The EU race towards AI: striking a balance between safety and innovation

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Keynote Speaker

Maria da Graça Carvalho
European Parliament, Member of the Group of the  European People’s Party (EPP) and Member of the Special Committee on Artificial Intelligence in the Digital Age
Felicia Stoica
European Commission - DG Grow, Deputy Head of Unit
Chiara Giovannini
ANEC, Senior Manager Policy & Innovation
Eoin Kelly
APPLiA, Digital & Competitiveness Policy Specialist
Damir Filipovic
AIOTI, Secretary General
Antoine Larpin
Panasonic Europe, Government Affairs Representative

Today, the European Commission released the Regulation on a European approach to Artificial Intelligence, paving the way for Europe to become globally competitive while also sticking to the EU founding rights and values. On the same day, APPLiA hosted a panel of experts to discuss the topic.

As already undertaken by other international actors, that of AI is a global race from a technological, economic and geopolitical point of view, “a race that the EU cannot miss”, kicked off MEP Maria da Graça Carvalho, member of the EPP and of the Special Committee on Artificial Intelligence in a Digital Age (AIDA) as well as keynote speaker of APPLiA’s webinar, shedding light on the main strengths and weaknesses of Europe’s action plan at the current stage. “More flexibility and simplicity are needed for EU industries. Over-regulation risks creating too many barriers to technological innovation,” MEP Carvalho continued, stressing the importance of the role played by the EU Institutions in striking the right balance between human rights and right to innovation in technology. 

Over the past years, artificial intelligence has grown to become an area of strategic importance and a key driver of economic development. In order for Europe to stay at the forefront of this technology, Mrs Felicia Stoica, Deputy Head of Unit at the European Commission - DG Grow was the first panelist to set the scene for discussion. “Striking a fair balance between safety and innovation was the main prerogative of the recently unveiled proposal,” she explained referring to the Artificial Intelligence Package. “With this document we strived to bring legal clarity to the scope and definitions of the Machinery Directive while addressing the risks that digital technologies may bring and creating a coherent interplay between the new legislative framework and the Machinery Regulation.” 

On behalf of consumer associations, Mrs Chiara Giovannini, Senior Manager Policy & Innovation at ANEC - The European Consumer Voice in Standardisation, highlighted the importance of adopting a human-centric approach to artificial intelligence. “AI is a means, not an end,” she started, “European values and principles should remain core to ensure asymmetries between consumers and industries are properly addressed at the policy making level.” Many new emerging risks are related with AI products and services, calling for a comprehensive legislative framework and a new policy approach, based on calculated standards and assessments. 

Why is it crucial for the home appliance industry that a common definition of AI be set? Eoin Kelly, APPLiA’s Digital and Competitiveness Policy Specialist, gave the audience an overview of the key aspects to the debate. “European consumers have had their understanding of AI influenced by sci-fi novels and movies which do not reflect the reality for most European manufacturers,” he explained, “for this reason, a common definition of AI would provide legal certainty to manufacturers and regulators, alike.” With this in mind, Mr Kelly pointed out that “building a European environment for innovation entails the expansion of financial instruments for R&I in AI; freedom to research and innovate in line with Europe’s competitors, and most importantly, legal certainty within a fully harmonized EU framework.”

“AI is only one of the many existing applications today,” Mr Damir Filipovic, Secretary General of AIOTI - Alliance for the Internet of Things Innovation stated, “what is important is to ensure all technologies can work together in a computing continuum and in deployment.” To this extent, “investing in research and development must be a key priority of the European Institutions”, he concluded. 

Closing up the panel, Mr Antoine Larpin, Government Affairs Representative at Panasonic Europe, stressed the importance of agreeing on a common definition of AI to allow for legal certainty at all levels. “It is fundamental to take into account the usage and context of AI applications to best assess all the risks and opportunities involved,” he pointed. In addition to this, “the implementation of agreed standards is key to a successful operationalisation of legal requirements, from principles to practice.” For Europe to become a hub for artificial intelligence, “we need to join the global discussion and build bridges with the top players in the arena.”

With a shared plea to shape AI in Europe as based on “trustworthy innovation”, Paolo Falcioni, APPLiA’s Director General closed the webinar and thanked the panelists for their valuable contributions. 

Watch the full recording of the webinar at this link