The EuropeanAI Newsletter
Covering Artificial Intelligence in Europe

Welcome to the EuropeanAI Newsletter covering the European AI and technology ecosystem. If you want to catch up on the archives, they're available here.

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Charlotte published a paper using the Ethics Guidelines as a case study to explore how we can move from principles to policy practice in 'Actionable Principles for AI Policy'.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded CGI, in partnership with the University of Leicester, a contract to
develop a wildfire mapping service. The service will combine together AI, cloud computing and earth observation. The service will be made available through the EO4SD Lab (earth observation for sustainable development) portal.

The agreement to support German centres of AI competencies with up to 100m per year has come into force and is expected to start funding these centres from 2022 onwards.

Málaga has launched the European Union’s first autonomous electric bus service.

The Supreme Court in the UK has ruled that Uber drivers are not self-employed. The case stems back to an employment tribunal in 2016 which Uber has been appealing since, with the decision upheld by the Employment Appeals Tribunal in 2017 and the Court of Appeal in 2018. The decision from the Supreme Court, the UK’s highest court, represents the final decision. The decision may mean that Uber is required to pay minimum wage and holiday pay to drivers and may have wider-reaching implications for the gig economy. Continuing on the gig economy theme, Deliveroo was recently fined in Italy for a discriminatory algorithm (read more about it in this newsletter). 

The Ada Lovelace Institute has launched a project looking into vaccine passports and COVID status apps. The current page tracks in detail the latest information on the topic in individual nations as well as information on the European Union as a whole, the WHO and private companies. 

Policy, Strategy and Regulation

Europe's 'human-centric' Northstar

Building on the European Commission’s Digital Strategy, the European Commission’s Communication on “2030 Digital Compass: the European way for the Digital Decade” structures itself around four main pillars: skills, infrastructure, business and government. Notably for this newsletter, it suggests the concept of “Digital citizenship” where a framework of digital rights and principles is expected to be established which shall promote European values in the digital space and broaden access to relevant technologies (relevant concepts are e.g. freedom of expression, ethical principles for human-centred algorithms, or the protection of personal data and privacy). Furthermore, making use of the Recovery and Resilience Facility and other EU funds the Communication proposes multi-country projects towards identifying critical gaps in current capacities and supporting the solidification of the Digital Single Market. Finally, the EU will position itself with its ‘human-centred’ digital agenda on a global stage and encourage partnerships with like-minded countries. AI is mentioned multiple times under the general helmet of digital technologies and most notably proposed to be used within a future network of Security Operations Centres, aiming to serve as early detection networks for cyberattacks in the EU.

Notes in the Margin: Careful readers might note that this closely matches similar goals and strategies surrounding ‘human-centric AI’ specifically, such as international cooperation through the International Alliance for a human-centric approach to AI, pooling resources and investments across member states through the Coordinated Plan on AI, or solidifying the European engagement with AI (from a legal, and societal perspective) through the Ethics Guidelines. This should come as no surprise and in that sense, the European Commission is building on its coherent narrative and extending it towards a broader set of technologies. I'm relatively excited that the document makes a loose commitment to actually follow up and track all of the points it has set out for itself which seems generally lacking in most governmental strategies. The manner in which it plans to do so could be concretised as it provides itself with some amount of leeway (reporting scoreboards, Eurobarometer, quantitative KPIs), nevertheless, it could be a great start to monitor, improve and amend strategies that don't achieve expected results. Finally, the suggestion to monitor infrastructure and critical capacity gaps for the multi country projects could be really exciting for those trying to evaluate where the EU is currently standing, if concretised.

Draft decision on UK data adequacy

The European Commission has published two draft data adequacy decisions for the UK relating to GDPR and the ‘Law Enforcement Directive’ (LED), beginning the process of adoption. The draft decision concludes that the UK ‘ensures an essentially equivalent level of protection’ to GDPR and the LED.

The next step in the process is for the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) to provide an opinion on the draft decision. After the opinion has been taken into account, the draft will be presented to a board of EU member state representatives in the comitology procedure to request a green light. Following a green light, the Commission may adopt the two adequacy decisions. If adopted, the decision would be valid for four years before needing to be renewed.  

Notes in the margin: In this newsletter, we discussed the impact that an adequacy decision may have in the context of Google moving UK customers’ data out of the EU. In short, the UK effectively brought GDPR into domestic law as part of the Data Protection Act 2018. This law, commonly referred to as ‘UK GDPR’ is functionally identical to the EU’s model. However, as the UK left the EU it became a ‘third country’. For data to flow freely from the EEA to a third country, the concerned nation must qualify for Adequacy, essentially meaning that the EU is confident that the laws and processes in place in that country ensure an equivalent level of protection to that of the EU.

New UK government agency for high-risk, high-reward science

The UK government has announced the Advanced Research & Invention Agency (ARIA), backed by £800m (€925m) of government funding. The agency will be independent from the government and based on successful models found in other countries, such as the US Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) model. The agency will look to reduce ‘unnecessary’ bureaucracy and increase speed and flexibility with different funding models. These funding models may include grants, seed grants and prize incentives. They aim to have the agency fully operational by 2022.


What happens if you don't accept WhatsApp's new Privacy Policy?

WhatsApp has published an update on its website to clarify what will happen to users who do not accept the changes to their Privacy Policy on the 15th of May (described in this newsletter). While the user’s account will not be deleted immediately on the 15th of May, users who have not accepted the new terms will not be able to read or send new messages. They will, however, receive calls and notifications ‘for a short time’. The company has not specified exactly how long this ‘short time’ will be. WhatsApp states that accounts are ‘generally deleted after 120 days of inactivity’, which means a user has not connected to WhatsApp. It’s not entirely clear that this same time period would apply to those who have not accepted the Privacy Policy changes.

Numbers, Numbers, Numbers

AI4EU launches 'Call for Solutions'

AI4EU (previously mentioned here and here) has launched its support programme which will provide 41 ‘solution providers’ with up to €70k over a 6-month period to ‘develop, test and validate technical solutions to address specific challenges’. This follows the ‘Call for Challenges’ which ran from December 2020 to March 2021 which selected 13 ‘challenge owners’. In this new phase, the 13 challenge owners will work with the 41 solution providers to provide at least 2 solutions to each challenge.

The current list of challenges can be found here and include anything from throat swabbing robots to optimised stock management. The list of challenges is being added to but will be finalised this month (March 2021). The application form can be found here.


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Contact Charlotte Stix at:

Ben Gilburt  co-wrote this edition.
Risto Uuk provided research support.

Interesting events, numbers or policy developments that should be included? Send an email!

Disclaimer: this newsletter is personal opinion only and does not represent the opinion of any organisation.

Copyright © Charlotte Stix, All rights reserved.
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