Picture from Unsplash by @pawel_czerwinski and logo from Morten Irgens’ blog.

Why We need to Talk About the European Association for AI, Data and Robotics

Engaging broadly with civil society, research community and industry to make artificial intelligence work for public good

Alex Moltzau


This article is about the newly formed European Association for AI, Data and Robotics.

Adra, which is an acronym for “AI, data and robotics Association”, is an international non-profit association incorporated in Brussels as an Association Sans But Lucratif (asbl).

The partnership between Adra and the Commission is regulated by a memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Illustration by Morten Irgens.

Personally I believe it is one of the most exciting news in artificial intelligence (AI) policy you might have missed. Since I help run the CLAIRE office in Oslo (disclaimer) it might be more obvious to me why this is the case. You will understand why if you read the rest of this article. Much of the information in this article is built on a blog post made by the Vice President in ADRA Morten Irgens.

Let me give you four points that I think can help with understanding the scope:

  1. The AI, Data and Robotics Association (ADRA) has been established between The Big Data Value Association, euRobotics, and the three AI associations CLAIRE, ELLIS and EurAI. These are some of the largest organisations active in the field of AI in Europe bringing together a wide range of partners.
  2. ADRA thus engages broadly with civil society, research community and industry. This approach to collaboration might be important to help AI work for public good — building a shared effort in the field.
  3. The collaboration clear that environmental aspects is considered as part of the vision, as such at the front and center of this partnership. According to the ADRA website: “The Vision of the Partnership is to boost European competitiveness, societal wellbeing and environmental aspects to lead the world in researching, developing and deploying value-driven trustworthy AI, Data and Robotics based on fundamental European rights, principles and values.”
  4. ADRA is one of the most comprehensive collaborations on AI in the world and is set to leverage €2.6 Billion in funding. €1.3B of public investments through the Horizon Europe programme and €1.3B of private investments in the period 2021–2030 to address the key challenges in European AI, Data and Robotics.

Understanding ADRA

How was ADRA founded?

Although ADRA was formally founded May 21st 2021 it has been in discussion for a while. The last year (2020–2021) has seen a growing amount of applications of AI around the world and in Europe it is clear that this must be explored from a perspective that is aligned with more inclusive perspectives from civil society.

According to a description on the job description of one of the Vice Presidents of ADRA:

“The board is equally split between academia and industry. There is also a tripartition between interests from AI, data and robotics. The founding partners are CLAIRE, BDVA, euRobotics, ELLIS and EurAI. The negotiations between the founding partners ran from around January 2020 until May of 2021. In the process, the partners produced a ‘Strategic Research, Innovation and Deployment Agenda’. ”

ADRA may be part of the answer in the question of how civil society, research communities and industry can be involved in shaping AI in Europe.

How is ADRA structured?

ADRA currently consist of five partners:

  1. Confederation of Laboratories of Artificial Intelligence in Europe (CLAIRE),
  2. Big Data Value Association (BDVA),
  3. The European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems (ELLIS),
  4. The European Association for Artificial Intelligence (EurAI),
  5. The European Robotics Association (euRobotics).

Looking at these names you can get the outline, yet you might want to understand each organisation to get a better overview of how this collaboration will work in practice.

The five associations are (in alphabetical sequence) [information from Morten Irgens blog post]:

BDVA (the Big Data Value Association) is an industry-driven international not-for-profit organization with a mission to develop the innovation ecosystem that will enable the data and AI-driven digital transformation of Europe and positioning Europe in the lead on creating value from big data and AI.

CLAIRE (the Confederation of Laboratories of Artificial Intelligence in Europe) is a non-profit international membership association with more than 3,700 individual supporters, a research network with more than 400 research labs and institutes, and a developing industry network. CLAIRE promotes European excellence in research and innovation in AI.

ELLIS (European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems) has a mission to promote the development in Europe of outstanding and free basic research in machine learning and modern AI, independent of industry interests, that have an economic impact and create jobs in Europe.

