AI and Big Data essential to strengthen competitiveness

Summit held at the European Parliament put focus on the new technologies

Zooming in on the challenges and opportunities that emerging new technologies can bring, was the accent of the First AI & Big Data for Innovation Summit, held at the European Parliament in Brussels from 2 to 5 December.

The organisers from Knowledge4Innovation, a leading European Forum for debate on the future of innovation in the environment of the EU institutions, made sure that the discussions on these important topics cover different angles from legal and regulatory, initiatives and hubs, technology, startups and applications. There were also concrete examples of how AI and Big Data innovation will transform the industries and society.

We need to make sure that AI is not misunderstood, because it is very technical term and for citizens it is not easy to understand, so we have to translate what AI really means, what are the benefits, what are potential risks, commented Dr Roland Strauss, Managing Director of Knowledge4Innovation.

It will require a lot of communication to make sure that these new emerging technologies are adopted and understood also by society and citizens, he explained. Asked about the challenges these technologies can create, he urged that it is important to keep control over them.

The summit was a great opportunity to exchange ideas among all these different stakeholders, from academia, industries, startups, policy makers, investors, that are now starting to embrace and use AI, Dr Strauss added.

Digitalisation drives a bold makeover across all industries. New data analytics, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning, are expected to impact all business processes as they will efficiently extract value from data.

While the digitalisation of operations and commercial functions might have the largest potential for immediate value creation, the acceleration of digitalisation into new business models, products development and collaborative innovation might eventually prove to be more disruptive over the next decades, experts said.

Data mining and analysis, combined with artificial intelligence, promise better, faster decisions and greater efficiency in every sector by enabling processes such as sustainability modelling, predictive maintenance and digital services, along with whole new digital business models.

Products will increasingly incorporate digital service components, enabled by the abundance and growing flow of data, to strengthen the competitiveness of the entire offer. AI and Big Data are essential to strengthen the innovation, sustainability and competitiveness of the European upstream industries.

Furthermore, these new digital technologies present major opportunities for the EU industries to contribute to long-term European policy goals, such as substantially increasing resource or energy efficiency and thus reducing carbon and other environmental footprints.

During the plenary session 'Artificial Intelligence, Big data and European upstream industries: what now?', hosted by MEPs Maria da Graca Carvalho and Susana Soliss Perez, was presented a recent analysis on AI in EU process industry, by A.SPIRE. This is a European association which is committed to manage and implement the SPIRE Public-Private Partnership. It brings together cement, ceramics, chemicals, engineering, minerals and ores, non-ferrous metals, steel and water sectors - several being world-leading sectors operating from Europe.

The analysis shows that process industry is currently lagging in regard to AI adoption. The main barriers are data security concerns, lack of funding, limited willingness to adopt new technologies, which relates to company culture. On the same list are also factors such as lack of internal skills or capacity, lack of maturity of AI technologies and no clear value case for application of AI yet.

According to A.SPIRE, urgently needed is support for R&I actions, coherence and integration of funding tools, investment in digital skills, and collaboration with relevant digital partnership.

The participants at the session underlined that new technologies are developing very quickly while adoption in the EU industries is often challenging and support is needed to speed up their adoption. A solid policy framework is needed to promote investment and deployment, namely protection of intellectual property rights, highest possible cybersecurity, digital single market.

The new EC President Ursula von der Leyen already announced that the Commission will soon put forward further legislative proposals for a coordinated European approach to the human and ethical implications of AI.

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