European Court of Auditors Criticize EU for Failing to Coordinate AI Investments

In this post:

  • ECA says the EU’s AI investment plan is uncoordinated.
  • AI investment gap between the EU and the US had doubled by 2020.
  • European Commission adopts new measures to enhance AI investment.

A recent European Court of Auditors (ECA) analysis found that the European Commission had very weak coordination in the attempts to enhance funding for AI between 2018 and 2022.

While calling AI one of the most strategic technologies of the 21st century, the investment gap between the European Union (EU) and other global leaders has widened significantly.

European Commission Failed to Narrow AI Investment Gap

In 2018, the European Commission laid out a strategic plan for AI investments and deployment throughout the European Union. This was in line with a more extensive campaign to position the EU as a leader in AI technology.

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According to the 2022 technical report by the Joint Research Center in the Commission, the US posted €62.5 billion in private AI investment in 2023, and the investment in the EU and the UK combined was only €9 billion. This contrast stresses the growing challenge faced by the EU in keeping pace with its global counterparts in the AI sector.

EU’s Investment Plans Lack Specificity and Coordination

The ECA report attributes much of this shortfall to the lack of specificity in the objectives developed by the European Commission. The plans released in 2018 and 2021 did not state clear research priorities and goals in plain terms for member states. Furthermore, the targets were not updated to reflect the widening investment gap with the US intensifying the problem.

Coordination with national authorities was also found to be ineffective. The report further reveals that only one expert group per member state was given the mandate for coordinating AI plans stating that this was inadequate. Moreover, the Commission failed to conduct the overall assessment of how the AI plans were being executed among the members as initially intended.

The information presented in the ECA report was gathered with the assistance of officials of the ECA, the European Investment Fund and 23 national authorities overseeing AI policies. The auditors also looked through the Commission documents and assessed ten AI projects financed by the Horizon 2020 program of science research in Europe.

European Commission Responds with New Measures

In its response to the European Court of Auditors’ report, the European Commission has admitted some of the problems mentioned and explained measures it is pursuing to correct them. A representative of the Commission emphasized the proposed enforcement of the AI Act, especially through the creation of the AI Office. This office is expected to improve and coordinate the deployment of AI measures in the European Union.

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In January 2024 the Commission presented an innovation package for AI, which aims at mobilizing at least €4 billion from public and private actors by 2027. Additionally, the Commission has provided Europe’s supercomputers to AI startups to help them build ethically sound AI models, as declared by Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission during her speech on the State of the Union in 2023.

The inability of the European Commission to properly coordinate investments in AI points to major weaknesses in the EU’s strategy for promoting AI development. This is why the ECA’s report calls for clearer goals, improved coordination and harder work to increase investment to levels seen among the world’s leading nations.

Cryptopolitan reporting by Chris Murithi.

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