Occasion of the presentation of the EU Declaration concerning cooperation in the field of artificial intelligence

Speech by State Secretary Georg Schütte at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Brussels

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Commissioner Ansip,
Distinguished colleagues from Finland, France, Italy, Sweden and Slowenia
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Europe is on the move. This is good news because our topic today is of great importance for Europe's future competitiveness: what I am referring to is artificial intelligence, or AI.

Artificial intelligence is a key emerging technology of the 21st century. It is considered to be the next major step in the process of digitalization. When we talk about digital transformation today and its impact on our future lives, we are mainly talking about artificial intelligence. AI has enormous potential for changing our society, modifying the way in which we live and work and participate in social and political life.

People are concerned about this development: They are aware of the opportunities but also see the risks for social cohesion and values as well as individual self-determination.

Policy-makers must play an active role in shaping this process, which includes taking advantage of opportunities, mastering risks and setting standards.

The political community in Germany is aware of this challenge and has included it in the new coalition agreement. It is actually not an entirely new topic – although people may feel that it has only just emerged. My Ministry, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, has been investing in AI research for more than 30 years so that Germany now has a well-established AI research community. The German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) is the largest AI research centre worldwide. The DFKI and the Fraunhofer institutes contribute to the transfer of AI to industry and to the establishment of relevant start-ups. Together with the universities and the Max Planck institutes, they provide an excellent basis for research in Germany. Our two competence centres in the field of big data offer outstanding expertise for the use of artificial intelligence. Only two weeks ago, Minister Karliczek decided to establish a further four competence centres for machine learning in Germany and to provide up to 30 million euros in funding. Moreover, AI is no longer a future vision but an everyday reality for many companies in Germany.

However, no single European country is in a position to compete internationally with the United States and China in this field. We therefore need a joint European approach and more research conducted in close cooperation between industry and science. But above all we need a new entrepreneurial dynamic in the field of artificial intelligence. In addition to the societal impact of AI, for example on future working life, we must always be aware of its economic impact. Artificial intelligence is becoming the most important driver of industrial competitiveness in Europe. On the other hand, it also offers enormous opportunities for European industry and science.

Europe is the largest player in the global market in terms of value creation and spending power. Our European ambition must therefore be to also play a leading role in the development of AI. We are already linked through the internal market, and hopefully a digital single market will soon become a reality. I believe it is the right choice to include a separate funding area for key emerging technologies in the next European Research Framework Programme.

Three aspects are of vital importance in this context. All of them are addressed in our Declaration: Working together to pool our strengths, accelerating the transfer of AI technology to industry, and conducting a social dialogue about artificial intelligence. The latter two areas in particular are important for us in Europe: We must engage in intensive exchanges and define our position based on common values. Just because something can be done doesn't mean it should be done. We need ethical guidelines. A values-based approach is of utmost importance.

The result may nevertheless allow for high-quality products, processes and services which can compete on international markets. This is also the aim of Germany's national platform for artificial intelligence, the Plattform Lernende Systeme, which was established last year. Germany is prepared to cooperate in corresponding EU bodies to ensure links between national and EU activities.

European cooperation in the area of artificial intelligence can provide a basis for technological sovereignty, greater prosperity and individual self-determination in Europe.

I look forward to our cooperation.