It is essential that research policy is based on facts and the best available knowledge. Fredrik Heintz, professor, and Director of the WASP Graduate School, is one of several WASP researchers involved in AI research policies and strategies at the EU level:
-To be able to work on AI related issues as a researcher, broad engagement in various networks and a willingness to take on indirectly research-related assignments are required, he says.
Research and innovation are cornerstones of the EU’s operational goals and essential for promoting growth, improving competitiveness, and addressing major societal challenges. The European Commission is one of the largest research funders in the academic world. The European research and innovation cooperation is organized by the European Commission through multi-year framework programs. The current framework program, Horizon Europe, runs from 2021 to 2027 and has a budget of over 95 billion EUR.
Shaping the EU’s research policy on AI
It is of great importance for researchers to participate with their expertise in the political debate and in shaping the EU’s research policy. Fredrik Heintz is involved in the EU’s research policy on AI at multiple levels:
-The opportunity to engage in EU-level issues and leave an impact on the directions of major calls for proposals is not always well-known in the research community, but it is crucial to make it visible, he says.
However, the work requires significant flexibility:
-If you want to have influence, you have to adapt to the EU’s processes. You are expected to always be available and quickly redirect your efforts to provide input. There is always activity going on, he says.
To be able to work on these issues as a researcher, broad engagement in various networks and a willingness to take on indirectly research-related assignments are required. Fredrik Heintz has served as Sweden’s representative in the High-level Expert Group on AI (AI HLEG), an independent high-level expert group on AI matters established by the European Commission in June 2018. He believes that his background as the chairman of the Swedish AI Society and as Director of the WASP Graduate School led to him being approached and asked to apply for the position:
-It’s about seizing the opportunities that arise and doing many different things along the way, he explains.
Influence at multiple levels
Currently, Fredrik Heintz serves on the board of the European partnership AI, Data and Robotics Association (ADRA), founded in 2021. Within ADRA, he leads a working group responsible for developing new work programs and calls for proposals within Cluster 4 of Horizon Europe: Digitization, Industry, and Space. The working group collaborates with the European Commission to provide input for these calls. Fredrik Heintz experiences a good responsiveness from the European Commission regarding the contributions of the working groups:
-For the current calls within Cluster 4, we received an entirely new call based on what we believed was needed. So, we do have some influence, he says.
Reference groups are tasked with providing written input on the materials. In Sweden, Vinnova and the Swedish National Space Agency (Rymdstyrelsen) are designated as expert authorities responsible for supporting the Swedish Government in its work on the EU’s framework program within Cluster 4. Vinnova has identified representatives for a reference group that assists the government in developing materials and provides input on work programs and calls for proposals before meetings with the European Commission.
-ADRA also has influence in shaping the work programs through its members, including Linköping University, who form a reference group, says Fredrik Heintz.
Coordinating an EU project provides unique opportunities
The European Commission is one of the largest research funders in the academic world. However, it is not a given for researchers to take on the role of coordinator for EU projects, as it is not directly scientifically rewarding. Additionally, it may result in administrative costs for individual researchers due to the different regulations between the EU and universities.
Nevertheless, Fredrik Heintz sees many advantages. Since 2020, he has been the coordinator for the EU project “Foundations of Trustworthy AI – integrating, learning, optimization, and reasoning (TAILOR),” where Linköping University serves as the host institution.
-Being a coordinator provides a unique opportunity to participate in new contexts and promotes networking, he says.
TAILOR is a European research network aimed at developing frameworks and guidelines for trustworthy artificial intelligence in Europe:
-TAILOR has an advisory role in the development of the EU’s framework program and works at a strategic level as a consultative group to the European Commission, and it indirectly influences through ADRA, Fredrik Heintz explains.
WASP paves the way and is an enabler
According to Fredrik Heintz hosting WASP, Sweden’s largest research program, has laid the foundation for subsequent research initiatives at the participating universities:
-From my perspective I see that WASP clearly enables Linköping University, my home base, to participate in these types of contexts. There is trust; they know that we will be able to handle it. We have experience in coordinating and leading large projects, he says.
He also emphasizes the invaluable experiences gained through the WASP program in shaping how they conduct activities within TAILOR and other contexts:
-The knowledge and expertise gained through the WASP program are extremely valuable in how we then carry out our work in TAILOR and other settings, Fredrik Heintz concludes.
- The current research and innovation framework program of the European Commission
- Covers the period 2021-2027
- Budget: 95 billion EUR
- Research questions related to AI are addressed in Cluster 4: Digitalization, Industry, and Space
ADRA, AI, Data and Robotics Association
- European partnership within Cluster 4 of Horizon Europe, founded in May 2021, by the five European organizations BDVA, CLAIRE, ELLIS, EurAI, and euRobotics
- ADRA’s main objective is to ensure Europe’s sovereignty and competitiveness in AI, data, and robotics
AI HLEG, High-level expert group on AI
- An independent high-level expert group on AI matters, established by the European Commission in June 2018
TAILOR, Foundations of Trustworthy AI – integrating, learning, optimization, and reasoning
- European research network, initiated as an EU project in September 2020, with the aim of developing frameworks and guidelines for trustworthy artificial intelligence in Europe
- The project is hosted by Linköping University, with Fredrik Heintz as the coordinator.
Published: September 13th, 2023