Rewatch the workshop here:

Access to adequate data, timing of AI-investment, and challenges to scaling up were identified as important obstacles for SME-adoption of AI-based technologies and analytics in manufacturing. DIGITAL SME’s Focus Group Artificial Intelligence, together with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), organised a workshop on Analytics & Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Advanced Manufacturing on 14 June 2021. Participants discussed challenges and opportunities in the development and adoption of AI in this very important sector of the European economy.

Today’s manufacturing systems are becoming increasingly complex, dynamic, and connected. Recent developments in AI have shown great potential for transforming the manufacturing domain through advanced analytics tools. However, it is not easy to keep up with the pace of innovation, especially for SMEs. Thus, many of them are in danger of being left behind with limited access to the new technologies.

Sarah De Nigris from the JRC presented to the audience the connection between the different sectors of the economy and the use of certain types of AI. Next, Dirk De Nutte, CEO of AI-startup The Grain, provided a comprehensive overview of the stakes relative to AI for industry and the massive changes it can bring to both our society and our economy. Finally, Ilias Zournatzis demonstrated a concrete application of AI in the field of analytics and manufacturing from the KYKLOS 4.0 project which he manages. Participants were also able to ask questions about these technologies and bring their critical feedback to our attention.

Complex and promising new applications of AI

AI is a critically important technology that has much to offer beyond the field of analytics and manufacturing. First of all, AI is a tool, not a technology in itself.  Nowadays, a clear shift of AI toward the topics of environment, climate mitigation and sustainability can be observed. Overall, the potential of AI application are almost unlimited—the options are so broad that it could completely transform our economy. One of the limiting factors right now is that the supply chain and the current production techniques cannot follow such an efficient and optimised technology.

An unprecedented opportunity for SMEs in particular

Concerning the use of AI by SMEs, the question of how and when a company should invest in AI was raised. Mr De Nutte explained that AI is necessary to scale up, but a well-built business plan should also back this project. Before considering using AI extensively, a company should consider that this use will directly impact its business model. Finally, he advised looking for help in order to properly scale up with AI.

Although AI is a great tool, many obstacles prevent it from being used in any given situation. Ms De Nigris explained that AI relies on the analysis of reliable and precise data, but many companies and economic sectors do not have access to such data. The structure of an economic sector, if it is too niche or does not need any scaling up, can also limit the development of AI technologies.

Finally, Mr Zournatzis showcased a concrete example of AI in analytics and manufacturing from the KYKLOS 4.0 project which aims to support SMEs to adopt emerging technologies for circular and sustainable production models.

DIGITAL SME would like to thank Ms De Nigris, Mr De Nutte and Mr Zournatzis for their presentations and all participants for sharing their feedback and questions. We will continue bringing together stakeholders to discuss AI-related issues and beyond to make sure that SMEs benefit from sharing knowledge and practical information.

Our Working Groups are the place-to-be to network and discuss policy and how it impacts your business—and you can join them! Go to digitalsme.eu/working-groups to learn more and apply.

P.S. Did you miss the event? Click here to see an exclusive recording and the slides for this webinar!

On 19 May 2021, DIGITAL SME held a workshop titled “European AI Act – How will this regulation affect SMEs?” for members of the Focus Group AI. Participants discussed the potential consequences for SMEs of the European AI Act, a proposal for a EU-wide regulation on AI published by the European Commission last April.

The workshop aimed to provide AI-developing SMEs with direct feedback to their questions: How will this regulation affect SMEs? What are “high risk technologies”? What should SMEs do to comply with the new regulation?

The European AI Act aims to provide a legal framework for AI that considers different risk-levels of AI-technologies for different areas. For instance, mass surveillance AI-techniques will be banned, while AI in medical devices will be considered “high risk” and therefore undergo specific conformity checks.

Martin Ulbrich, Policy Officer at the European Commission, presented the Act to an audience of AI-developing SMES to help them understand the content and the objectives of this regulation. Participants were also able to ask questions about the proposal and bring their critical feedback to the attention of the European Commission.

(Rewatch the event)

Potential pitfalls of the AI Act

Compliance costs have a strong impact on SMEs. According to impact assessments carried out by the European Commission, those costs are however estimated to range between 6000 to 7000 EUR, while the average cost of purchasing an AI system was estimated at 170,000 EUR[1]. The proposal foresees the creation of so-called “sandboxes” which are set up by national authorities and provide a favorable environment to test new innovative solutions. Concerning military uses of AI, Mr. Ulbrich explained that the European AI Act does not affect regulation in this field as the European Union is mainly responsible for civil legislation.

