Conclusion and Summary of Recommendations:
- AI and automation trends should not be seen as a threat, but as an opportunity for the V4 countries to modernize their economies, raise wages and overall welfare. It can play a unique role in restructuring and boosting productivity gains, supporting countries’ convergence with EU income levels and preventing the risk of slowing down.
- V4 countries have huge research and business potential in AI. Yet, when acting on their own, they can neither implement globally relevant commercial projects, nor can they properly prepare for the political and economic impact of AI on our societies. V4 needs more common AI projects, both in R&D and policy, to remain competitive and better prepare for the transformation that will affect young generations.
- Public policy and R&D efforts are scattered among too many public and private stakeholders in V4 countries. Public and private R&D centres work on similar projects and politicians only recently started to reflect the political importance of AI and automation. This will change the structure of labor markets and supply chains, which by itself is a regional issue. The governments should therefore set clear rules and an overall framework for cooperation on regional basis on the grounds of V4/CEE.
- To fully utilize this opportunity countries need to invest in and cultivate innovation. Unlike Lisbon or Stockholm, none of V4 major cities are listed in global rankings of startup hubs. V4 needs strong ecosystem based on AI, HPC and cybersecurity. The support for concentration of R&D shall be coordinated to the regional hubs and mutually supportive networks to maximize V4 competitiveness.
- V4 countries shall get fully involved in all EU activities in AI and the V4 coordination shall be in line with building of the European AI ecosystem. The Czech V4 Presidency 2019-2020 is a very good opportunity to articulate and coordinate priorities in AI, including all V4 working groups, and high-level meetings that deal with innovation and AI. It shall serve also as a preparation for the Czech presidency of the EU Council (2022), followed by the Hungarian presidency (2024) and Polish presidency (2025).
- The European Commission outlined specific actions for investments in AI in the Coordinated plan, including talent, skills and life-long learning that are very important for V4 countries. The current focus is primarily on testing and the transfer of technologies to businesses is very valuable, however, the EU should support the whole ecosystem to strengthen its global and regional competitiveness in AI. Therefore, it should be covered in Horizon 2020, but also in new the Digital Europe Program to support the building of the whole ecosystems on this basis.
The challenges of automation for V4 economies are often underestimated. Not only will low-income professions face higher risk of replacement, but those with middle-level qualifications also. This can lead to a deepening of economic inequality in society. The governments shall play an important role in reshaping the educational system and in supporting the adaptation of workers and businesses to new conditions. They should include policies that can be initially unpopular or difficult to implement but may create a significant competitive advantage for the whole economy in the long run.
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