On January 24, 2024, the European Commission (“Commission”) announced that, following the political agreement reached in December 2023 on the EU AI Act (“AI Act”) (see our previous blog here), the Commission intends to proceed with a package of measures (“AI Innovation Strategy”) to support AI startups and small and medium-size enterprises (“SMEs”) in the EU.

Alongside these measures, the Commission also announced the creation of the European AI Office (“AI Office”), which is due to begin formal operations on February 21, 2024.

This blog post provides a high-level summary of these two announcements, in addition to some takeaways to bear in mind as we draw closer to the adoption of the AI Act.

The AI Innovation Strategy

The Commission intends for the AI Innovation Strategy to help the EU “fulfil [its] potential of becoming a global frontrunner in trustworthy advanced AI models, systems and applications”.  As such, the Commission has committed to delivering the following measures:

  • AI Factories.  The Commission intends to create “AI Factories” across the EU, which will bring together supercomputing infrastructure and human resources to further develop AI models and applications.
  • Common European Data Spaces.  The Commission will continue efforts to make data available through the development of “Common European Data Spaces“, with the goal of improving the availability of and access to high-quality data for start-ups and innovation communities to train their AI systems, models and applications.
  • GenAI4EU.  The “GenAI4EU” initiative aims to support the development of novel use cases in a number of industrial sectors including robotics, health, and manufacturing.
  • Investment.  The AI Innovation Strategy includes an overall public and private investment package of around €4 billion through 2027 dedicated to generative AI.

The AI Office

The AI Office will begin formal operations on February 21, 2024. The AI Office is a centralized EU agency within the European Commission that will support the implementation and enforcement of the AI Act in collaboration with the Commission and EU Member States’ national competent authorities.

Specifically, the AI Office’s mandate is to: (i) ensure the uniform implementation and enforcement of the AI Act, particularly in relation to general-purpose AI (“GPAI”) models; (ii) support and monitor the development of AI markets and policies across the EU; and (iii) develop and coordinate collaboration and cooperation initiatives within and outside the EU. The AI Office will assist the Commission in preparing both enforcement decisions and codes of practice to support the application of the AI Act. 

The Commission has separately announced that enforcement of the rules on GPAI models will begin in May 2025; thus, interested parties should watch out for codes of practice, and opportunities to participate in consultations, that might inform their efforts to prepare for the AI Act over the next 15 months.

Takeaways

Both of these announcements underline the EU’s commitment to invest in European AI-related infrastructure, and to produce a comprehensive regulatory framework for AI prior to other jurisdictions, such as the UK and USA.

In the meantime, the AI Act is steadily progressing to adoption. On February 13, 2024, the Joint Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection and Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs adopted the AI Act, with a large majority. The final step in the legislative process is for the AI Act to be formally adopted at the European Parliament’s plenary session, taking place in April 2024, following which it will be published in the EU’s Official Journal.

***

The Covington team has deep experience advising clients on European data-related and privacy regulations, including on the AI Act, and is closely monitoring any development in relation to the AI Act and Member States initiatives on AI. If you have any questions on how the AI Act and other upcoming EU legislation and initiatives will affect your business, our team is happy to assist.

(This blog post was drafted with the contribution of Diane Valat and Will Capstick.)

Print:
Email this postTweet this postLike this postShare this post on LinkedIn
Photo of Dan Cooper Dan Cooper

Daniel Cooper is co-chair of Covington’s Data Privacy and Cyber Security Practice, and advises clients on information technology regulatory and policy issues, particularly data protection, consumer protection, AI, and data security matters. He has over 20 years of experience in the field, representing…

Daniel Cooper is co-chair of Covington’s Data Privacy and Cyber Security Practice, and advises clients on information technology regulatory and policy issues, particularly data protection, consumer protection, AI, and data security matters. He has over 20 years of experience in the field, representing clients in regulatory proceedings before privacy authorities in Europe and counseling them on their global compliance and government affairs strategies. Dan regularly lectures on the topic, and was instrumental in drafting the privacy standards applied in professional sport.

According to Chambers UK, his “level of expertise is second to none, but it’s also equally paired with a keen understanding of our business and direction.” It was noted that “he is very good at calibrating and helping to gauge risk.”

