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EU Commission proposes AI factories for startups and SMEs

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The European Commission has proposed the launch of an AI factory, an AI Office, and other AI-related initiatives in a package of measures to support European startups and SMEs in developing trustworthy artificial intelligence (AI) that respects European Union (EU) values and rules. 

The announcement published on the Commission’s blog states that European startups will have simplified access to dedicated AI supercomputers, fostering the development of general-purpose AI models. This initiative aims to accelerate the adoption of AI technology.

This comes after the agreement in December 2023 on the EU AI Act, the first global comprehensive law on powerful artificial intelligence models such as Microsoft-backed ChatGPT and Google’s Bard and their use. The act is designed to facilitate developing, deploying, and adopting reliable AI in the EU.

In September 2023, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, gave a ‘State of the Union’ address and announced intentions for a new initiative to make Europe’s supercomputers available to innovative European AI startups to train their trustworthy AI models. 

The Commission also launched in November 2023, the Large AI Grand Challenge, a prize giving AI startups financial support and supercomputing access.

The Commission mentioned that the AI Factories, also known as one-stop shops, will aid AI startups and researchers in creating algorithms, testing and validating large-scale AI models, and ensuring their access to dedicated AI supercomputers.

The initiatives to assist AI startups and innovation also include a decision to establish an AI Office within the Commission. This office will ensure the development and coordination of AI policy at the European level, as well as supervise the implementation and enforcement of the forthcoming AI Act.

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An EU AI Start-Up and Innovation Communication initiative to generate an additional total investment of approximately €4 billion until 2027, combining public and private funds, is part of the launched measures.

The Commission, in collaboration with several member states, also established two European Digital Infrastructure Consortiums (EDICs) — The Alliance for Language Technologies (ALT) which addresses the shortage of European language data for training AI and supports the development of large language models, preserving linguistic diversity.

The second EDIC is ‘CitiVERSE’ and it will leverage advanced AI tools to develop and improve Local Digital Twins for Smart Communities. This initiative assists cities in simulating and optimizing processes, including traffic management and waste management.

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