Regulating Artificial Intelligence – An opportunity for innovation in the European Union?

October 29, 2020
Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence legislation in Europe has enormous opportunities if we maintain and build a clear pathway for starting and scaling startups in Europe. The ambition at EU level should be to incentivise startup entrepreneurs to innovate and grow their business in any sector.

Regulating AI has been high on the agenda of the new European Commission, as President Ursula Von Der Leyen promised AI legislation in the first 100 days of her mandate. The release of the AI White Paper in February was the first step of shaping AI rules for the European market. Last week, the European Parliament adopted three non-binding reports on Artificial Intelligence, giving its opinion on key AI issues ahead of legislative proposals. 

The COVID-19 crisis and consequent lockdowns have revealed the potential of AI-powered services in Europe. From video conference or telemedicine tools, European startups have pivoted and risen to COVID-19 related challenges to provide solutions to basic needs. 

Artificial intelligence also has tremendous potential for consumers. It already improves our everyday life, be it personalised search researches or interactive maps. Every technology revolution has brought new jobs, AI applications and products will likely do the same. Grasping the potential of AI for European societies will also require EU Member States investing and commiting to training their populations with new technologies. 

With any new technology comes new regulatory challenges. At the EU level, policy makers are considering regulating AI applications in two different categories: those categorised as low risk and those categorised as high risk along with voluntary labelling for the former and ex-ante requirements for the latter. The categorisation between high and low risks could be based on the sector and the intended use of the AI. The discussion around AI in Brussels is focused around its potential risks and harm caused to humans. For instance: Should an accident occur with an autonomous car the question of liability for damages arises. Yet, Artificial Intelligence should not only be approached through the lens of killer robots or defectuous autonomous car systems. Ultimately, entrepreneurs in the European Union should be incentivised to innovate also in high risk sectors such as healthcare or mobility. 

Allied for Startups asks European policy makers: what do we want to achieve with the upcoming AI legislative framework? Can we create a regulatory framework that will be a net-incentive for startups to scale in the EU? Or will legislative requirements be so burdensome for startup entrepreneurs that they will be encouraged to innovate outside of the European Union? To build a competitive European Union in Artificial Intelligence, it will paramount that entrepreneurs have a pathway to innovate in all sectors. 

The upcoming years will determine if the European Union is up to the challenge of giving startup entrepreneurs the right regulatory framework for them to both innovate and scale their business within the European market. We encourage policymakers to take into account all the potential benefits AI offers and to include it in any new legislative requirements. A harmonised European approach can pave the way for easier deployment and scaling of AI products and services across Europe.