EurAI (the European Association for Artificial Intelligence) is a non-profit international membership association whose members are scientific European associations concerned with artificial intelligence. Its objectives include to promote the science and technology of artificial intelligence in Europe, to encourage the teaching of artificial intelligence, to publish a European journal of information on artificial intelligence, and to sponsor a biennial conference organized by one or more of the member societies.

euRobotics is Europe’s non-profit association for all stakeholders in European robotics, ranging from robotics research to innovation and deployment. It was founded in September 2012 with the aim to strengthen Europe’s competitiveness and to ensure industrial leadership of manufacturers, providers and end-users of robotics technology-based systems and services.

These organisations are what makes up ADRA.

ADRA Logo from Morten Irgens blog post.

How does ADRA fit with the EU Commission’s partnership instruments?

The European Commission has been investing heavily in Public Private Partnerships (PPPs). What is a PPP?

Public private partnerships

The European Expertise Centre (EPEC) says the following:

“Put simply, a public-private partnership (“PPP”) is an arrangement between a public authority and a private partner designed to deliver a public infrastructure project and service under a long-term contract. Under this contract, the private partner bears significant risks and management responsibilities. The public authority makes performance-based payments to the private partner for the provision of the service (e.g. for the availability of a road) or grants the private partner a right to generate revenues from the provision of the service (e.g. tolls from users of a bridge). Private finance is usually involved in a PPP. When properly prepared, PPP projects can provide significant benefits to the public sector as well as to the project users.”

A great variety of PPPs have been funded by the European Investment Bank, and EPEC made a report detailing projects financed from 1990–2019.

The European Investment Bank is the European Union’s investment bank and is owned by the EU Member States.

Why is this important for Europe?

According to Irgens in his blog post:

“European partnerships in Horizon Europe come with two main objectives, (1) to enable a long-term, strategic approach to research and innovation, and (2) reduce uncertainties by allowing for long-term commitments. Furthermore, they

  1. are a key implementation tool of Horizon Europe
  2. bring the Commission and private and/or public partners together
  3. pool resources to gather critical mass
  4. share financial, human and infrastructure resources
  5. provide concerted research and innovation initiatives.
  6. address some of Europe’s most pressing challenges
  7. contribute significantly to achieving the EU’s political priorities.
  8. reduce duplication of investments
  9. make research and innovation funding across the EU more efficient;
  10. enable innovative technologies to get faster to the market;

Three partnership models in Horizon Europe.”

What will ADRA do?

The operational objectives are the following:

Morten Irgens outlines seven operational objectives:

  1. Accelerate uptake by industry in all relevant sectors;
  2. Lead and support excellent research raising the state-of-the-art around AI, Data and Robotics;
  3. Support initiatives addressing Use Cases in AI, Data and Robotics;
  4. Promote collaborative working with other horizontal and vertical communities and Partnerships;
  5. Develop and implement mechanisms to create an effective & accessible ecosystem (incl. innovation infrastructure);
  6. Support initiatives that engage and stimulate SMEs and Start-ups;
  7. Work towards aligning legal frameworks, standards & regulation;
  8. Support initiatives that foster AI Skill building;

There are of course more details. You could explore the resources on the ADRA website. If you love slides this collection of 194 slides from the Horizon Europe Info Day might be helpful. You can read the 70-page partnership proposal. Additionally the 133-page Strategic Research, Innovation and Deployment Agenda from ADRA released September 2020 may be helpful.

This was my attempt at condensing some information about ADRA.

What are your thoughts about ADRA? Have you seen anything similar in other regions? How can ADRA proceed forward?

If you want to find out more about the partnership yourself and keep updated on the news you might want to have a look at this website:

As I post this on Monday I would also recommend to check out the High-Level Conference on AI: From Ambition to Action happening Tuesday the 14th to Wednesday the 15th of September, especially the talks where ADRA is participating.

High-Level Conference on AI: From Ambition to Action (14th-15th of September 2021)

In the plenary session — political panel on AI regulation with the presidency of the council of the European Union Marina Bill President of ADRA will participate. Renaud Champion as the Vice President, AI Data and Robotics Association (Adra asbl) speaks in the breakout session on financing innovation.

This is #1000daysofAI and you are reading article 505. I am writing one new article about or related to artificial intelligence for 1000 days. The first 500 days I wrote an article every day, and now from 500 to 1000 I write at a different pace.



Alex Moltzau

Policy Officer at the European AI Office in the European Commission. This is a personal Blog and not the views of the European Commission.