The European Commission last month outlined a plan to help European Union countries catch up to the US and Asia when it comes to artificial intelligence innovation and investment. If the commission meets its investment goals–€20 billion by 2020 ($23.5 billion)—the move could have major implications for healthcare AI both in Europe and in the United States.
Abdul Wahid Khan, MSc Pharm, principal analyst at BIS Research, said the EU is currently behind rival regions in AI innovation, including in healthcare AI, thanks in large part to an inadequate level of investment.
“However, most of the European countries are now boosting or planning to boost investment in artificial intelligence (AI) to catch up with the US and Asian countries such as China, which are each investing at least three times more than Europe,” Wahid (pictured) told Healthcare Analytics News™.
Khan said estimated private investment in AI in Europe totaled between $2.9 billion and $4.1 billion in 2016, versus more than $21 billion in the US and $11.7 billion in Asia.
In setting forth its vision for AI investment in the coming two years, the European Commission said it would directly invest $1.76 (€1.5 billion), which they said would trigger another $2.9 billion (€2.5 billion) in matching funds from public-private partnerships. Additional money would come from private sources.
Khan said healthcare is one of the biggest priorities of the new money.
“In the proposed scheme, health, transport, and agriculture will be the most prioritized areas and [are] expected to show exponential growth in the coming years,” he said.
Khan said Europe needs to make ambitious digitization targets for itself, both in the public and private sectors, in order to fully capitalize on the investment.
“The European countries also need to invest heavily in cloud services to handle big data, and development of applications of healthcare-related big data,” he said. “With increasing adoption rate of wearable devices, mHealth, and eHealth services, Europe is expected to compete with its rivals in coming years.”
Khan said proper management of the investments could lead to huge efficiencies in Europe, potentially totaling $200 billion in savings through better patient management, prevention, and diagnostics. He said AI innovation in Europe could lead to advancements in drug development, something that would also impact patients in the US, as well as in personalized medicine.
“However, to achieve the long-term benefits of AI, the European countries are required to adopt a clear strategy, and strict regulations, which is lacking somewhat in the current ecosystem,” he said. “Regulation and legislation about interoperability and security will undoubtedly affect the uptake of artificial intelligence across [Europe].”
Data-sharing was one of the goals outlined by the European Commission in its announcement of the new funding targets. However, regulatory differences—such as Europe’s newly tightened privacy laws—could impact the development of new data solutions.
“How these laws will have an impact on how medical systems move into the cloud and AI will be uncertain for [a] few years,” he said.
Already, Khan said big data firms in Europe saw a 30% increase in funding in 2017 over the previous year. He said healthcare companies associated with big data could therefore be a big winner from the new funding goals.