Currently, the term artificial intelligence is used to define a broad range of technological solutions which, at times, are very different from one another and apply to various areas. These include, among others, evolutionary computation, neural networks and robotics. No matter the exact definition, it should be assumed that the development of AI currently depends on three mutually inclusive elements. The first deals with the ability to effectively acquire, accumulate, share, anonymize and protect data. The second is related to the development of algorithms and their implementation. The third and final requirement? That’s the need to accurately define the areas and scope in which AI will be used within various fields and industries.
Most of the global leaders from the high tech industry perceive artificial intelligence and machine learning as inevitable elements of economic growth – from industry and the labor market to social change and the way a state interacts with its citizens – all of these areas will be affected. It’s a good thing that the need to define a path to develop a Polish ecosystem for artificial intelligence has been recognized and declared. Potential opportunities and expectations in this regard have been identified by the government and public administrators have stated the need to strategically support AI initiatives.
NCBR is providing real support to activities that help develop AI
The National Center for Research and Development (NCBR) supports innovative solutions and is a pioneering public institution which launches new programs for entrepreneurs as well as research institutes. As the implementing unit of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, NCBR provides financing for the development of innovative technologies from various fields – the main requirement is that these supported projects have to find an application in the real world – concluding in actual implementation. Regardless of if we use a very narrow or extremely broad definition of the term – one of the fields that is being developed with the help of funds from the National Center of Research and Development is Artificial Intelligence.
Among the projects already being supported in this field are, solutions that aid surgeons in real time, an intelligent equipment/software overlay for automation systems in office buildings and a self-learning bot used in the recruitment process which is already being tested by HR departments.
Poland has potential – will we be able to make the most of it?
In Poland we have an excellent research infrastructure especially in terms of computing power. This is coupled with extremely capable research teams and an ever-growing number of local entrepreneurs who want to base their competitive advantage on AI. According to the experts, there are a few areas in which our country could, within a short time, successfully compete with other nations – among them is the data-gathering industry and other fields in which we will be able to fully utilize the potential of our research institutes: energy, farming and/or medicine. The challenge, as in most other countries, remains finding an appropriately trained workforce which is capable of carrying out the needed research projects and market launches – especially that AI can develop extremely quickly. It is this so-called ‘human element’ – access to properly educated specialists – that is an incredibly important factor in the development of artificial intelligence. Polish universities are currently educating a large group of ICT specialists and launching new majors and courses of study related to the subject, but when it comes to educating young people in the fields related to Artificial Intelligence (i.e. degree in Automatic control and robotics at the Warsaw University of Technology or the major in Artificial Intelligence and logical studies that’s part of the Cognitive Sciences track at Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin), another important question needs to be asked – will we be able to keep the graduates of these universities from leaving the country?
An appropriate environment for innovation
Knowledge of research teams, effectiveness of workforce education and access to financing that funds even the riskiest of projects aren’t the only things that count in the global race for leadership in areas related to new technologies. As important as all of those things, or perhaps even more so, is the ability to define specific goals that need to be achieved within a given timeframe as well as creation of an appropriate legal and fiscal framework. That’s not to mention the most important requirement of all – creating a market for AI-based innovations. The discussion, which was started a short time ago, among government, public administrators, entrepreneurs and representatives of the scientific community, gives hope that activities leading to the creation of appropriate conditions for the development of AI in Poland will be initiated. It is however extremely important to remember that creating regulations takes considerably longer than writing computer code. That’s why, irrespective of the work being done to create an appropriate legal framework, it is important to continue to develop our skills and technology using the currently available resources and possibilities. This is a terrific opportunity – not only for SMEs but also large, established corporations – which should definitely open up to broader cooperation with smaller tech companies.