A recent IBM report entitled ‘Addressing the AI Skills Gap in Europe’, exposes a worrying shortfall in skills required for a career in Artificial Intelligence (AI). Although technical capabilities are vital for a growing amount of careers in the modern day, around a quarter of tech recruiters (23%) have difficulty finding applicants with these increasingly important aptitudes.
Even more concerning, a shortage in AI skills could suppress digital innovation and bog down economic activity in the EU—showing a clear need for solutions, and fast. BonsAPPs, a consortium of eight industrial and academic partners, is joining forces across industry sectors to help patch these disparities through a new initiative.
Funded by the EU Horizon 2020 research program, the consortium will launch an open call to Small-to-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to support “low tech” SMEs that lack internal competencies in AI implementation. SMEs that fulfill eligibility criteria can apply to the program until November 2, 2022. Let’s take a closer look at how this program will help to build up the EU’s tech talent and by proxy, its economy.
Innovating For The Future Business Market
Long-standing issues in the EU’s tech industry, like hiring talent and accessing capital, have been recognized—causing the union to recently release an Innovation Agenda to help. With a $47billion private capital fund committed to bolstering deeptech, there is a clear and collective push from the government to try and support growing tech companies in the region.
The BonsAPPs initiative seeks to help support and accelerate these efforts through its members ISDI, Hes-so, Nviso, FundingBox, ST Microelectronics, BCA, BTH, and UNIBO. For European SMEs seeking to improve their products, services, or value chains with AI. The consortium will help to provide scalable, industry-agnostic solutions, giving the opportunity to SMEs to build their technology capacities purposefully— something that is vital for companies that want to be competitive in business in 2022.
After the open call period, BonsAPPs will select SMEs based on a criterion that ranks companies on various levels of AI Maturity. This will also include companies that possess a solidified go-to-market strategy for an AI-enabled product, or promising enterprises with a strong track record for innovation that seeks to engage with AI in a more strategic manner.
To gauge where companies might fall in terms of their AI adoption, SME applicants are encouraged to consider how they align with the following categories:
- AI Aware – SMEs seeking to find an AI-based solution for their company.
- AI Ready – SMEs who require little or no development resources to gauge and implement their AI solution.
- AI Competent – SMEs with limited resources and budgets looking for a collaborative innovation channel for a new Proof of Concept to scale up their internal resources.
In terms of pitching their cases of use, SMEs are instructed to shape their AI product/solution proposal along the following guideposts:
- Each proposal must demonstrate a high potential use case for the development of low-cost, highly scalable AI apps and Edge solutions.
- All AI and Edge solution use cases must be developed using Bonseyes AI Marketplace services and resources.
- SMEs must demonstrate the availability of good-quality commercial data.
- Each proposal must elect a representative from their team who will be able to lead the entire Edge AI development and integration process with external providers (AI Talents and HPC) during the 6-month support program, end-to-end.
- All proposals must demonstrate the ability that their proposed product can be applied in other potential industries or end-user processes.
BonsAPPs strongly recommends applicants carefully read their Guide for Applicants before completing their Application Form available on the Fundingbox platform. With any queries not addressed on the application FAQ page, parties can reach out to [email protected].
Converting The EU Into An “AI-as-a-Service” Economy
In order for the EU to become a leading global player in the up-and-coming “AI-as-a-Service” economy, it will need to both identify and solve the challenges facing its tech industry. By recognizing high-value AI/ML challenges facing SMEs, the BonsAPPs program will help to create and deploy reusable solutions, helping to establish Europe as a leader in Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence-enabled problem-solving.
The first open call for the BonsAPPs program was a huge success, bringing together a cohort of AI talents including researchers, engineers, and data scientists, to create innovative AI solutions. Using the tools and services on the initiative’s Bonseyes Marketplace, a secure and distributed AI-as-a-Service (AIaaS) Platform, the time and cost of AI development was drastically reduced.
In this second open call, the program hopes to progress to the next level by helping European SMEs in their digitalization process through AI access, implementation, and affordable use. In the long run, this validated process for identifying and solving business problems through AI will be made accessible as a commercial service in the Bonseyes marketplace.
“We’re honored to be part of the BonsAPPs partners who are helping build the future of the AI-as-a-Service (AIaaS) industry in Europe,” said Jesús Tapia, Head of ISDI Accelerator, a part of the BonsAPPs consortium. “This second open call is the next step toward making the continent a powerhouse in AI-as-a-Service.”
Successful applicants to the BonsAPPs program will receive up to €74,000 in equity-free funding for the development of an AI solution to cover the costs of the six-month program, which includes a voucher to engage with external AI experts and High-Performance Computing (HPC) providers. All participating SMEs will gain support from AI business mentors that will help the enterprises develop novel business strategies based on the outcomes of their projects. Finally, each product created within the program will be awarded a ‘certified AI user’ status on the Bonseyes Marketplace platform and receive rights to re-use and commercialize AI solutions for new products.
The BonsAPPs team will organize info days and online webinars for those that are interested in their open call. Announcements and updates will be made through the BonsAPPs GET HELP website and community. Overall, this program will help to deploy a fully functional AI-as-a-Service layer for the EU’s economy by helping with the development and deployment of businesses and their products—bolstering SMEs along their journey to bring the EU’s tech industry into the future.
Disclosure: This article mentions a client of an Espacio portfolio company.