Germany and particularly its capital, Berlin will receive a big financial boost towards AI development as part of an effort for the European nation to compete with the US and China. Angela Merkel’s cabinet approved 3 billion euro worth of funding which is expected to be matched by the private sector to bring the total investment up towards 6 billion.
Merkel's cabinet ministers attended a 2-day two-day seminar on digital challenges attended by the chancellor and her ministers prior to the spending vote. “Today, Germany cannot claim to be among the world leaders in artificial intelligence,” Ms. Merkel told journalists after the meeting.
Germany aspires to be among leading AI nations
“Our aspiration is to make ‘Made in Germany’ a trademark also in artificial intelligence, and to ensure that Germany takes its place as one of the leading [AI] countries in the world.” The funding comes along with a strategy paper that outlines how the money will be spent.
It promises to create more AI jobs in universities as well as new research centers that will augment the work of existing institutions like the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), which was founded in 1988.
Network of research centers to open across the country
With the announcement Germany aims to create a network of 12 centers for research, development, and application of AI technologies offering “internationally attractive working conditions and pay”.
Six months ago the European Commission announced plans to increase public and private investment in AI. Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip said at the time: "Just as the steam engine and electricity did in the past, AI is transforming our world. It presents new challenges that Europe should meet together in order for AI to succeed and work for everyone. We need to invest at least €20 billion by the end of 2020. The Commission is playing its part: today, we are giving a boost to researchers so that they can develop the next generation of AI technologies and applications, and to companies so that they can embrace and incorporate them."
Industry observers had long warned that Germany could slip behind its competitors unless investment was made. Germany must ensure it remains competitive with rival technology center across the world, particularly in the automotive industry.
France wants 'startup nation' title
France beat Germany to a large AI research commitment, but have smaller cash reserves. Earlier in the year, French President Emmanuel Macron announced his plans for France to become a ‘startup nation’ along with €1.5bn in public funding for artificial intelligence will be allocated before 2022.
Artificial intelligence technology ranges from autonomous driving to early medical diagnostic tools. Europe must act fast if it wants to be able to attract and retain top AI researchers and scientists from being poached by competing nations.
China sinks billions into AI
For several years top European scientists have been poached by the United States larger salaries. China is also racing to be a leader in AI development.
Last year the State Council of China issued a policy calling for the country to become "the world's primary AI innovation center" by 2030. It forecast by this time, China’s AI industry could be worth around $150 billion. A $2.1 billion AI technology park is set to be built in Beijing's western suburbs and other heavily backed projects are reportedly in the pipeline.