In August 2017, the Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology established a Council on Robotics and Artificial Intelligence. It consists of experts on robotics and AI from research centres, academia and industry and it serves as an advisory board to provide recommendations about the current and future challenges and opportunities of AI. The council has been commissioned to help the Ministry to develop its national AI strategy.
The Austrian Government has been very active in shaping policy initiatives for the future of AI in Austria. In November 2018, the Council published the white paper, entitled Shaping the future of Austria with robotics and artificial intelligence, with policy recommendations on robotics and AI, covering policy areas related to smart governance, smart innovation and smart regulations. The Federal Ministry also highlights the use of AI for evaluating judicial proceedings, as mentioned in its National e-justice strategy. In June 2019, the Austrian Government issued the policy report Artificial intelligence mission Austria 2030 (Austria, 2019) providing the first steps towards an official strategy for AI.
Under the direction of the Federal Ministry for Climate Action and Federal Ministry for Digitalisation the Austrian AI strategy has been finalised and is currently under political consultation. It defines the framework conditions for a prosperous, responsible and safe use of AI in all areas of life in accordance with European requirements for trustworthy AI. The objectives of the Austrian strategy are formulated in close coordination and comprehensive agreement with the AI foundations, objectives and joint action of the European Union. Key focus areas will include regulatory framework (ethics, legal), safety and security of AI, defining standards, AI infrastructure, data use and sharing, conditions for R&D&I, transfer and uptake of AI, cooperation between education, research and business societal dialogue and creating awareness, and AI in the public sector.
The AI strategy is expected to be released by the end of Q2 2021.
AI to address societal challenges
Climate and environment
Several initiatives are currently ongoing in Austria to support the use of AI in reaching the ambitious climate and energy targets:
- Contributing to the Mission Innovation (MI) initiative, which regroups 20 countries and the European Commission. This initiative supports the development of clean energy technologies and identifies the innovation needs, challenges and opportunities of clean energy in addressing the climate change. In this endeavour, AI plays an important role as highlighted in the summary report of the Mission Innovation Austria Week Pre-Event on Artificial intelligence and 5G technologies in future integrated energy systems. Mission Innovation Austria is supported by the Federal Minister for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology;
- Strengthening the Vienna Scientific Cluster 4 (VSC-4), which is the most powerful supercomputer in Austria. This high-performance computing facility is established and managed by a network of several Austrian universities and it enjoys considerable financial support from the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF). Among others, this supercomputer supports research projects that forecast the impact of climate change using big data and machine learning techniques.
- The Austrian Federal Ministry for Climate Policy, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology (BMK) is launching a call for proposals for AI in June 2021. The "AI for Green" programme promotes research-intensive technologies in the field of AI. The fields of application include both climate protection (mitigation) and adaptation to the consequences of climate change.
To ensure favourable conditions for the development of AI-enabled technologies that counter the COVID-19 pandemic, the Austrian Government strengthens support initiatives towards promising start-ups. These support initiatives could significantly increase the proliferation of successful use-cases in which AI acts as a key enabler to fight the COVID-19 outbreak, such as:
- The Viennese start-up Prewave, a spin-off from the Vienna University of Technology, has created a Coronavirus disruption map to monitor and prevent disruption of the supply chain caused by COVID-19. This map uses AI to analyse vast amounts of data from news channels, social media and industrial partners in more than 50 languages to provide a visual representation of interrupted supply chains for coronavirus hotspot areas. Specifically, this map depicts the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on industrial supply chains, focussing on the hotspots that are important for industrial manufacturing, including China, the USA, India and European countries such as Austria, Germany, Italy, Spain, France and the UK;
- The Graz-based company KML Vision launched a new and free image analysis application capable of detecting COVID-19 cases from chest X-rays on their online platform IKOSA. The underlying AI model is based on an algorithm published by a Canadian research group from the University of Waterloo and DarwinAI.
Austria (2019). Artificial Intelligence Mission Austria 2030: Die Zukunft der Künstlichen Intelligenz in Österreich gestalten. Shaping the Future of Artificial Intelligence in Austria. Ministry of Transport, Innovation, and Technology, Ministry of Digital and Economic Affairs. https://www.bmk.gv.at/dam/jcr:8acef058-7167-4335-880e-9fa341b723c8/aimat_ua.pdf