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Artificial intelligence and industry: Advanced innovation for European manufacturing

AI and advanced robotics are opening new horizons in all sectors of industry, in terms of both developing novel manufacturing techniques, as well as revising the interaction between human workers and automated tools. This new Results Pack presents the results of 14 innovative Horizon 2020 projects reshaping AI and industry.

Digital Economy icon Digital Economy
Industrial Technologies icon Industrial Technologies

Industry is the backbone of the European economy, providing employment and welfare across the continent. Between 2009 and 2019, industry constantly accounted for around 20 % of the EU’s GDP. However, European industry faces important challenges: an increasingly complex globalised economy, being exposed to a fast-changing geopolitical landscape and being vulnerable to setbacks in long value chains. As economies aim for sustained post-COVID recoveries, industry needs to innovate in a way that is in line with the priorities of the European Commission, in particular the priorities laid out by the European Green Deal, a Europe Fit for the Digital Age and an Economy that Works for People.

Harnessing the benefits of AI

Industry 5.0 provides a coherent vision for such a future industry focused on human centricity, sustainability and resilience. It emphasises integrating social and environmental priorities into technological innovation, and shifting the focus from shareholder value to stakeholder value. And it promises the creation of a new symbiotic environment between a workforce comprising both human operators and increasingly autonomous and intelligent machines. This transition will rely in no small part on the application of advanced digital technologies, including AI. The infusion of AI processes into manufacturing offers many benefits. It will fuel the development of novel industrial processes for both existing and emerging industries, enhanced production efficiencies with less downtime, and a redefinition of the role of industry workers as they collaborate with and supervise AI-powered co-workers. The use of AI and augmented reality techniques in factories promises to make human roles less hazardous, less monotonous and less physically exhausting.

Supporting the spread of AI in European manufacturing

Europe is already one of the world’s major leaders in the development of AI, but there is still much work to be done to adapt European industry to these new technologies and opportunities. The European Commission is dedicated to enhancing Europe’s leadership in the field of AI, an area of strategic importance and a crucial source of future economic growth. The 2018 Communication ‘Artificial Intelligence for Europe’ emphasises the importance of AI in European manufacturing, reflected in the EUR 1.5 billion for AI research provided in the Horizon 2020 programme. In April 2021 the Commission put forward proposals for a legislative framework to boost excellence and trust in AI, the successful implementation of which will safeguard individual rights and provide Europe with a crucial competitive advantage in AI regulation. And the Commission’s 2020 Industrial Strategy was updated in May 2021 to reflect the impact of COVID-19, and empower SMEs and start-ups to adopt the twin green and digital transitions, making European industry more competitive globally. This CORDIS Results Pack showcases 14 trailblazing projects that are shaping the future with AI technologies designed to support and boost industry and manufacturing across a range of objectives. Many of the projects offer AI platforms and architectures to address particular tasks, such as IMAGINE, CoLLaboratE and ResiBots, which focus on waste recycling, human-robot interaction and resilience respectively. Others offer new industrial robot systems, such as HEPHAESTUS and THOMAS, while ROBINS looks at the certification of such robotic systems in industrial settings. PROGRAMS and SERENA explore the potential of using AI-based tools for optimising the production process through predictive maintenance, while EU-Japan.AI brings together researchers from opposite sides of the world to share AI knowledge.