Two Years Since the Norwegian AI Strategy
Trym Holter, Director Norwegian Open AI Lab (NAIL)
SESA is a new EU funded project under H2020 that aims at mitigating climate change while improving access to sustainable energy under affordable, reliable conditions.
The authors of this article represent actors who work together to make Norway an AI nation. We are ready to coordinate more of the work to ensure that the public sector and business are enabled to utilise the value creation potential in AI technologies and solutions in collaboration with the research and education sector.
What can we achieve with artificial intelligence?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is technology that solves a type of problem that was previously assumed to have to be solved by humans. AI now plays a key role in various types of automation, and therefore contributes to tasks being solved more efficiently. An example is automatic reading of number plates which makes the job of the parking attendant much easier.
At the same time, AI contributes to products and services of better quality (AI systems can interpret X-ray images more precisely than the doctor) and better adapted to the individual user (recommendation systems and precision medicine). AI is also a prerequisite for uncovering patterns and creating insight from the enormous amount of data that we in today’s sensor society have access to — something that is not possible for the human brain or solutions based on more traditional technology.
AI will play an important role in solving some of the biggest challenges we as a society face.
Clearer follow-up of the AI strategy
Undoubtedly, several positive measures have been initiated since the government launched the national AI strategy in January 2020. We mention, among other things, two new centres for research-driven innovation (SFIs) within KI led by NTNU and UiT, respectively, Datafabrikken under the auspices of Digital Norway and DigiDir, the Data Inspectorate’s Sandbox for responsible artificial intelligence, as well as awarding arena status to Cluster for Applied AI.
However, it is not obvious how these and other measures are part of a systematic effort to make Norway an AI nation. We therefore call for a clear action plan for how the KI strategy is to be followed up.
In addition, we register that the ownership of the AI strategy has become less clear to outsiders after it was launched by the then Minister of Digitisation Nikolai Astrup. This is due, among other things, to several changes in the names of ministerial posts and ministries during the period.
Digitisation is a key factor in the development of society, and if we are to succeed in this, we need stimuli, common solutions and stronger coordination across areas of use, sectors and levels of government.
We therefore believe that Norway should have its own Minister of Digitisation with responsibility for both digitisation of the public sector, and for instruments for increased use of KI and other advanced digital technologies in the private sector.
It is crucial that the business community is given better framework conditions to strengthen its innovative power, linked not only to applying, but also to developing AI-based solutions. This is an industry that has a large export potential if the conditions are right for it.
Access to data and collaboration
AI is developed based on large amounts of data. This gives Norway a unique opportunity. Norway has large amounts of data in many areas. In combination with trust, this creates fertile ground for cooperation. An expert group has recently been established to submit proposals for guidelines and measures regarding responsibility, ownership and rights of use in connection with the sharing of industrial data in the business sector. We hope this will be a concrete and positive contribution that stimulates the players to exchange data to a much greater extent than before.
We further believe that it is important to further strengthen the framework conditions that create good cooperation between innovation environments, business, universities, research institutes, the public sector and investors.
The public sector should, for example, take an active role through the use of innovative public procurement and public / private collaboration to create a larger domestic market for solutions based on AI.
Platforms for collaboration and financing
Artificial Intelligence has great potential for creating Norwegian sustainable workplaces and solutions, but to achieve this, service development and collaboration between companies, networks, cluster environments and catapult centres must be facilitated.
The new EDIH scheme (European Digital Innovation Hub) must be fully funded. The EDIH mechanism is designed to support small and medium-sized enterprises and the public sector with digital transformation, and the financing of the work is intended as a joint venture between the European Commission and the nation states.
Unfortunately, the signals we have received are that Norway will not finance its half. This puts the broad constellation, which is coordinated by Digital Norway, and which is applying to establish a Norwegian EDIH in the AI field, in a difficult situation.
The EDIHs are a tool that Norwegian companies have been waiting for. We now hope that the government knows its visiting hours, and that national funding for the scheme will be in place.
Competition for competence
Employers in business and the public sector have an urgent need for AI-competent labor. The field is growing within Norwegian universities, but it is happening slowly compared with the explosive growth globally and does not reflect that KI should be a focus area in the Norwegian context.
We believe that Norway educates too few people with broad and cutting-edge expertise. Another challenge is that the proportion of women is too low.
We recommend that a clear and long-term program be established for AI where specific points for strengthening research and education should be included. Funding for research and education within AI should be designed so that focused environments are created. And not least, there is a need for financing and adaptation of continuing and further education for the business community within AI.
We see a need and a clear desire among Norwegian universities, colleges and research institutes for more concrete measures to strengthen research and education in artificial intelligence. There may be earmarked funds for research schools and for the universities’ infrastructure for skills development and computing power in artificial intelligence.
This is how we want to contribute
The “Norwegian national team” for artificial intelligence, represented by the Cluster for Applied AI, the Norwegian Artificial Intelligence Research Consortium (NORA) and the Norwegian Open AI Lab, is now joining forces to map the exciting landscape of Norwegian start-up companies linked to AI.
This is part of a European collaboration with Sweden, France and Germany which, among other things, will contribute to making Norwegian companies more visible both in a national and international context.
The ambition is also to stimulate further collaboration between actors who represent the academic and the commercial perspective, as truly value-creating innovation is often based on research.
Eirik Andreassen, Coordinator EDIH, Digital Norway
Marianne J. Bjerkman, Cluster Leader Cluster for Applied AI (CAAI)
Birte Malene Tangeraas Hansen, Innovation and Industry Coordinator, NORA
Alex Moltzau, AI Policy and Ethics, NORA