The European Union (EU) is taking decisive steps to advance artificial intelligence (AI), announcing that some AI companies will have access to the bloc’s supercomputing capabilities. But not every business can harness this computing power. They must demonstrate that they practice responsible AI governance.
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyenduring his important State of the Union speech, proclaimed the new EU initiative which will enable European AI companies use high performance block computing (HPC) resources. The move hints at an inclusive strategy from the EU to support technological innovation in the region.
These cutting-edge supercomputers, some of which are among the top five in the world in terms of power, are part of the European Joint Undertaking for High Performance Computing. Located in Luxembourg, the entity created in 2018 represents a collaboration between the public and private sectors. It brings together the resources of EU businesses, governments and the European Commission, with an impressive roster of eight supercomputers spread across the continent.
Linking access to ethical use
However, the EU also emphasizes ethical governance. To access these HPC resources, AI startups must engage with the EU AI governance framework. The bloc rolled out a set of voluntary guidelines for companies developing and deploying AI technologies in early May. This was a preparatory measure to familiarize businesses with the upcoming formal AI legislation.
At the same time, the AI Act, a risk-centered approach regulatory framework for AI, is under discussion and is expected to be officially implemented in the near future. International collaboration is also on the agenda, with discussions on an AI code of conduct in partnership with the United States and other countries to reduce legal disparities across borders.
Focus on global competitiveness and SMEs
Von der Leyen’s speech also highlighted the importance for Europe to maintain its technological edge, particularly in areas such as biotechnology, clean technology, microelectronics, quantum computingAnd AI. It is not just about economic prowess, but also about national security.
She highlighted the crucial role small and medium enterprises (SMEs) play a role in this technology ecosystem, expressing concerns about bureaucratic barriers that stifle their growth. Pledging to significantly cut red tape, Von der Leyen announced plans to reduce administrative burdens for SMEs across Europe by 25%. A new ambassador role dedicated to European SMEs is also in the offing, underscoring the EU’s commitment to listening and adapting to the needs of startups and small businesses.
Challenges on the horizon
This enthusiasm is, however, tempered by caution. The recent attempt to Finnish AI laboratory silo training a language model on LUMI, one of the EU’s latest supercomputers, highlighted a significant challenge. The absence of Nvidia chips, the benchmark for AI training, made the process considerably expensive. This has led to reservations about whether Europe’s new supercomputers are sufficiently suitable for AI research.
The EU president also issued a warning. Recognizing the rapid pace of technological evolution, particularly in the field of AI, she stressed the importance of steering the development of these technologies responsibly. The potential of AI, while transformative, also presents existential risks if left unharnessed.
In summary, the European Union demonstrates a two-pronged approach: fostering innovation by providing access to world-class computing resources while ensuring ethical governance in AI development. The balance between technological progress and ethical considerations will indeed help to shape the European AI landscape in the years to come.