The European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have recently published a new report entitled "National strategies on Artificial Intelligence: A European perspective". The report compares AI-related strategies of Member States and identifies areas of collaboration.

The recognition of AI as an area ripe for development and – thus – increasing regulation has enabled EU Member States to adopt numerous national approaches to AI especially when it comes to strategic priorities, budget allocations, and timeframe of implementation. Despite different approaches taken at the national level, all EU countries aspire to support the uptake and development of AI.

Developing major national strategies for ambitious R&D programmes

In order for the AI ecosystem to thrive, the European Commission believes that Member States should advance AI research and development (R&D). As AI is transforming many aspects of life and the economy, the European Union recognise the need to grasp the opportunities AI offers and address any challenges it may bring.

One of the goals of the report, which presents an updated review of the national AI strategies of the EU Member States, Norway and Switzerland, is to compare national governments’ approaches and identify areas for strengthening synergies and collaboration. The good news that the report brings is that European governments have recognised the importance of not lagging behind in AI: as of June 2021, 20 Member States and Norway published their national AI strategies, while 7 Member States were in the final drafting stage.

Many national legislative frameworks for AI technologies include ambitious R&D programmes and calls for proposals. The trends indicate that after the Green Deal goals, healthcare is one of the most important sectors where AI will be used. The development of AI is likely to accelerate the development of health data platforms and cross-border data sharing.

A useful technology for the healthcare sector

Central to the national efforts of boosting R&D and managing AI-development is the application of AI in healthcare. The document touches upon various AI-enabled technologies, such as virtual assistants, chatbots, high-performance computing systems, which provide more accurate diagnosis and disease prevention through innovative solutions. This is illustrated by a Danish example of a machine learning model project based on the Danish registry data, which aims to identify cancer patients who are at high risk of undergoing complicated surgical intervention.

The development of national strategies was one of the key actions outlined by the European Commission’s 2018 Coordinated Plan on AI (revised in 2021). This demonstrates the European Union’s interest in AI and aspiration to become a global leader in adopting the latest technologies and seizing the benefits AI offers. Keeping a tab on how countries are supporting the development of AI and how successful different policies are is critical for European policymakers.

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