Four Motors for Europe on Incoming Mission on the Topic of "Artificial Intelligence in industrial application" from 25 to 27 October 2023 in Stuttgart

As part of Baden-Württemberg's presidency of the Four Motors for Europe network in 2023, Dr Patrick Rapp, State Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labour and Tourism, and Florian Hassler, State Secretary in the Ministry of State, welcomed a 50-strong political and expert delegation from the partner regions Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Catalonia and Lombardy from 25 to 27 October 2023 in Stuttgart. Representatives from the associated regions of Flanders and Wales were also present.

The traditional economic policy mission has been the centrepiece and highlight of every presidency of the Four Motorways for Europe network since 2002. In contrast to the previous missions, which were always organised with the aim of making a joint appearance abroad in Europe or in the world and opening up new markets for the economic actors, Baden-Württemberg ventured into a new format with the "incoming mission". The aim is to stimulate and strengthen networking at the political and professional level, especially after the major cuts in the economy and society caused by the Covid pandemic.

With the topic "Artificial Intelligence in industrial application", the Incoming Mission took up the guiding theme of the Baden-Württemberg Presidency "New Economic Perspectives: Transformation as an opportunity for the viability of our regions".

The two-and-a-half-day Incoming mission kicked off on 25th October 2023 with a political panel discussion on the topic "AI Act: Competitiveness vs. Regulation in Europe: Contradiction or Compatibility?“. In his welcome speech, State Secretary Dr. Rapp emphasized: „Artificial intelligence is rightly regarded as the 'key to tomorrow's world', because it offers enormous potential for the economy and society. We must be careful that we in Europe do not further widen our current gap in this future technology with the USA and China through bureaucratic regulations and jeopardise our bureaucratic regulations and jeopardise our competitiveness in the long term.“

To set the mood, two keynote speeches by Mr. Kraus (CK Holding) and Mrs. Prof. Dr. Hölzle (Technology Officer of the Minister of Economics) showed how the business community, but also the scientific community, position themselves with regard to the AI Act. Afterwards, the political representatives of the Four Motors for Europe discussed the advantages and disadvantages of the AI Act for their regions, the promotion of artificial intelligence in general and the foundations of good European and regional innovation policy. It became clear that all four regions are facing the same challenges and want to make greater use of the network's common voice in the future. 

On the two following days (26 and 27 October 2023), the attending expert delegations, consisting of representatives from administration, clusters and companies, learned more about the current application status of artificial intelligence in Baden-Württemberg as part of a varied programme and had a lots of opportunities to network with stakeholders from Baden-Württemberg.

One highlight was the visit to the Innovation Park Artificial Intelligence (Ipai) in Heilbronn, which is still under construction and aims to become the largest AI ecosystem in Europe. In addition to a guided tour of the building, the delegation received an insight into new AI applications as well as into the work of the ecosystem with the help of four keynote speeches by companies or start-ups from the Ipai ecosystem.

Afterwards, the delegation was able to learn more about the practical application of artificial intelligence in production at Festo, which has already been awarded the title of AI Champion by the Ministry of Economics, Labour and Tourism in 2020.

On the last day, the " AI Innovation Center "Learning Systems and Cognitive Robotics", located at the Fraunhofer IPA and IAO at the campus in Stuttgart-Vaihingen, presented the current state of business-related and application-oriented research in the field of artificial intelligence to the participants. Current demonstrators in AI like for example „AI and Interaction Design“, „Text and Speech Processing“ or „Sorting Guide“ were presented in lectures, but also during a guided tour through the different buildings.

After a first feedback the participants were fully satisfied with the program and returned back to their regions with new impulses and new contacts.