Another point of discussion raised by participants was the definition of AI and the difference between AI and software. As participants argued, some of the prohibited uses such as surveillance could also be carried out with software that would not fall under the current AI definitions. Therefore, the scope of the regulation and definitions should be further refined.

DIGITAL SME would like to thank Mr Ulbrich for his presentation and all participants for sharing their feedback and questions. We will continue bringing together stakeholders to discuss digital legislation in the field of AI and beyond to make sure it is fit for SMEs.

Our Working Groups are the place-to-be to network and discuss policy and how it impacts your business—and you can join them! Go to digitalsme.eu/working-groups to learn more and apply.

[1] See the Impact Assessment Document Accompanying the Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council LAYING DOWN HARMONISED RULES ON ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE ACT) AND AMENDING CERTAIN UNION LEGISLATIVE ACTS by the European Commission, p67

The European Commission today has published its long-awaited proposal for an Artificial Intelligence Act, which will now be discussed in the Parliament and Council before becoming law. To mitigate public concerns about the use of unethical AI applications, the EC proposes to ban a number of AI applications which manipulate human behaviour or conduct social scoring. The bans concern “subliminal techniques beyond a person’s consciousness in order to materially distort a person’s behaviour in a manner that causes or is likely to cause that person or another person physical or psychological harm.” Notably, biometric identification will still be allowed for law enforcement purposes.

High-risk uses of AI like in employment or migration control will be admitted if the companies show that they comply with EU standards. For this purpose, companies will go through a self-assessment of conformity, while national authorities carry out regular compliance checks. In addition, the proposal includes creating “regulatory sandboxes” to allow smaller businesses to experiment and innovate with AI without fear of reproach. Stelian Brad, a member of DIGITAL SME’s Focus Group Artificial Intelligence, commented: “Our group of AI-using enterprises will continue to work with the Commission to ensure that AI regulation facilitates the uptake of artificial intelligence in SMEs. Ensuring AI adoption of smaller businesses is crucial for advancing innovation in Europe and working towards digital sovereignty”.

We look forward to discussing the proposed regulation and its potential consequences with the Focus Group and will continue working with the European Commission to make sure that the regulatory approach will address ethical issues with AI without encumbering SME innovation.

Funding opportunity for SMEs in the digital manufacturing sector

Are you an SME developing innovative solutions in the digital manufacturing domain? Are you getting close to the market but need some support? Then we might have a solution for you!

The KYKLOS4.0 Offer for you

The solutions should include one or several of the following domains:

  • Cyber-physical systems
  • Product lifecycle management
  • Life cycle analysis
  • Augmented reality
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Circular manufacturing
  • Big data and data management
  • Deep learning
  • Decision support system

What do you need to do?

  • Build a consortium of up to 3 entities developing innovative solutions to improve digital manufacturing processes. The consortium must be led by an SME and include an industrial partner. The lead SME must be a technology integrator and the industrial partner will serve as a pilot location for the developed solution to be validated and demonstrated. An additional SME may participate to support technology adoption or increase impact.*
  • Propose a solution which demonstrates a high innovation potential and is ready to explore commercialisation opportunities by the end of experiment period (March 2022).
  • Validate and demonstrate your solution in a pilot location, which should be provided by one of your consortium partners.
  • Check whether you are eligible (criteria listed below).

*Do you need help building a consortium and finding partners?

Then fill in this ‘Partnering’ form, we can help you!

Eligibility criteria:

Your consortium will be considered eligible, if:

  • All consortium partners are legal entities established and based in one of the EU Member States or an H2020 Associated country, as defined in the H2020 rules for participation (a full list can be found HERE).
  • The consortium is led by an SME (the definition can be found HERE) and includes an industrial partner.
  • The consortium consists of a minimum two (2) partners and a maximum of three (3) partners.
  • The consortium can be comprised of several entities from one same country / or of several entities from different countries.

Deadline for applications:  30 June 2021, 17:00 CEST

Should you have any questions, please contact Déborah Goll at d.goll@digitalsme.eu.

This project receives funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 872570

On 20 January 2021, DIGITAL SME held a live workshop titled What does the new Data Governance Act mean for SMEs?” for members of the Focus Group on Artificial Intelligence (FG AI) and DIGITAL SME’s extended networkThe event’s main topic was the Data Governance Act, a proposal for a regulation published by the European Commission last November.

While the workshop shed light on the European Commission’s strategy when it comes to data, important questions remain: What will the Data Governance Act (DGA) mean for small businesses on the ground? Access to data is a key hurdle for companies: How will the DGA and the Commission’s data strategy ensure this access?

