Royal Society to host debate on Europe’s role as leading AI research destination

15 September 2020

The Royal Society will join forces with two European research organisations this autumn to host an online debate on Europe’s role as a leading research destination for Artificial Intelligence (AI).

The event, due to take place on 7 October 2020 will serve to foster and strengthen relationships with European scientific leaders in the months leading up to the UK’s formal departure from the European Union.

Speakers at the event will include Martin Stratmann, President of Germany’s premier, non-university research organisation the Max Planck Society, and Professor Antoine Petit, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France. They will be joined by President of the Royal Society, Dr Venki Ramakrishnan.

All three will deliver a short speech on the theme of AI, which will be followed by discussion on the importance of funding, attracting the best researchers and opportunities for exchange, and creating an attractive regulatory environment post-Brexit.

Dr Ramakrishnan said: “The Royal Society is committed to working with partners across Europe beyond Brexit to ensure continued opportunities for scientific exchange and collaboration. This event is an ideal opportunity to do that.

“Europe has tremendous strengths in AI and is home to leading researchers and some of the world’s most innovative tech companies including Spotify in Sweden and DeepMind in the UK.

“The majority of publications on AI from Europe has come from researchers affiliated with public sector establishments. The ability to pursue cutting edge research is fundamental for Europe to play a leading role in AI and be competitive with the USA and China. This will require access to infrastructure – namely computer power – and data and further investment in research collaborations across sectors.”

As AI technologies advance some key research questions including the robustness, fairness and interpretability of AI and the ongoing development of applications in areas of societal interest such as healthcare, are emerging. Europe has been at the forefront of considering the social and ethical implications of AI.

Advancing research in these areas could help ensure that high quality AI research continues to have a strong home in Europe, that AI technologies develop ethically, and that their benefits are shared across society.

Dr Ramakrishnan has previously called on the UK government to end uncertainty around the country’s commitment to associating to the EU’s research and innovation programme, Horizon Europe, warning that unless assurances are given researchers will ‘start voting with their feet and leave the UK.’ He has also warned against a no-deal Brexit saying it would ‘severely damage’ economic recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic.

The European scientific community is seeking for rapid progress in negotiations regarding the UK’s participation in Horizon Europe, which runs from 2021 to 2027 and is the successor to the €80bn Horizon 2020 programme.

In December 2019 the Royal Society published a statement (PDF) on the benefits of associating to Horizon Europe to the UK public and scientific community.