Has Europe lost the AI race? 2022 revision

by | Jan 10, 2022 | Artificial Intelligence, Digital Transformation, Strategy

In mid-2018, I asked in a blog post, “Has Europe lost the AI race?” (1). My answer then: not yet, but we need to do more.

How does it look today, in early 2022?

To be upfront: A lot has happened in Europe and Germany. But not enough.

Let’s look at some details.

As of June 2021, 20 EU countries and Switzerland had developed and adopted a national AI strategy. Another 7 countries were in the process to finalize a strategy. Some countries like Germany or Finland have already revised their strategy. Many national initiatives have been started, a detailed overview can be found in the OECD report “National strategies on Artificial Intelligence – a European Perspective” (2)

 The EU presented its plan for a European AI strategy in 2018 and revised it in 2021. The EU’s goal is a leading position in the development of human-centric, sustainable, secure, inclusive and trustworthy AI. A new EU regulation on AI applications, which was published in 2021 and is currently being voted on, should also contribute to this.

The importance of AI for the economy and society has thus been recognized in Europe in recent years, and many initiatives have been launched. These are very positive developments.


However, compared to the leading countries, this is not enough. A look at various international comparisons shows this.


The Center for Data Innovation published the 2021 Update of the report “Who Is Winning the AI Race: China, the EU, or the United States?” (3). The report examines the progress China, the European Union, and the United States have made in AI relative to each other in recent years – using 31 metrics across 6 categories (talent, research, enterprise development, adoption, data, and hardware).

It finds that the United States still leads, with 44.6 points, followed by China with 32.0 and the European Union with 23.3.

Looking at the details we see can more momentum in China and the US compared to Europe.

Crucially, China has made incremental progress—reducing the gap or extending its lead over the United States in more than half of the updated metrics. In contrast, the EU has made progress relative to the United States in only slightly more than a quarter of the updated metrics. As such, the United States has maintained or expanded its lead over the European Union in nearly 75 percent of the updated metrics.

Let’s look at another comparison. The Global AI Index (4) was updated in 2021 and shows a similar picture. The Global AI Index is underpinned by 143 indicators split across seven sub-pillars: Talent, Infrastructure, Operating Environment, Research, Development, Government Strategy and Commercial. Each indicator pillar was weighted for importance after consultation with experts across the field.

The US and China are leading the index with a wide margin. In the top 5 countries only the UK is representing Europe – an no EU member state is in the top 7.

Compared to the 2020 index Germany has lost 2 places (7 ->9), the Netherlands gained 1 place (8->7). Singapore moved from 9->6.

Let us look at one more comparison: the investments in AI Startups.

A report by the OECD on Venture capital investments in artificial intelligence (5) shows that AI startups have attracted more than 20% (or 75 billion USD) of all Venture Capital (VC) investments last year. This is up from only 3% (or 3 billion USD) in 2012 – a 28-fold increase.

In terms of AI investment in 2020 Europe is still far behind: more than 80% of the AI investments from VCs went to the US (57%) and China (24%).


But there is momentum for Europe. While we see only 5% of the total VC money invested in the EU27 the number of deals with AI start-ups in the EU27 represented 11% of all deals(6)

There is much more to look at and I will come back with future posts on more details.


My conclusion (as of January 2022): A lot has happened in Europe and Germany.

But not enough and not fast enough!


(1) “Has Europe lost the AI race?” – Ingo Hoffmann .

(2) National strategies on Artificial Intelligence – A European perspective. 2021 EDITION . A JRC-OECD report

(3) Who Is Winning the AI Race: China, the EU, or the United States? – 2021 Update . Center for Data Innovation

(5) Tricot, R. (2021), “Venture capital investments in artificial intelligence: Analysing trends in VC in AI companies from 2012 through 2020”, OECD Digital Economy Papers, No. 319, OECD Publishing, Paris,

(6) VC Investments in AI Startups – Ingo Hoffmann