February 24, 2020

February 24, 2020

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Covington Artificial Intelligence Update: European Commission Publishes Communication on Artificial Intelligence for Europe

On April 25, 2018, the European Commission (EC) published its “Artificial Intelligence for Europe” communication (the Communication), in which it sets out a roadmap for its AI initiatives. Having acknowledged the crucial need for a boost of AI in the EU, the EC commits to supporting investment, (re)considering legislation and soft law initiatives, and coordinating Member States’ efforts. This blog post highlights some of the EC’s initiatives.

Increasing Investments

By 2020, the EC plans to invest €1.5 billion in AI, and aims to attract at least €500 million in private investments. Its primary focus will be on supporting research and innovation across a broad range of sectors, strengthening research excellence centres, and offering an ‘AI toolbox’ to potential users. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), non-tech companies and public administrations will be a focal point. The Communication also sets out key investment objectives beyond 2020, including research into explainable AI, unsupervised machine learning, energy and data efficiency.

Proposed Ethical and Legal Framework

The Communication underlines the EU’s imperative to protect personal data, safety and product liability.

Enhancing Access to Data

In parallel to the Communication, the EC launched a set of initiatives to make more data available:

Data protection initiatives

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), entering into force in May 2018, is intended to address many of the issues raised by AI. Other proposals under the Digital Single Market strategy will also aim to strengthen trust in the online world (the E-Privacy Regulation and the Cybersecurity Act), or will facilitate the further development of AI (the Regulation on the free flow of non-personal data).


The EC undertakes to draft AI ethics guidelines by the end of 2018. The EC’s initiative is set to have broad scope, covering the future of work, fairness, safety, security, social inclusion and algorithmic transparency. As a result, it will be more detailed than the ethical principles set out recently by the UK House of Lords Special Committee.

Safety initiatives

Moreover, to ensure safety, the EC evaluated the Product Liability Directive and Machinery Directive in light of AI and emerging technologies. New Guidance on the interpretation of the Product Liability Directive will be issued by mid-2019, providing legal certainty for consumers and producers.

Addressing socio-economic evolutions

Preparing for changes in the labour market, the Communication includes an action plan to help equip people with digital skills. To support the efforts of the Member States, the EC will set up (re-)training schemes, support Digital Opportunity Traineeships, and encourage business-education partnerships to attract AI talent.

Joint Cooperation

By July 2018, a European AI Alliance will be set up to support the development and use of AI. The EC intends to coordinate with the Member States to maximise the impact of AI investments.

© 2020 Covington & Burling LLP


About this Author

Laura Corbett, Covington, Regulatory attorney

Laura Corbett advises clients on a wide range of antitrust issues including cartel investigations and general behavioral matters, merger control filings, abuse of dominance matters, and state aid investigations. Her practice covers European and Belgian competition law.

She advises clients across a diverse range of sectors, including, among others, media, telecommunication, consumer goods, transportation, food chain industries, consumer electronics, and industrial materials.

Miranda Cole, Covington, Intellectual property attorney

Miranda Cole is a partner based in Covington's Brussels and London offices. She specialises in competition law (merger control, abuse of dominance, vertical and collaborative arrangements and technology licences and other agreements). Chambers Global notes that she "takes a proactive, holistic approach" (2014).

Her practice has a particular focus on advising companies active in the technology, communications and media, software and ecommerce, aviation and life sciences sectors. She advises clients on the competition issues raised by IP, data and technology interfaces, including access issues, standardisation, remuneration and interoperability.

Miranda Cole is a partner based in the firm’s Brussels office. She practices competition and communications law and policy, and has more than 15 years of experience in the field.  Chambers Global notes that she "takes a proactive, holistic approach" (2014).