The DGA aims to turn Europe into a leading data economy, especially for industrial data. For this purpose, the DGA wants to build a comprehensive European data-sharing framework. The DGA is part of a wider European Data Strategy, which will also include a Data Act, to be announced by the end of 2021. This framework aims to allow businesses and researchers to fully exploit data by lowering transaction costs linked to B2B and C2B data-sharing through data intermediaries. It provides a framework for the re-use of public sector data and promotes the concept of “data altruism”, i.e., allowing data use by individuals or companies for the common good. Finally, the DGA foresees the creation of an expert group, the ‘European Data Innovation Board’.

Malte Beyer-Katzenberger, Policy Officer at the European Commission’s DG CNECT, presented the DGA to an audience of AI-developing SMEs to better understand the EU’s overarching strategy for data. Participants were also able to ask questions about the proposal and bring their critical feedback to the attention of the European Commission.

Creating value and ensuring the availability of data through Common European Data Spaces

Common European data spaces are infrastructures designed to materialise data-sharing platforms: their main leverage will be the possibility of reusing data. The DGA will define an open ecosystem independent from big players in which increased involvement creates more value. Mr Beyer-Katzenberger highlighted that “the European Commission will play the role of catalyser of the relevant actors in these data spaces”, but he added that they will be “driven by the stakeholders that are part of them”.

The DGA also introduces the notion of data intermediaries which will allow companies to recourse to third parties offering and obtaining data-related services. These intermediaries will strengthen businesses sovereignty over their own data as “they will share data while maintaining their control and value”, as Mr Beyer-Katzenberger explained. At the same time, questions remain when it comes to the additional bureaucracy associated with this notion – may it hinder smaller players from developing new business ideas based on the collection of data sets?

Finally, Mr Beyer-Katzenberger elaborated on the concept of “data altruism”, where individuals or companies can give consent to share their data for the common good; voluntarily and free of charge. This can lead to an increase in the amount of data at the disposal of companies who need data to scale up and innovate.

DIGITAL SME will continue to champion SME voices in important digital legislation

A poll conducted during the session indicated that only 60% of participants had heard of the Data Governance Act prior to the workshop. Towards the end of the session, the poll showed that the sentiment regarding the projected effects of the DGA on participants’ businesses was neutral to positive.

DIGITAL SME would like to thank Mr Beyer-Katzenberger for his presentation and all participants for sharing their feedback and questions. We will continue to bring together stakeholders to discuss digital legislation in the field of AI and beyond to make sure it is fit for SMEs.

The governance framework proposed by the DGA can have important consequences for innovative companies in AI or data intelligence services – and DIGITAL SME wants to ensure that the dialogue between the EU-level and the affected SMEs is established from the start.

Our Working Groups are the place-to-be to network and discuss policy and how it impacts your business—and you can join them! Go to digitalsme.eu/working-groups to learn more and apply.

Rewatch the event here:

Presentation Slides by Mr Beyer-Katzenberger

Europe is a global leader in academic research of human-centric artificial intelligence. In 2016, the EU represented 25% of the top most-cited AI publications, followed by the US and China [1]. However, when it comes to market uptake, especially industrial applications, we are leagues behind [2].To address this gap, DIGITAL SME is launching the CISC (Collaborative Intelligence for Safety Critical systems) project. Its collaborative intelligence framework will allow 14 world-class AI researchers to gain interdisciplinary skills, get employed with the industrial players (and European SMEs!) and apply their research in practice.

A human-centric AI approach connecting research with applications

The CISC project is a joint effort of organisations from academia and business. It is coordinated by the H2020 framework’s Marie Skłodowska Curie action. The importance and potential of AI-driven automation in domains like manufacturing, healthcare and transport is tremendous. However, few understand the importance of AI systems’ interaction and collaboration with humans. CISC will train researchers capable of addressing this shortcoming and contribute to the EU human-centric approach to artificial intelligence. 

In a nutshell, the project will: 1) train researchers with interdisciplinary skills and intersectoral experience in the field of AI-driven automation for Industry 4.0; 2) promote academic-industry collaborations; and 3) foster European scientific excellence.

Tackling the ethical and legal aspects of AI with a PhD researcher

In the project framework, DIGITAL SME will recruit a PhD researcher specialising in ethical and legal aspects of AI. During the employment period at DIGITAL SME, the researcher will not only work towards the project’s scientific goals, but will also contribute to the objectives and activities of the DIGITAL SME/JRC Focus Group on AI.

The researcher will also tackle legal and ethical issues of AI and policy recommendations related to the treatment of mixed (personal and non-personal) data sets, explore standardisation approaches to AI and data formats, and work with SMEs to analyse the practical implementation of ethical AI, e.g. via standards, quality criteria, certification and labelling.

