The Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (JRC) recently published a new report on “National strategies on Artificial Intelligence: A European perspective,” overarching five main policy areas: human capital, from the lab to the market, networking, regulation, and infrastructure.
By June 2021, 20 Member States and Norway had published national AI strategies, while 7 Member States were in the final drafting phase. All of them include the use of AI in healthcare.
Many national legislative frameworks for AI technologies include ambitious R&D programmes and calls for proposals. An important part of these initiatives are efforts to tackle the current COVID-19 pandemic via targeted R&D programmes and investment funds. The report points out the positive outcomes of hackathons organised in several countries to fight the pandemic.
The COVID-19 crisis has acted as a boost for AI adoption and data sharing and created new opportunities for society and the economy. The Recovery and Resilience Facility (a temporary recovery instrument to raise funds to help repair the immediate economic and social damage and centrepiece to Europe’s recovery plan NextGenerationEU, in which 20% of the funding is earmarked for digital including AI) highlights the importance of green and digital transitions for recovery.
Finally, the report highlights the important role AI plays in healthcare, as it improves access to healthcare (virtual assistants, chatbots), and brings more precise diagnosis and prevention of diseases through innovative solutions such as machine-learning. This is showcased by a Danish example of a project on machine-learning models based on Danish registry data: the objective of this project is to identify cancer patients who are at high risk of having a surgically complicated course of treatment.
The recognition of AI as an area ripe for development and more regulation has EU Member States adopt numerous national approaches to AI especially when it comes to strategic priorities, budget allocations, and timeframe of implementation. With this, all EU Member States seem to have ambitious plans to support the uptake and development of AI.
The trends indicate that next to the Green Deal goals, healthcare is one of the most important sectors where AI will be used. In particular, it should be recalled that the Coordinated Plan on AI announced that the Commission will be supporting Member States in the development and deployment of digital twin applications. Therefore, although the implications for AI healthcare applications are foreseen to be significant given their high-risk nature, it could be expected that efforts will shortly be focused on developing a comprehensive policy specifically for healthcare applications.