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Commission launches AI innovation package to support AI startups and SMEs

Commission launches AI innovation package to support AI startups and SMEs

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The Commission has launched a package of measures to support European startups and SMEs in the development of trustworthy Artificial Intelligence (AI) that respects EU values and rules. This follows the political agreement reached in December 2023 on the EU AI Act – the world’s first comprehensive law on Artificial Intelligence – which will support the development, deployment and take-up of trustworthy AI in the EU.

In her 2023 State of the Union address, President von der Leyen announced a new initiative to make Europe’s supercomputers available to innovative European AI startups to train their trustworthy AI models. As a first step, the Commission launched in November 2023 the Large AI Grand Challenge, a prize giving AI startups financial support and supercomputing access. Today’s package puts this commitment into practice through a broad range of measures to support AI startups and innovation, including a proposal to provide privileged access to supercomputers to AI startups and the broader innovation community. It contains:

  • An amendment of the EuroHPC Regulation to set up AI Factories, a new pillar for the EU’s supercomputers Joint Undertaking activities. This includes:
    • Acquiring, upgrading and operating AI-dedicated supercomputers to enable fast machine learning and training of large General Purpose AI (GPAI) models;
    • Facilitating access to the AI dedicated supercomputers, contributing to the widening of the use of AI to a large number of public and private users, including startups and SMEs; 
    • Offering a one-stop shop for startups and innovators, supporting the AI startup and research ecosystem in algorithmic development, testing evaluation and validation of large-scale AI models, providing supercomputer-friendly programming facilities and other AI enabling services;
    • Enabling the development of a variety of emerging AI applications based on General Purpose AI models.
  • decision to establish an AI Office within the Commission, which will ensure the development and coordination of AI policy at European level, as well as supervise the implementation and enforcement of the forthcoming AI Act.
  • An EU AI Start-Up and InnovationCommunication outlining additional key activities:
    • Financial support from the Commission through Horizon Europe and the Digital Europe programme dedicated to generative AI. This package will generate an additional overall public and private investment of around €4 billion until 2027;
    • Accompanying initiatives to strengthen EU’s generative AI talent pool through education, training, skilling and reskilling activities;
    • Further encourage public and private investments in AI start-ups and scale-ups, including through venture capital or equity support (including via new initiatives of the  EIC accelerator Programme and InvestEU);
    • The acceleration of the development and deployment of Common European Data Spaces, made available to the AI community, for whom data is a key resource to train and improve their models. A new Staff Working Document on common European data spaces has also been published today, providing the latest state of play;
    • The ‘GenAI4EU’ initiative, which aims to support the development of novel use cases and emerging applications in Europe’s 14 industrial ecosystems, as well as the public sector. Application areas include robotics, health, biotech, manufacturing, mobility, climate and virtual worlds.

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The Commission is also establishing, with a number of Member States, two European Digital Infrastructure Consortiums (EDICs):

  • The ‘Alliance for Language Technologies’ (ALT-EDIC) aims to develop a common European infrastructure in language technologies to address the shortage of European languages data for the training of AI solutions, as well as to uphold Europe’s linguistic diversity and cultural richness. This will support the development of European large language models.
  • The ‘CitiVERSE’ EDIC will apply state-of-the-art AI-tools to develop and enhance Local Digital Twins for Smart Communities, helping cities simulate and optimise processes, from traffic management to waste management. 

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