The researcher will be enrolled in the PhD programme at the TU Dublin and guided by two outstanding academic advisors. Within DIGITAL SME, the researcher will closely work with Senior Policy Manager Annika Linck, who is coordinating DIGITAL SME’s Focus Group on AI and overseeing our policy work on AI.

DIGITAL SME’s role: building bridges between CISC and the industry, with the Focus Group on AI

Besides hiring and co-mentoring the researcher, DIGITAL SME will also lead CISC’s scientific dissemination, communication and exploitation activities. It will be responsible for the project’s wide outreach to the science community and industry, as well as for the preparation of the exploitation plan for the technical solutions developed during the project.

This 48-month-long endeavour is part of DIGITAL SME’s focus on AI as a key technology for the competitiveness of Europe’s digital economy. To empower Europe in becoming a true leader, more than 100 AI innovators from across Europe have been gathered and now work within the Focus Group on AI. DIGITAL SME looks forward to this new project to promote European values through a strong, human-centric approach to AI. Together with the partners and Focus Group’s members, we seek to propel the EU to the front of the AI-race by facilitating skills and knowledge transfer, and by bringing together AI research with industrial applications. Learn more about CISC here.


[1] OECD (2019) Measuring the Digital Transformation: a Roadmap for the Future. https://www.oecd.org/publications/measuring-the-digital-transformation-9789264311992-en.htm
[2] Correia and Reyes (2020) AI research and innovation: Europe paving its own way. https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/2f4dea95-288c-11eb-9d7e-01aa75ed71a1/

DIGITAL SME’s Focus Group on Artificial Intelligence and Working Group (WG) Standards are organising the workshop “AI-standardisation landscape & the role of Digital Innovation Hubs” on 18 February 2021, 09.30-11.00 CET. The workshop is an invitation-only event for DIGITAL SME members and selected stakeholders from the European institutions, the European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIHs) network, and other organisations.

This hands-on workshop will provide SMEs and other interested stakeholders with an overview of Europe’s standardisation landscape in AI. We will present companies with the opportunity to discuss how their business can benefit from AI standards, and how they could get involved in standardisation organisations.

In the new Digital Europe Programme, it will be the role of Digital Innovation Hubs (DIHs) to help support the uptake of future technologies such as AI among SMEs. However, DIHs will also support technology frontrunners, such as AI innovators. Therefore, this workshop extends to DIHs from across Europe to allow for the development of a network to support DIHs in helping to advance Europe’s digital transformation.

This effort is part of DIGITAL SME’s focus on AI as a key technology for the competitiveness of Europe’s digital economy. To stop Europe from falling behind, DIGITAL SME has taken a leadership role in AI for SMEs, gathering more than 100 AI innovators in the Focus Group on Artificial Intelligence (a joint effort with the European Commission’s Joint Research  Centre). Although Europe is considered a global leader in AI academic research and champion of a human-centric approach to AI, it lags behind the US and China when it comes to the industrial applications of its scientific achievements. SMEs need to better understand the standardisation landscape and how to get involved in it when it comes to AI applications. This is where Working Group STANDARDS comes in. WG ST is the place-to-be for all things standardisation & SMEs. As the leader of Small Business Standards’ ICT approach, DIGITAL SME has created WG ST as a forum for SME experts from all around Europe to decisively shape the standardisation process and make it accessible for SMEs.

9.30 – 9.40 Welcome
9.40 – 10.30 Overview of the AI standardisation landscape

Dr. Stefano Nativi, Big Data Lead Scientist at the European Commission DG Joint Research Centre

Lindsay Frost, Chief Standardisation Engineer at NEC Laboratories Europe, Board member of ETSI, ETSI OCG AI Chair, ETSI ISG CIM Chair

Prof. Stelian Brad, Professor at Technical University of Cluj-Napoca & President of Cluj IT Cluster

10.30 – 10.55 Discussion with the SME Focus Group on AI

Moderated by DIGITAL SME

10.55 – 11.00 Closing & next steps

 

This is an invitation-only event for members of our Working Groups and selected stakeholders from European institutions and European Digital Innovation Hubs. You can apply to join our WGs here. If you think you should have been invited but haven’t received an invitation, please contact Annika Linck (a.linck@digitalsme.eu)

If you would like to receive news about these types of events and receive access to meeting recordings and documents, you can create an account at digitalsme.eu and subscribe to our newsletter and email updates where we will inform you about subscriber-only content.

DIGITAL SME Live Workshop

What does the new Data Governance Act mean for SMEs?

