The proposed institute, to be named the European Lab for Learning and Intelligent Systems, or Ellis, would comprise of a number of centres set up in different countries, including the UK.
Each lab would comprise of hundreds of computer engineers, mathematicians and other scientists with the express aim of keeping Europe at the forefront of AI research. Ultimately, each lab could become a $100million facility with an annual budget of $30million.
In an open letter the scientists warn that Europe has failed to keep up with the US and China, where most leading AI firms and universities are based. The letter goes on to warn that while a few “research hotspots” exist in Europe, “virtually all of the top people in those places are continuously being pursued for recruitment by US companies.”
Private and public investment in AI has soared in recent years, but it is the US and China which have taken the lead.
US firms have been hiring talent with PhD scientists leaving studies in UK universities, for example, to work with US tech firms and there are growing fears that a whole generation of talented young researchers are being lost as a result.
The letter was signed by scientists in the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Israel and the Netherlands, and calls for work on the new institute to start this year.
Under their proposal, participating countries would fund the institute as an intergovernmental organisation, the same approach as used to fund the European Molecular Biology Lab, which has a major centre in Cambridge.