European Commission launches AI innovation package to support AI startups and SMEs

January 26, 2024

The European Commission has launched a package of measures to support European startups and SMEs in developing trustworthy AI. This follows the political agreement reached in December 2023 on the EU AI Act.

The package includes:

An amendment of the EuroHPC Regulation to set up AI Factories, a new pillar for the EU’s supercomputers Joint Undertaking activities. This includes:

  • Acquiring, upgrading and operating AI-dedicated supercomputers to enable fast machine learning and training of large General Purpose AI models;
  • Facilitating access to the AI dedicated supercomputers, contributing to the widening of the use of AI to a large number of public and private users, including startups and SMEs; 
  • Offering a one-stop shop for startups and innovators, supporting the AI startup and research ecosystem in algorithmic development, testing evaluation and validation of large-scale AI models, providing supercomputer-friendly programming facilities and other AI enabling services;
  • Enabling the development of a variety of emerging AI applications based on General Purpose AI models.

A decision to establish an AI Office within the Commission to develop and coordinate AI policy at European level, as well as supervise the implementation and enforcement of the forthcoming AI Act. 

An EU AI Start-Up and Innovation Communication outlining additional key activities:

  • Financial support from the Commission through Horizon Europe and the Digital Europe programme dedicated to generative AI. This package will generate an additional overall public and private investment of around €4 billion until 2027;
  • Accompanying initiatives to strengthen EU’s generative AI talent pool through education, training, skilling and reskilling activities;
  • Further encourage public and private investments in AI start-ups and scale-ups, including through venture capital or equity support (including via new initiatives of the EIC accelerator Programme and InvestEU);
  • The acceleration of the development and deployment of Common European Data Spaces, made available to the AI community, for whom data is a key resource to train and improve their models. A new Staff Working Document on common European data spaces has also been published today, providing the latest state of play;
  • The ‘GenAI4EU’ initiative, which aims to support the development of novel use cases and emerging applications in Europe’s 14 industrial ecosystems, as well as the public sector.

The Commission is also establishing two Digital Infrastructure Consortiums, one of which aims to develop a common European infrastructure in language technologies, the other to develop and enhance Local Digital Twins for Smart Communities.

The Commission has also adopted a Communication outlining the Commission’s own strategic approach to the use of AI. It covers the implementation of the EU AI Act. It also sets out how the Commission will build institutional and operational capacity to ensure the development and use of trustworthy, safe and ethical AI. The Commission also plans to support EU public administrations in their own adoption and use of AI.

Next steps

The European Parliament and the Council will now consider the Commission’s proposed amendments on the Regulation establishing the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking.

The AI Office will be established within the Commission. It will implement the future AI Act at EU level and will supervise the rules for general-purpose AI models and systems. It will become a central coordination body for AI policy at EU level and will work internationally to promote the EU approach to AI governance and contribute to the EU’s international activities on AI. More generally, the AI Office will build up knowledge and understanding on AI and foster AI uptake and innovation. The decision to establish the AI Office enters into force on 24 January, with its operation commencing in the following months.