In a bid to fight the ‘brain drain’ and keep promising European talent within the region, leading specialists have announced the launch of the European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems (ELLIS).

The organisation will offer a pan-European network across a number of cities on the continent which will focus on the development of AI solutions and boosting economic growth through tech development.

The collective’s formation was announced at the Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS) which hosted 8500 scientists and industry specialists in Montreal.

The AI labs will also offer education programmes for doctoral students that are involved with machine learning, in a bid to further consolidate future generations of European AI pioneers.

According to the group’s recent press release, ELLIS already has the backing of a number of prominent scientists and AI specialists such as Nicolò Cesa-Bianchi, Zoubin Ghahramani, Sepp Hochreiter, Cordelia Schmid, Jürgen Schmidhuber, Bernhard Schölkopf, Max Welling. Acknowledging that machine learning continues to make exciting progress in computer vision, machine translation and speech recognition as well as modern initiatives such as self-driving cars, news of the new cross-European labs has been celebrated by the AI community.

The issue that Europe currently faces in the development of AI, is that a number of computer scientists then opt to take on work in the United States.

Last year, Quartz suggested that AI has become the ‘new space race’, pitting United States and China as the largest investors into AI development. According to the report, the Chinese specialists have predicted the AI industry will be worth $150 billion by 2030, and so the Government is investing now.

The formation of ELLIS comes off the back of an open letter which was released earlier in 2018. Citing a ‘hiring frenzy’, the effects of newly-trained computer scientists opting to leave for the allure of high overseas salaries had been proving detrimental to European universities.  

Casting our gaze to Europe, then, although investments have been made, the allure of overseas development has ultimately led to the creation of ELLIS.

‘‘It is today that Europe too must make AI a real priority if it does not want to fall behind inexorably,’’ said Antoine Petit, French computer scientist and president of the CNRS. ‘‘Such a dropout would be dramatic from an industrial and economic point of view. It would also be very worrying for the consideration of our values in the construction of tomorrow’s AI.”

As a result of the launch in December 2018, many high-profile European companies have since agreed to back the pan-European initiative such as  Audi, AVL, Bayer, Bosch, Greiner, Porsche and Siemens as well as US companies such as Amazon.