The European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems (ELLIS), the leading European Artificial Intelligence (AI) association with a focus on scientific excellence, is developing an ambitious project to create a multicentric European AI lighthouse. It has presented such a vision to members of the European Parliament and relevant stakeholders, asking for their support.

In an official statement, ELLIS argues in favour of this decentralised model for several key reasons, such as the flexibility and versatility arising from having a network of research units; the promotion of one of Europe’s key assets, its diversity; an increased ability to attract and retain talent; and the support of the adoption of AI advances and the subsequent wealth generation in several European regional ecosystems. These advantages would not exist if there were a single research centre or AI lighthouse for all of Europe.

Nuria Oliver, Scientific Director and co-founder of the Alicante ELLIS Unit Foundation and Vice-President of ELLIS Europe, has emphasised the importance of this vision to “turn Europe into an AI world power through the development of strong regional ecosystems”.

From ELLIS Alicante, a foundation promoted by the Generalitat Valenciana (Regional Government of Valencia), Oliver says that “instead of working as independent bodies, the cross-cutting nature of AI emphasises the importance of working with such a multi-centric approach. Proof of that is the existence of this model in the USA and Canada, both world powers in AI research and deployment”.

Moreover, such a multi-centric focus enables the necessary contact between AI research and society through each of the locations where ELLIS units are based.

Europe’s ambition is to be a world-leader in AI: a leading light in technology development, a global hub for talent and AI innovations that benefit society, and a driving force for regulatory frameworks that foster trustworthy AI deployment. Given the global competition for leadership in AI, achieving European excellence in AI will require ambitious investments in research, innovation and adoption of AI in Europe.

A multi-centric laboratory with strong institutions in all parts of Europe will generate real innovation for Europe, best leverage Europe’s cultural diversity, and integrate European values in the development of future technology. This will ensure that Europe does not become a mere consumer of AI technology developed elsewhere, building on other values, but instead builds a genuine “AI made for and by Europeans”.