Discussion with the DIGITAL SME Focus Group on Artificial Intelligence (AI)

20 January 2021, 9.00 – 10.30 CET

Access to data is one of the key hurdles to AI adoption and development. This was a key finding of the first survey among the SMEs in the DIGITAL SME Focus Group on AI – Data is a key ingredient for many AI models and technologies, but especially SMEs lack access to this data to develop innovative solutions.

The European Commission has published a Proposal for a regulation on European data governance (Data Governance Act). With the Data Governance Act, the EU Commission wants to create a framework that will allow Europe to become a leading data economy, especially for industrial data. The aim is to create a “smooth market for data”, explained the Vice President responsible for digital. The Data Governance Act is part of a wider European Data Strategy, which will be complemented by a Data Act that will govern access to data in B2B relationships. However, the Data Governance Act already sets the ground for re-use in particular of public sector data and the sharing of personal and non-personal data. Here, the proposal aims at lowering transaction costs linked to B2B and C2B data sharing by implementing a framework to establish data intermediaries. Further, it introduces and promotes the notion of “Data altruism”: allowing data use by individuals or companies for the common good. Executive Vice President Vestager stated that it “is all about providing a safe environment for those who wish to share data”. The Act also plans for the creation of an expert group, the ‘European Data Innovation Board’ which will work on best practices by Member States’ authorities. This Board will also advise the Commission on the governance of cross-sectoral standardisation.

Against this background, this workshop will allow AI-developing SMEs and the wider DIGITAL SME network to better understand the proposed piece of legislation and the EU’s strategy for data. In an informal exchange, members of the SME Focus Group on AI and of DIGITAL SME, can ask for clarifications about the proposal and bring their critical feedback to the attention of the European Commission.

Agenda

9.00 – 9.10 Welcome
9.10 – 9.30 Outline of the EU’s Data Governance Act

Malte Beyer-Katzenberger, Policy Officer at European Commission, DG CNECT

9.30 – 10.15 Discussion with the SME Focus Group on AI

 Moderated by DIGITAL SME

10.15 – 10.30 Closing remarks

DIGITAL SME Live Workshop Registration


JRC/DIGITAL SME Focus Group on AI: Consultation on AI Liability

Since the publication of the White Paper on AI, the European Commission is working to address the issues of Liability of Artificial Intelligence. In addition, in October 2020 the European Parliament approved a Report addressing recommendations to the Commission and proposing a regulation on a civil liability regime for artificial intelligence.

Against this background, the European Commission is asking for feedback on questions related to liability and AI to support the Commission’s Policy Development on the Liability for Artificial Intelligence. DIGITAL SME has been asked to invite members of the Focus Group on Artificial Intelligence (AI) to fill in the following questionnaire.

Questionnaire on Liability for AI




JRC/DIGITAL SME Focus Group on AI: 2nd Meeting on 9 & 10 November 2020

Together with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), European DIGITAL SME Alliance has launched the DIGITAL SME Focus Group on Artificial Intelligence (AI). The Focus Group on AI will help to gain a better understanding of how SMEs adopt and use AI.

The SME AI Focus Group will convene online on 9 & 10 November 2020 for a 2-hour welcome online session (10.00-12.00 CET on each day).

The first day will focus on welcoming the new participants of the group. It will feature presentations by the European Commission on AI policy to provide a framework for the discussion. The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre will explain the main purpose of setting up the group. Further, the meeting will give new participants the possibility to present themselves and their organisation in 1-2 minutes.

This welcome meeting will be followed by a deep-dive online session on 10 November 2020.

Agenda

Day one: Welcome session for new members & updates on policy

10.00 – 10.10 Welcome: Why this DIGITAL SME/JRC Focus Group on AI
10.10 – 10.20 Outline of the SME Focus Group on AI Research Project
10.20 – 11.00 Tour de Table with New Members of the Focus Group on AI
11.00 – 11.30 What will follow from the EC White Paper on AIFollowed by a Q&A with the Group
11.30 – 11.45 Closing remarks and next steps

Day two: In-depth discussion

10:00 – 10:15 Welcome by DIGITAL SME: Your participation in the group
10.15 – 10.30 Welcome by European Commission Joint Research Centre
10.30 – 12.00 Round of in-depth questions/panel, supported by interactive tool

Followed by closing remarks and next steps

Registration for the event SME Focus Group on AI - 9 & 10 November was closed on November 13, 2020 00:00.
Registration for the event SME Focus Group on AI - 9 & 10 November was closed on November 13, 2020 00:00.

SME Focus Group on AI: Registration for
9 & 10 November 2020