Google launches €10 million AI fund for social innovation for European entrepreneurs

In conjunction with CEO Sundar Pichai’s visit to Stockholm yesterday, Google announced the launch of the second Google.org Social Innovation Fund on AI to “help social enterprises solve some of Europe’s most pressing challenges”.

Through the fund, Google will make €10 million available, along with mentoring and support, to entrepreneurs from underserved backgrounds. The goal is to help them develop transformative AI solutions that specifically target problems they face on a daily basis.

The fund will provide capital through a donation to INCO for the expansion of Social tides, an accelerator program funded by Google.org that provides monetary support of up to $250,000 (€232,000).

In 2021, Google has allocated €20 million to European AI startups for social innovation through the same mechanism. Among the beneficiaries at that time was The News Room in Portugal, that one AI powered app to encourage a more contextualized reading experience to get people out of their bubble and reduce polarization.

Mini European tour ahead of AI Act

Of the money the tech giant is offering this time around, around €1 million will be earmarked for non-profit organizations that help strengthen and grow social entrepreneurship in Sweden.

During his short stay, Pichai met with the country’s prime minister and visited the KTH Royal Institute of Technology to meet with students and professors.

Sweden currently holds the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union. Pichai’s visit to Stockholm preceded a meeting with European Commission deputy head Vera Jourova and EU industry leader Thierry Breton on Wednesday.

Breton is one of the driving forces behind the EU’s long-awaited AI law, a world first for far-reaching AI regulation. One of the greatest sources of contention — and certainly subject to much industry lobbying — is whether so-called generic AI, such as the technology behind ChatGPT or Google’s Bard, should be considered “risky.”

In conversation with the Swedish news center SVT on the day of his visit, Pichai stated that he believes AI is indeed too important not to regulate properly. “Governments, companies, academic universities, non-profit organizations and other stakeholders will certainly be involved,” said Google’s CEO.

However, he has some convincing in Brussels himself, adding: “These AI systems will be used for everything from recommending a nearby coffee shop to possibly recommending a health treatment for you. As you can imagine, these are very different applications. So where we could go wrong is to apply a high-risk assessment to all of these use cases.

WWill Pichai succeed in convincing the Commission? Then, just maybe, Bard will also be launched in Europe.