In the future, the state should provide tools, skills and infrastructure for all aspects of artificial intelligence (AI) as “part of the basic service”. Federal Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger is committed to this in her AI action plan, which the FDP politician presented in Berlin on Wednesday. “We want to achieve technological sovereignty with AI,” the paper says. The aim is for Germany and Europe to “take a leading position” in a world driven by key technology. To this end, the research department intends to invest more than 1.6 billion euros over the next two years. In 2023 alone, 427 and 483 million euros are to flow in the following year, while in 2022 it was 280 and in 2017 only 17.4 million.
“Concrete benefits for society” as the goal
The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) sees the plan as an update of its contribution to the federal government’s overarching AI strategy, which also wants to revise it. Stark-Watzinger wants to convert Germany’s relevant research and skills base into “visible and measurable economic success and a concrete, noticeable benefit for society” within the European framework. She is hoping for new impetus from a strong AI specialist base with the six competence centers and 150 additional professorships as a nucleus. There should also be initiatives for young scientists and researchers in the field of e-health.
“We are expanding the computing infrastructure and creating access” for scientists and companies, including start-ups, promises the BMBF. The usability of data, which is required above all for training algorithms, is to be improved with the Research Data Act or the national research data infrastructure. The department names Industry 4.0, robotics, the health sector and education as focal points for tangible applications. In addition, the framework conditions for AI-based spin-offs with a technological orientation (“Deep Tech”) should become more favorable. In order to leverage the potential of artificial intelligence in administration, the ministry wants to “pilot the use of generative AI” before the end of this year. In this field, bots like ChatGPT in particular make headlines.
In addition to the 50 ongoing BMBF measures on AI, 20 more are to be added. According to the plan, the aim is to “inspire” researchers in the fields of mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology (MINT) more to work at the interface of IT and medicine or life sciences. The supercomputing infrastructure for science and research is to be expanded. It is also planned to fund new research approaches in the field of flexible, resilient, efficient and secure AI and basic models. A research network is to be created in the field of “neurobiologically inspired AI”. The technology should be used more as an instrument in materials, civil security, basic physical research and climate research.
Transfer as a vulnerability
Demanding to skeptical voices come from business. “Without active action by all parties, Europe will not be able to offer anything comparable to the dominant platforms from the USA and increasingly from China,” fears Jan Oetjen, head of GMX and Web.de. A reform of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), open standards and speed are necessary. A dedicated AI ecosystem based on European values will only emerge if companies “also feel committed to the value-adding use of data”. “It’s not enough to have individual lighthouses and impressively strong AI startups in Germany,” emphasized the IT association Bitkom. It is a cross-sectional technology and it has to spread across the entire economy. The transfer of knowledge from science is still a major weakness here.
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