The European Union announced several new digital initiatives on Tuesday in Brussels, including agreements on artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and 5G, as well as a new venture capital investment fund. The measures seek to increase the EU’s global competitiveness in innovation and critical emerging technologies.
The announcements were made at Digital Day 2018, an event organised by the European Commission. The annual summit brought together representatives from government, industry, academia and civil society organisations to foster collaboration in the fields of AI, blockchain, eHealth and innovation.
At the summit, 25 European countries signed a cooperation agreement on AI. The Commission is expected to publish additional details in the coming weeks.
“Cooperation will focus on reinforcing European AI research centres, creating synergies in R&D&I funding schemes across Europe, and exchanging views on the impact of AI on society and the economy,” said Andrus Ansip, VP for the Digital Single Market, and Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, in a statement.
The Commission also announced that 22 European countries signed a new blockchain partnership with the goal of making the EU a leader in blockchain research and reducing duplication of work between countries.
“In the future, all public services will use blockchain technology,” said Gabriel. She added the technology provides a variety of opportunities that benefit both citizens and industry, including protecting personal data and promoting user trust.
In February, the Commission launched the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum and has invested over €80 million in projects supporting the use of blockchain in technology and society. The Commission expects to allocate an additional €300 million to the development of blockchain in Europe by 2020.
A new eHealth initiative allowing cross-border access to genomic information also emerged from the summit and was signed by 13 countries. The Commission called the development “a game changer for European health research and clinical practice,” noting that sharing more genomic data will help prevent diseases and enable doctors to provide patients with more personalised treatments, especially those with cancer and rare diseases.
As part of the EU’s wider Digital Single Market strategy, several member states signed regional agreements to create cross-border 5G corridors that will speed up the rollout of improved wireless networks and technologies such as self-driving vehicles. Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia are collaborating on a corridor between Thessaloniki, Sofia and Belgrade, while Italy said it plans to work with other interested countries on creating a corridor on the Brenner Pass motorway, which sees around 60 million vehicles every year.
The Commission also unveiled plans on Tuesday for a €2.1 billion investment fund called VentureEU. The program seeks to attract investment in promising European technology companies to compete with the startup ecosystem in the United States. The EU has pledged €410 million to the project and will seek to raise the remaining funds from private investors.
“In venture capital, size matters!” said Jyrki Katainen, the European Commission’s VP for Jobs, Growth, Investment, and Competitiveness, in a statement. “With VentureEU, Europe’s many innovative entrepreneurs will soon get the investment they need to innovate and grow into global success stories. This means more jobs and growth in Europe.”