European Landscape

Impactful collaboration between European stakeholders is essential, especially in the dynamic fields of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI). As part of its international mission, Smart Data Forum fosters cooperation and partnerships among European innovation programs and initiatives. We therefore organize bilateral events with European partners and contribute to the European Network of Big Data Centers of Excellence. Furthermore, we provide relevant information on important European initiatives in order to give interested readers an overview of the European Big Data and AI landscape.

Big Data and AI on the European level

The European institutions are important actors in the development and fostering of Big Data and AI technologies. On the strategic level, a EU communication on the data-driven economy was launched in 2014 and in late 2018, the European Commission published a Coordinated Plan on Artificial Intelligence. The European Commission is intensively working on the strategy’s execution which offers various investment and funding initiatives.In the preparation phase of the strategy’s formulation in early 2018, the European Commission published a detailed overview of the European AI landscape as well as of 20 individual countries. Continuous monitoring of the European AI landscape was outsourced to AI Watch, a newly established knowledge service. Recently, working groups have been established to elaborate on the work of the European Commission.

For one, there is the High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence compromised of 52 experts who are to support the implementation of the European strategy on AI. Concurrently, it is the steering group of the European AI Alliance, which is meant to encourage a broad participation in the policy-making process. As a first step, the High-Level expert group has proposed ethics guidelines which will be presented – after an open consultation – to the European Commission in March 2019. The expert group will also propose policy recommendations on investments and the regulatory framework.

Furthermore, as described in the Coordinated Plan on Artificial Intelligence, the European Commission also plans to set up a Leaders Group on AI. It will represent the stakeholders at CEO level from industry and research institutes to develop an agenda and ensure a commitment at the highest level in its implementation, paving the way to a new partnership in AI. The first meeting is scheduled for early 2019.

Additionally, the European Commission as well as European member states are part of the international working groups like the OECD initiative on AI. In 2018, the OECD established an expert group on AI in society and they are launching a policy observatory to ensure the beneficial use of AI in 2019.

Moreover, there are various initiatives, platforms and networks on the European level, some of which we will presented below.

Funding on the European Level

Horizon 2020 is the biggest research and innovation program on the European level, with nearly €80 billions of funding made available between 2014 and 2020. The European Commission is increasing investments in AI under the Horizon 2020 program to €1.5 billion in the period 2018 until 2020. This is a 70 percent increase compared to 2014 until 2017.

Under the next multi-annual financial framework running from 2021 to 2027, the European Commission has proposed to dedicate at least €1 billion per year to AI programs from the Horizon 2020 successor Horizon Europe. The Digital Europe Program, which is part of Horizon Europe, aims at investing an overall amount of €2.5 billion to help promote the use of AI technologies across the European economy and society. The budget builds on the Coordinated Plan on Artificial intelligenceand provides funding for among others digital innovation hubsacross Europe and the AI on-demand-platform AI4EU.

The European Commission also aims at providing funding for startups in their early stage as well as for companies in their scale-up phase. The most relevant instruments for this goal are currently Horizon 2020, the European Fund for Strategic Investments and the European Investment Fund.

The European Innovation Council (EIC) was established under Horizon 2020 to support cutting-edge technologies and most innovative startups. In 2018 alone, 74 innovative SME-projects and startups have been funded to develop AI related innovations. In early 2019 a new pilot initiative will be launched to support the next generation of human-centric AI technologies. Overall, between 2018 and 2020, the EIC pilot will provide €2.7 billion to breakthrough, market-creating innovations.

The European Data Incubator is a program for big data startups and SMEs in Europe. It is also funded by Horizon 2020 and offers mentoring from experts, workshops as well as datathons in emerging markets. Firms can receive free equity up to €100.000, free cloud environment and connections to major European corporations.

For the timeframe 2021 until 2027, AI will also be further supported by the InvestEU Fund, which will mobilize public and private investment through an EU budget guarantee.

European Networks

As part of the European activities of Smart Data Forum, we co-initiated the European Network of Big Data Centers of Excellence in 2016. It is a network connecting more than 55 research institutions in 17 European countries to work on all aspects of big data and provides an overview map of the actors and their research competencies. The overall aim is to transfer research topics into relevant industries. The network works on increasing exchange, sharing best practices, establishing an open source friendly environment, identifying synergies and fostering matchmaking and internationalization.

Network of European AI research excellence centers

As outlined in the Coordinated Plan on Artificial Intelligence, the European Commission works on creating a tighter network of European AI research excellence centers to foster cooperation among the best research teams in Europe. In 2019, member states will map national AI research excellence centers and their competences to support EU-wide cooperation and networking. The European Commission plans to fund networks of AI research excellence centers with €50 million in 2020 through Horizon 2020 in order to support collaborative research addressing industrial and scientific challenges identified by such networks in joint research agendas.