Dan is qualified to practice law in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Belgium. He has also been appointed to the advisory and expert boards of privacy NGOs and agencies, such as Privacy International and the European security agency, ENISA.

Photo of Lisa Peets Lisa Peets

Lisa Peets leads the Technology Regulatory and Policy practice in the London office and is a member of the firm’s Management Committee. Lisa divides her time between London and Brussels, and her practice embraces regulatory counsel and legislative advocacy. In this context, she…

Lisa Peets leads the Technology Regulatory and Policy practice in the London office and is a member of the firm’s Management Committee. Lisa divides her time between London and Brussels, and her practice embraces regulatory counsel and legislative advocacy. In this context, she has worked closely with leading multinationals in a number of sectors, including many of the world’s best-known technology companies.

Lisa counsels clients on a range of EU law issues, including data protection and related regimes, copyright, e-commerce and consumer protection, and the rapidly expanding universe of EU rules applicable to existing and emerging technologies. Lisa also routinely advises clients in and outside of the technology sector on trade related matters, including EU trade controls rules.

According to the latest edition of Chambers UK (2022), “Lisa is able to make an incredibly quick legal assessment whereby she perfectly distils the essential matters from the less relevant elements.” “Lisa has subject matter expertise but is also able to think like a generalist and prioritise. She brings a strategic lens to matters.”

Photo of Marty Hansen Marty Hansen

Martin Hansen has represented some of the world’s leading information technology, telecommunications, and pharmaceutical companies on a broad range of cutting edge international trade, intellectual property, and competition issues. Martin has extensive experience in advising clients on matters arising under the World Trade…

Martin Hansen has represented some of the world’s leading information technology, telecommunications, and pharmaceutical companies on a broad range of cutting edge international trade, intellectual property, and competition issues. Martin has extensive experience in advising clients on matters arising under the World Trade Organization agreements, treaties administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization, bilateral and regional free trade agreements, and other trade agreements.

Drawing on ten years of experience in Covington’s London and DC offices his practice focuses on helping innovative companies solve challenges on intellectual property and trade matters before U.S. courts, the U.S. government, and foreign governments and tribunals. Martin also represents software companies and a leading IT trade association on electronic commerce, Internet security, and online liability issues.

Photo of Sam Jungyun Choi Sam Jungyun Choi

Sam Jungyun Choi is an associate in the technology regulatory group in the London office. Her practice focuses on European data protection law and new policies and legislation relating to innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence, online platforms, digital health products and autonomous…

Sam Jungyun Choi is an associate in the technology regulatory group in the London office. Her practice focuses on European data protection law and new policies and legislation relating to innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence, online platforms, digital health products and autonomous vehicles. She also advises clients on matters relating to children’s privacy and policy initiatives relating to online safety.

Sam advises leading technology, software and life sciences companies on a wide range of matters relating to data protection and cybersecurity issues. Her work in this area has involved advising global companies on compliance with European data protection legislation, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the UK Data Protection Act, the ePrivacy Directive, and related EU and global legislation. She also advises on a variety of policy developments in Europe, including providing strategic advice on EU and national initiatives relating to artificial intelligence, data sharing, digital health, and online platforms.

Photo of Marianna Drake Marianna Drake

Marianna Drake counsels leading multinational companies on some of their most complex regulatory, policy and compliance-related issues, including data privacy and AI regulation. She focuses her practice on compliance with UK, EU and global privacy frameworks, and new policy proposals and regulations relating…

Marianna Drake counsels leading multinational companies on some of their most complex regulatory, policy and compliance-related issues, including data privacy and AI regulation. She focuses her practice on compliance with UK, EU and global privacy frameworks, and new policy proposals and regulations relating to AI and data. She also advises clients on matters relating to children’s privacy, online safety and consumer protection and product safety laws.

Her practice includes defending organizations in cross-border, contentious investigations and regulatory enforcement in the UK and EU Member States. Marianna also routinely partners with clients on the design of new products and services, drafting and negotiating privacy terms, developing privacy notices and consent forms, and helping clients design governance programs for the development and deployment of AI technologies.

Marianna’s pro bono work includes providing data protection advice to UK-based human rights charities, and supporting a non-profit organization in conducting legal research for strategic litigation.