In addition to reaching a political agreement on the EU’s new Data Act, European officials have also launched four labs that’ll test AI applications before they reach the general public. These testing and experimental facilities, or TEFs, will be under the European Commission’s Digital Europe Programmer and will investigate any risks and effects of any new AI technologies.
So far, the European Commission has pledged €220 million ($241 million) to fund these TEFs for the next five years. As for the testing facilities themselves, they’re expected to open by January 2024, with some projects starting as early as July 2023.
All four facilities will handle different areas, including manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture and food as well as cities and communities.
- The AI-Matters TEF will monitor the “resilience and flexibility” of the European manufacturing sector by deploying the latest developments in AI and robotics. The TEF is active in eight countries with 25 partners and €30 million in funding.
- The TEF-Health will deal with the healthcare sector, focusing on “sensitive health data and medical products”. It gets a slightly larger piece of the fund at €60 million.
- The Agrifood TEF, as the name suggests, will be responsible for the agriculture sector and food production, including everything from testing robotic tractors to using AI to optimise crop production.
- Last, the CitCom.ai TEF is slightly different, with an initial focus on power, mobility and connectivity. Its first job will be to test AI and robotics before they can enter places inhabited by humans. This can include anything from self-driving cars to telecommunications data retrieval software.
One way to understand the main purpose of these TEFs is to look at time as a sort of filter between “emerging digital technologies” and European citizens. The entire point is to test new technologies, especially ones running with a mind of their own, and smooth out the rough edges, turning them into products that are better adapted to society and human requirements without adverse effects.