Prague to become centre for artificial intelligence

31st May 2019 Jonathan Andrews

The City of Prague has announced it will compete to become one of Europe’s centres of excellence in artificial intelligence (AI).

The city’s plan follows the European Commission’s call for a European Network of AI Excellence Centres which the Commission will fund with €50 million in 2020.

“We want to be the centre for AI but we know that we are not the only ones,” Jaromír Beránek, Deputy of the Prague City Assembly and Head of the IT and Smart City Committee told Cities Today. “We want to compete with European and world cities like Montreal which is also very renowned for building AI technologies.”

Beránek said that although the push has been inspired by the Commission’s call, the city was already looking for a specialised skill for Prague, noting that the neighbouring cities of Brno and Libež are world renowned in microscopy and nano technology.

Jaromír Beránek, Deputy of the Prague City Assembly and Head of the IT and Smart City Committee

“We identified a few possible areas and narrowed it down to AI, since there is a huge brains trust in this field at the Czech Technical University, Charles University and other institutions,” he added.

Speaking on the sidelines of the 19th 20-20 Cities meeting convened by Cities Today and held in Prague, Beránek said the city would not only play a role in funding the AI centre of excellence but also as a “customer”.

“The role of Prague in the AI hub shouldn’t just be as a financial contributor but also the customer of the applications,” he said. “We have many challenges in transport, housing, data collection and analysis. Prague can offer multiple use cases every year to work on and AI could be easily involved to help solve those challenges.”

Over the next month leadership positions will be named and the centre–or hub–will be founded and registered as a non-business entity. The governing body–led by an as yet unnamed director–will be comprised of people from the city, universities, and business stakeholders.

A budget is being finalised for the first three-year period after which the city will work more closely with high schools and students to raise their interest, to build the “brain resources” in technical education, particularly in development programming and AI.

The city will also work with companies which are looking for AI solutions but which would not normally be able to afford.

“I really believe that AI will help us,” added Beránek. “Whether this be in data optimisation, traffic flow planning or better planning of where we should build new schools and kindergartens among other infrastructure. There are really practical solutions for everyday life.”

The call for proposal “ICT-48-2020: Towards a vibrant European network of AI excellence centres” is planned to open in July with a deadline on 13 November 2019.

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