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Freshfields TQ

Technology quotient - the ability of an individual, team or organization to harness the power of technology

| 2 minutes read

Germany’s updated AI strategy: pandemics and the environment in focus

On 2 December 2020, the German government published (in German) the long-awaited update to its artificial intelligence strategy (‘AI strategy’). In this blog we set out our thoughts on the update and what it means for those developing AI-based technologies.

In November 2018, the German government published its initial AI strategy with the goal of establishing Germany as a global leader in AI. The strategy touches on almost all areas of society and is intended to have a lasting positive impact on people's everyday lives.

Since the original strategy’s publication, Germany has established, among other things, a national research consortium for AI, which will form the basis for an international research network. In addition, the framework conditions for start-ups have improved and the information and consulting services for SMEs have been further expanded to increase confidence in the new technologies.

With the update of the AI strategy, the federal government is attempting to:

  • respond to current developments and high-priority topics – in particular the COVID-19 pandemic, environmental and climate protection, and creating links to the rest of Europe and beyond; and
  • supplement the strategy with further measures in response.

Not surprisingly, one key finding of the updated AI strategy is that, in order to stay internationally competitive in the field of AI, Europe, and particularly Germany, must become a more attractive location for companies to establish their businesses.

To this end, the update of the AI strategy emphasises the importance of increasing the competitiveness of German and European AI and focuses on five main areas: professional expertise; research; transfer and application; the regulatory framework; and society.

Across these five areas, several objectives and measures are outlined, including the following:

  • A focus on healthcare and life sciences. The German government views these sectors as focus areas for the use for AI. There will be particular emphasis on how AI can help to minimise the impact of pandemics such as COVID-19, for example by accelerating the development of a vaccine or even by allowing AI to predict when a pandemic might arise.
  • An interface to GAIA-X and Data Space Mobility. The updated AI strategy emphasises the need for German AI research to have access to modern and high-performing computing infrastructure. Next to individual projects on a national level, the goal is to create an interface to both GAIA-X and Data Space Mobility (Datenraum Mobilität) in order to create a new and trusted link into the commercial use of AI, such as the industrial internet of things and an inter-modal mobility system.  
  • Facilitating the use of AI in businesses. Despite the opportunities AI offers, it is currently only used in very few companies. In order to change this, the German government wants to further reduce existing barriers to AI adoption and establish support services. To achieve this, it plans, among other things, training programmes and qualifications on digitisation.

All in all, the updated AI strategy is a solid starting point, containing many ambitious projects focused on current hot topics as well as concrete measures that the federal government intends to take.

However, with lingering uncertainty as to how the COVID-19 pandemic will play out, it is doubtful whether the measures can be implemented quickly, as they will require the investment of a lot of time and resources.

Furthermore, although the document refers to an EU Commission resolution that deals to some extent with liability, many questions remain unanswered on the issue, along with privacy, transparency and accountability.

It is therefore up to those developing and implementing AI technology to do so in a way that is not only commercially attractive but also in accordance with an area of the law that is still in its infancy.


ai, data, covid-19, technology media & telecoms, life sciences