AI Development in the European Union

The WeNet project is situated in a European research environment and contributes to the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the European Union. Given the relevance of the research area and industry for the project, it is important to observe recent trends and anticipate future development of AI in Europe.

Increased investment

The AI sector is growing and is expected to evolve further. According to the 2021 AI Watch Index of the European Commission (EC), “AI has become an area of strategic importance and [has] been identified as a potential key driver of economic development” (p. 1).  More public and private AI investments in the EU are expected to foster AI development. In recent years, EU investments increased by approximately 40% per year. If this trend continues, the annual investment target of 22 billion Euros until 2030 will be reached. France and Germany spend most, accounting for 22% and 18% of the EU investments, respectively. Comparing the number of AI players (firms, research institutes, governmental institutions), the EU ranks third globally, behind the USA and China. Within the EU, Germany ranks first with 1,136 players.

Comparative advantages

The EU has comparative advantages in robotics and AI services, ranking second after the USA with a share of 17 % of activities in AI Services and 22 % of activities in Autonomous Robotics. Numerous robotic startups and profitable trade in industrial robotics strengthen the EU’s position in this area. China dominates other sectors of AI development, such as Natural Language Processing (NLP), Machine Learning (ML) fundamentals, Internet of Everything, and automated vehicles.

Research and Development (R&D)

Concerning R&D, one differentiates between frontier research and patenting activity. China’s patenting activity is outstanding. This might be related to lower quality standards, subsidies by the Chinese government, and fewer legal limitations on the use of personal data. In the EU, in contrast to the USA, there is little involvement of firms in R&D. This might impede the shift from academia to industry, and from research output to patenting.

With respect to scientific publications, the USA and the EU show most activity. The EU also has a relevant and strategic position in terms of collaborations. This ensures knowledge exchange and maintenance of competitiveness.

The role of EC-funding

EC-funded projects enable a multitude of players to get involved in AI. This helps distributing activities geographically, initiating new collaborations, and international interaction. More players also bring the advantage of a broader perspective.

Looking into the future

Since the future relies on those who build it, a look at the number of places in AI-related university programs seems interesting: with 179,600 places for bachelor’s degree programs, Germany stands out. Except for Poland, every other member state offers less than 60,000 places, while Slovenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Luxembourg offer none.

In conclusion, the EU holds a stable position within the global AI landscape, even though there is still room for improvement. It is thus expected that the field will grow in quality and quantity in the coming years.

The WeNet project is organising a public panel discussion on the topic of “AI Development in Europe” on September 13, 2022, at 6 pm, at the University of Tübingen, Germany.
The event will be hybrid and more information will be announced in the coming months.


Righi, R., Pineda León, C., Cardona, M., Soler Garrido, J., Papazoglou, M., Samoili, S. and Vázquez-Prada Baillet, M., AI Watch Index 2021, López Cobo, M. and De Prato, G. editor(s), EUR 31039 EN, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2022, ISBN 978-92-76-51147-2, doi:10.2760/435020, JRC128744.

About the author: Friederike Manegold has recently graduated from St. Raphael high school in Heidelberg, Germany. She is an intern at the International Center for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW) at the University of Tübingen. Her research interests include artificial intelligence and medical ethics.