European AI Fund Annual report 2022
Director of the European AI Fund
As 2022 drew to a close, the public imagination was once again captured by Artificial Intelligence (AI) innovation. The launch of ChatGPT, a large language model with eerie powers of mimicry, opened the door to a panoply of new AI applications (including a holiday newsletter from one of our partners!). But worry quickly followed wonder as the technology’s potential risks, which were ignored in the initial hype, became evident – from how to stem the mass production of disinformation to how to accurately judge the authorship of students’ essays. It was a reminder, should we need it, that it’s critical to put the interests of people and society front and centre as we shape the future direction of AI.
That is the mission of the European AI Fund. In the third year of our existence, the urgency to deliver on it has only heightened and we have continued our work to build a diverse and resilient civil society ecosystem to fight on the public’s behalf, so that AI better serves people and society.
This year, we have been pleased to see the tangible impact of a resolute and collective civil society voice at play in the European Union’s (EU) adoption of two landmark pieces of regulation, the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and the Digital Services Act (DSA), which go some way to holding big tech accountable. Fierce negotiations continue on the European AI Act, with our grantee partners working tirelessly to persuade decision makers to hold the line and secure people’s fundamental rights in the face of a powerful industry lobby. We know, however, that even the best regulation is only as good as its implementation and are already building strategies to make sure that these new legislative teeth really bite.
Shaping AI in the public interest requires a diversity of skills, expertise and perspectives, which is why the European AI Fund supports organisations that are expert in technologies as well as those that represent particular communities or social justice areas that are on the frontline of the impacts of AI. This year we have extended our support to our 16 existing grantees by an additional 6 months so that they can sustain their engagement on policy and deepen their knowledge of the issues. And we’re excited to have been able to fund 14 new organisations from across Europe that enrich our network with approaches such as algorithmic auditing, strategic litigation and investigative journalism, that bring expertise on issues including migration, health and criminal justice, and that represent marginalised communities and people with disabilities.
Nonetheless, the civil society sector remains small and emergent and faces the daunting resources and influence of the tech industry. To achieve our goals, it’s essential to collaborate. Throughout the year we’ve worked to seed connections across the ecosystem. This culminated in November in a joyous meeting of grantees and funders co-hosted with our sister fund Civitates where we heard inspirational ideas for collective action from the climate movement, gained insights into EU advocacy strategies and reflected on the infrastructure that is needed to work better together.
All of this is only possible thanks to the support of our funders, who now number 13 philanthropic foundations. Not only do they provide the financial means to sustain our work, they guide our strategic thinking, champion our mission in the wider philanthropic sector and are generous with their practical wisdom. As we reached the end of the Fund’s initial phase this year, we were thrilled to receive their energetic and enthusiastic commitment to continuing – and growing – our work.
Thank you to them, and to all those who have worked in different ways this year to support our shared vision. Together we are building momentum towards a world where AI serves the needs of people and society, respects human rights and promotes fair, inclusive and sustainable democracies.
You can read the full Annual report here.