Here we are: Italy also has a strategy for artificial intelligence, two years after France and Germany and after years of waiting and new attempts, as anticipated by Italian Tech.
Be that as it may, we are finally off: the strategy, “Strategic Program for Artificial Intelligence (AI) 2022-2024” was approved at the Council of Ministers on November 24 and is the result of the joint work of the Ministry of University and Research, of the Ministry of Economic Development and the Minister for Technological Innovation and Digital Transition. There are 34 very dense pages, with 24 policies to be implemented in three years. General objectives, principles, but also a lot of concreteness on what to do, with the right funding – the billions of the NRR (national recovery and resilience plan) and a few tens of millions from other funds, such as that of Science.
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But first of all, the report puts on paper the well-known delays of the Italian system in a sector considered strategic, now, by the Government, as for some time already by other Governments. Delays resulting from years of neglect of all previous Governments: only in 2020 the first concrete commitments were seen, with just 25 million allocated by the Ministry of Economic Development in “emerging technologies” (as it called them; in reality it has already emerged for some time) such as blockchain, internet of things and indeed artificial intelligence.
“In 2020, the private market of Artificial Intelligence in Italy reached a value of 300 million euros, with an increase of 15% compared to 2019 but equal to about 3% of the European market, significantly lower than the Italian weight on the European GDP (approx. 12%). Within the Italian market, a value of 230 million euros (77%) is supplied to Italian companies, while the remaining 70 million euros (23%) are exported to foreign companies ”, reads the new plan. We are behind on all fronts, compared to the main European countries: investments by companies in artificial intelligence, number of patents and researchers. After all, Italy has been in hiding for years – as always stated in the plan – in terms of public investments in research and development.
The main actions
The plan has a reflection on the main actions foreseen in the three-year period. Among other things, it is intended to increase the number of researchers and research doctorates; strengthen AI skills in public administration with new dedicated courses. Here, one by one the single points:
Expand IAA courses in ITS. Create a research architecture on the topic.
Launch the Italian data and software platform for AI research, also using public data with the integration of public administration databases: data is the raw material for training artificial intelligence systems.
Create Italian research chairs, launch research calls for public-private collaborations.
Enhance vouchers and tax credits to companies for hiring suitable profiles and invest in software and hardware related to artificial intelligence.
Support the growth of themed start-ups, also with periodic calls.
All of this will be financed in large part by the various items of the NRP, although it is not yet clear to what extent. For example, the 13.38 billion euros of the Transition 4.0 plan in the Pnrr will be used to bring AI to companies, even if 4.0 is not only artificial intelligence but also other technologies useful to bring our companies into the so-called “fourth industrial revolution “. “Very important resources are cited (” possible sources of investment “), largely already included in the PNRR, but without any certain commitment regarding individual AI projects”, notes Stefano da Empoli, president of the Institute for Competitiveness. . “It would have been more useful to imagine a figure, perhaps lower, but certain, within a general vision. The risk is that, in the search for many possible partial financing, we end up losing the overall picture and content ourselves with what we can find, scraping the bottom of the barrel and losing the link between the different pieces of the strategy “, he adds.
From Empoli he is also critical on the horizon of only three years (“it would have been better to have longer-term goals”), but overall “the judgment is positive first of all because a process started in the now distant 2018 with the ‘announcement by the Ministry of Economic Development and its minister of wanting to draw up a national strategy for artificial intelligence, which should have been ready by June 2019 “.