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Artificial Intelligence to boost productivity and improve energy efficiency: a European perspective

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This report presents a European view of Artificial Intelligence (AI) based on independent research and analysis by the European Commission Joint Research Centre to inform the debate at the European level.

The report introduce AI as a generic term that refers to any machine or algorithm that is capable of observing its environment, learning, and based on the knowledge and experience gained, take intelligent actions or propose decisions. Autonomy of decision processes and interaction with other machines and humans are other dimensions that need to be considered.


Although many of the methodological developments in AI date back more than 50 years, the reason why we now pay so much attention to AI in general and machine learning (ML) in particular is that the recent advances in computing power, availability of data, and new algorithms have led to major breakthroughs in the last six to seven years. The many applications of AI/ML have started to enter into our everyday lives, from machine translations, to image recognition and music generation, and are increasingly being exploited in industry, government and commerce. The overview of the global and European AI landscape shows that there is an intense competition on AI taking place world-wide with three main leaders: the USA, Europe, and China.


Many European countries as well as the EC are developing strategies and programmes to guide the development of AI, with shared concerns over the need for an agreed ethical framework and applications that clearly benefit European society and uphold the European values enshrined in the Treaties.


European action is not limited to the development of an appropriate legislation (and standards) but also includes a set of relevant initiatives to speed up technology development and its uptake. Some relevant examples for AI include, for example 5G, Galileo, very high-speed and ubiquitous connectivity, European Processor Initiative, Joint Undertaking for High Performance Computing, and the Big Data Public-Private Partnership. Moreover, sectoral policies are being discussed to regulate the use of the ICT technologies (including AI) in specific segments, for example The Commission Directive 2018/844 aims to improve energy efficiency through digital solutions such as building automation and electronic monitoring of technical building systems.


AI could spread across many jobs and industrial sectors, boosting productivity, and yielding strong positive growth. Industry has started moving in this direction but there is still a window of opportunity for European investment, regulatory frameworks, and standards to shape these developments so that they benefit Europe (Chapter11).


From this multi-disciplinary analysis, the conclusions are that we are only at the beginning of a rapid period of transformation of our economy and society due to the convergence of many digital technologies. AI is central to this change and offers major opportunities to improve our lives. There is strong global competition on AI among the USA, China and Europe. The USA leads for now but China is catching up fast and aims to lead by 2030. For the EU, it is not so much a question of winning or losing a race but of finding the way of embracing the opportunities offered by AI in a way that is human-centred, ethical, secure, and true to our core values.


Ethical and secure-by-design algorithms are crucial to build trust in this disruptive technology, but we also need a broader engagement of civil society on the values to be embedded in AI and the directions for future development. This social engagement should be part of the effort to strengthen our resilience at all levels from local, to national and European, across institutions, industry and civil society.


The Report is available on European Commission – EU Science HUB website.