Pan-European Network of Digital Innovation Hubs

Next to the network of European AI research excellence centers and world-reference testing facilities, the third core initiative of the European Commission in order to bring knowledge from the lab to the market are the so-called Digital Innovation Hubs (DIHs). They are meant to ensure that every company can grasp digital opportunities and that the uptake of AI and the transmission of knowledge and scientific advances into the wider economy are accelerated. There are already more than 200 fully operational hubs across the EU, which can be found in this catalogue of DIHs. To further strengthen their efforts, the European Commission will make available more than €100 million for DIHs in selected AI and big data-related areas in 2019 and 2020. Beyond 2020, the funding from the Digital Europe Programis supposed to contribute to establishing Digital Innovation Hubs in every member state, ensuring a broad geographical representation.

European Platforms

AI4EU is a collaborative Horizon 2020 project, which started in January 2019 and aims at mobilizing the entire European AI community and at creating a collaborative AI European platform to nurture economic growth. It is meant to be an AI-on-demand platform. There are 79 members in 21 partnering countries involved in the research and industrial balanced consortium. Eight industry-driven AI pilots in the areas of citizens, robotics, industry, healthcare, media, agriculture, IoT and cybersecurity aim at demonstrating the value of the AI-on-demand platform. The project is led by THALES, France, and receives a total funding of €20 million between 2018 and 2021.

European Data Space

In April 2018, the European Commission presented a plan to create a European Data Space. Member states are encouraged to identify public datasets make them more openly reusable, especially those that are suitable for training AI applications. In 2019, the European Commission will support next-generation digital industrial platforms through large scale federating projects with an investment of €50 million from Horizon 2020. Beyond 2020, the European Commission proposes that for the common European Data Space €1 billion is invested by the European Union, member states and the private sector through the Digital Europe Program.

European AI Alliance

The European AI Alliance is a forum engaged to create a broad and open discussion of all aspects of AI development and its impacts. Members of the European AI Alliance can offer input and feedback to the High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence through the AI Alliance platform. Discussions hosted on the platform will directly contribute to the European debate on AI and feed into the European Commission’s policy-making in the area.

European Initiatives
Big Data Value

The Big Data Value Association (BDVA) is an industry-driven nonprofit organization with 200 members from all over Europe based in Brussels. BDVA has an important role on the European level, since it has been the private counterpart to the European Commission to implement the Big Data Value Public-Private Partnership Program since 2014. The program aims at creating an innovation ecosystem that enables the big data and AI-driven digital transformation in Europe. Furthermore, it tries to develop a common shared vision for positioning Europe as the world leader in the creation of big data value. In order to do so, BDVA co-organizes the annual Big Data Value Forum. Data users and providers, e.g. large industries, SMEs and research organizations can become members of BDVA. The European Commission has expressed interest to model a partnership on AI on the public-private-partnership program that is already established with BDVA.


The European Data Market Study aims at defining, assessing and measuring the European data economy, supporting the achievement of the data value chain policy of the European Commission. The website provides a European Data Market Monitoring Tool as well as data on the EU Data Landscape. Furthermore, it regularly posts publications and stories as well as shares information about the relevant major events. The DataLandscape project is carried out by the International Data Corporation and the Lisbon Council for Economic Competitiveness and Social Renewal.

The European Association for Artificial Intelligence was established in 1982 and is an important network and representative body of the European AI academic research community. Its aim is to promote the study, research and application of AI in Europe. The association organizes conferences on AI related topics every second year, designs courses and publishes a journal. EurAI has also worked with the European Commission to take stock of the state of the field of AI.

The European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) is an independent body of the European Union that was set up in 2008 to boost innovation and entrepreneurship across Europe. Between 2018 and 2020, the EU invests in activities to support EIT Digital and its network of nodes across the European Union. In its Digital Knowledge and Innovation Communities EIT brings together leading higher education institutions, research labs and companies to form dynamic cross-border partnerships.

AI Watch

Many of today’s debates about AI are based on opinions, hearsay and assumptions – not always on facts and science. To ensure quality input and to inform policy-makers, the Joint Research Center of the European Commission has set up a knowledge service called AI Watch to monitor the development, uptake and impact of AI for Europe. It is an important part of the European AI strategy. AI Watch will review and assess the European AI landscape from driving forces to technology developments, from research to market, from data ecosystems to applications.

The interdisciplinary three-year project HUMAINT is part of the Joint Research Center for Advanced Studies of the European Commission. It aims at understanding the impact of AI on human behavior. It has a focus on cognitive and socio-emotional capabilities and decision making. The project organizes a series of scientific events as well as publishes on the research topics.

CLAIRE stands for the Confederation of Laboratories for Artificial Intelligence Research in Europe and was launched in June 2018. It is an initiative of the European AI community to strengthen European excellence in AI research and innovation. More than 2500 AI experts have already signed a letter of intent and 25 European countries have pledged to strengthen research and foster collaborations in the field. CLAIRE aims at establishing a pan-European network of Centers of Excellence in AI as well as establishing a CLAIRE Hub as a new central facility that brings together Europe’s brightest minds in AI. The work behind CLAIRE is currently done by the three initiators on a voluntary basis with support from their home institutions (Universiteit Leiden, Oslo Metropolitan University, German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence).