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AI talent could be a ‘significant driver’ of Europe’s economic success

28 Nov 2019

A LinkedIn report suggests that despite a solid AI foundation, Europe has to make significant strides to become a global innovation hub in this field.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is already reshaping the ways we work. From the rise of the ‘blended workforce’ to its potential for closing the gender gap, it’s a major topic of discussion all around the world.

Details about AI talent in different labour markets have been published in a new LinkedIn Economic Graph, shining light on emerging trends around AI talent development in the EU in an effort to help inform policymakers.

LinkedIn’s head of global public policy, Sue Duke, published a blog post summarising the key points of the graph.

In it, she explained the company’s motivation for undertaking the research. “There is no doubt that AI will be a significant driver of Europe’s economic success over the coming decade. What is less clear, however, is how we can capitalise on this new technology, and its potential to solve many of society’s biggest challenges.

“To do that we need to understand the current state of play: where Europe’s AI talent is today and how that compares to other countries. Leaders need this grounded, fact-based research to help them understand how best to evolve policies and strategies to develop and attract the best talent.”

‘Unique view of the world of work’

The graph is described as “a digital representation of the global economy”, giving a “unique view of the world of work”. Its creation was driven by data from more than 660m LinkedIn members, 37,000 skills, 30m companies, 20m jobs and 90,000 schools.

Among its findings was the fact that while Europe has relatively fewer AI professionals in comparison with the US, it has “strong ecosystems” established, which are driven by “large, well-established companies in the industrial champions in member states”.

Duke cited investing in training, expanding AI hubs and diversifying the workforce as the keys for policymakers and businesses to successfully diffuse AI knowledge more thoroughly.

Europe lagging behind

That diffusion is where the EU is failing to keep up with other AI markets, according to LinkedIn. The US, for example, employs twice as many AI professionals than the EU, Duke said, even though its workforce is just half the size. But there’s hope for the EU to make significant strides.

“Our research also reveals that Europe can catch up quickly,” Duke added. “Training and upskilling ‘near-AI’ talent – workers who have sufficient foundational skills that with the right training and support could emerge as AI workers – could double the size of the current AI workforce in the EU.”

She highlighted that one of the main reasons for the EU lag is the uneven distribution of AI talent. The report suggested, for example, that half of all the EU’s AI resources reside in just three countries – the UK, Germany and France.

Other nations “punching above their weight in attracting or developing AI talent”, according to Duke, include Ireland, Finland, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Sweden and the Netherlands.

Gender gaps

In addition to the negative impacts of uneven distribution, LinkedIn’s findings also revealed that just 16pc of AI workers in the EU are women which, according to Duke, poses a serious risk when it comes to playing catch-up in the industry. According to her, the imbalance leads to less productivity and greater vulnerability to bias.

“Like many other technology-related fields, AI is dominated by men. Pressing structural problems need to be addressed to increase the share of women – and other underrepresented talent – in the AI workforce.”

Duke’s recommendations for bridging this gap include school curricula being updated to embrace digital literacy and technology skills and allocation of government funding to inclusive education strategies.

Leaders: take note

Duke outlined future projections in her blog post too, stating: “If Europe develops and diffuses AI in line with its current assets and digital position relative to the rest of the world, it could add €2.7trn – a full 20pc – to its GDP by 2030.

“If Europe can emerge as a global leader in AI, it could bring that number up to €3.6trn during the same period. To avoid AI becoming a driver of inequality in Europe, leaders need more hard evidence and data to help steer the conversation and inform policy decisions.”

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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