms
  • The ability to create their own libraries
  • Development, training, and sharing of AI pipelines
  • An extended and adapted marketplace catering to industry needs in upcoming versions.

European Digital Innovation Hubs

A network of more than 200 European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIHs) covering all regions of Europe aims to stimulate the broad uptake of AI, HPC, cybersecurity and other digital technologies. EDIHs help all companies seeking to use AI technologies to become more competitive on business/production processes, products or services. As ‘one-stop-shops’, EDIHs can promote locally the use of tools from the AI-on-demand platform to industry, including small and medium-sized enterprises, and the public sector. They will assist companies to innovate their new products and services with AI and stimulate adoption by helping to make them market ready.

At present, there are around 150 EDIHs speciliased in AI and decision support. Several trainings and webinars on the topic of AI (including generative AI), are frequently organised. Also, a dedicated working group on AI in public administration was created.

Fund and scale innovative ideas and solutions for AI

Through the Horizon Europe and Digital Europe programmes, the Commission plans to invest €1 billion per year in AI, with measures to fund and scale innovative ideas and solutions. This will build bridges between Europe’s strong AI research community and innovators, in particular start-ups and SMEs both in their early stages and in the scale-up phase. The aim is to mobilise additional investments from the private sector and the Member States in order to reach an annual investment volume of €20 billion over the course of this decade. The Recovery and Resilience Facility, the largest stimulus package ever financed through the EU budget, makes €134 billion available for digital and allows Europe to amplify its ambitions and become global leader in developing cutting-edge trustworthy AI.


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