Germany must commit billions of euros to back a planned strategy to develop artificial intelligence (AI) or risk falling further behind the US and China, a senior government lawmaker said on Friday.
The warning by Social Democratic Party (SDP) General Secretary Lars Klingbeil came less than two weeks before German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s squabbling coalition is due to sign off on the blueprint.
An initial draft released earlier this year fell short of expectations, Klingbeil wrote in a commentary for the Tagesspiegel newspaper.
“We really need a breakout. We have to stop taking it easy,” he wrote.
Policymakers in Europe’s largest economy have been late to realize that its industrial export model is vulnerable at a time of rapid digitalization and growing trade frictions.
Automakers, such as Volkswagen AG or Daimler AG, are vulnerable to competition from asset-light companies, such as ride-hailing platform Uber Technologies Inc, that use artificial intelligence — essentially computers that can be trained to solve problems — to crunch data and run digital services.
Germany, handicapped by an outdated research infrastructure and restrictive data protection laws, has yet to produce a world-beating start-up that pioneers the use of AI, although 100 companies have formed a lobby group to contribute to the policy process.
Klingbeil, whose party is Merkel’s junior partner in government, faulted Germany for taking its eye off the ball and getting caught up in the “hysteria” around a three-year-old immigration crisis while other countries were investing in AI research.
“We need a concrete investment strategy for AI that is backed by a sum in the billions,” he wrote in the article published yesterday.
Researchers at CB Insights estimate that global investments in AI start-ups tripled last year to US$7.3 billion.
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