Artificial intelligence, the cutting-edge technology that is making waves in today’s world, struggles in Europe but is surging forward in the US and China. But the question is, why? Is this fair?
There have been several papers suggesting that when it comes to AI patents, Europe shows a slight lag when compared to the rest of the world. There are different ways of ranking AI competitiveness. However, the outcome lies the same, no matter which method you follow. The US will be in the lead, followed by China, and then comes Europe.
This could be a lack of investment in innovation and research, to businesses adopting AI in a limited manner, or a shortage of skill sets in the European professional market.
Why is Europe behind?
During the previous digital innovation wave, the technology giants fostered development. The AI superpowers; Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, are US-based companies that grew out of the Silicon Valley.
Alibaba and Tencent are the tech giants that grew out of China and captured the market. Now, where are the European-based companies? These companies are far ahead of any of the European companies.
The main issue for European companies is the dominance of these overseas giants who have access to consumers’ data. For any AI technology to flourish, it needs fuel, and this fuel is data. Since all the AI applications are consumer-based and rely on the access to a large amount of data and user information required to create an effective product or service.
Most European organisations do not have easy access to such data due to their privacy policies. They are very careful in protecting their consumers’ privacy through various regulations such as GDPR. This is a great practice to follow, and Europe is leading when it comes to privacy and data regulations worldwide.
The solution is to find a balance between privacy and successful AI innovations. By choosing to take people’s protection more seriously compared to others in the world, Europe holds a strong position in B2B applications but is falling behind in the consumer market. Another aspect that makes a big difference is the government’s financial support to help in adopting innovation and supporting startups. Other countries in the world spend more than the European governments on AI R&D or funding of different startups.
Suppose greater investments are made in this sphere. In that case, it will help in creating an AI-ready ecosystem and can create a space that is ready to develop a partnership between industry and academia, commercialisation, the marketplace.
Another area that lags when it comes to creating a gap between the other countries and Europe is the AI-readiness of businesses, the access to individuals who have the right AI skills and knowledge, the degree of understanding of AI by the senior management, the level of trust by the consumers, computational power and resources such as supercomputers or data centres.
Now that we know the issues let us understand how Europe can enter this competition and how it can improve in the world AI race.
How can Europe compete?
To become a market leader, one must learn how to play their strength. Europe’s strength lies in its ability to protect customer privacy, good AI governance, talent, B2B applications, and solutions that may work better for specific jobs in Europe compared to jobs offered in the other countries. This might be difficult to follow since the products being offered by tech giants from across the world are already highly popular. Being able to regulate the competition is important.
The highly skilled AI professionals, specialists, and academics are one of the greatest strengths of Europe. Some of these AI professionals and leaders are moving over to other countries due to the lower salaries being offered to them. Thus, the right talent may be leaving Europe.
The ability to focus on data privacy should not reduce innovation. If the regulation of AI can be seen as the next GDPR, then there lies a great opportunity for Europe to lead and collaborate in terms of governing data of their customers. This can be the perfect opportunity for the industry researchers to work towards developing innovative AI solutions.
Are there any other ways that can help Europe move towards advancing in the world AI race? Definitely. Developing and training a new generation of AI specialists, and developing innovative AI products and services in the B2B area, manufacturing digital innovation, use of robotics. If Europe can succeed in this area, there is great potential for the future. McKinsey suggested that to match its current assets, Europe may require €2.7 trillion combined to its economic output by 2030. All they have to do is focus on areas where they may have the edge over other countries.
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