Zagreb, 14 October 2021 – AI2FUTURE conference in Kraš Auditorium for two days, 14 and 15.10, brings together the Croatian AI community of companies and startups that develop products, services and solutions based on artificial intelligence. The annual gathering of the community is also the annual conference of the CroAI association, which presented the research of the AI scene in Croatia, AI Landscape 2.0. The goal of the association is to position Croatia as the leading AI nation on the global map. Among the key topics discussed was the position of artificial intelligence as a key strategic development determinant and the need to adopt regulations for the national AI Sandbox. The program of the second day will deal with successful business-technological examples.
In the introductory lecture on the first day, Mislav Malenica, President of the CroAI Association, commented on the activities of the association whose goal is to gather the community, create AI projects and build a better future. pointed out that in the last year the number of members of the association has grown to 215 members. The association has carried out many activities; for example, more than 30,000 people in Croatia took Elements of AI, the world’s best online course in computer science. Together with Germany and France, the Croatian association also participated in the founding of the European AI Forum, an annual gathering of European entrepreneurs, academics and politicians. Marijana Šarolić Robić (CroAI) presented the latest initiative of the association – the establishment of Adria AI Think Thank, which will bring together experts from various industries and fields and through dialogue to detect key topics related to artificial intelligence and its use for society. Dejan Iličić, director of the Development Agency of the City of Lipik, presented the AI Center Lipik, which is funded by the European Union and is funded by the European Union. Lipik intends to become a center for the development of artificial intelligence in Croatia and to open an AI campus in the future. Daniel Avdagič (AV Living Lab) spoke about the activities of the Slovenian laboratory that connects numerous industries, advanced technologies, data, content and people into one ecosystem with physical and digital infrastructure for the development of revolutionary solutions for the future of mobility.
Tomislav Vračić (Microsoft) presented to the participants the concept of Data Driven Nation applied by the Baltic countries. The concept is based on three principles: data democracy and public accessibility, data should enable citizen engagement and data-based innovation. Latvia has made data available through the Latvian open data portal and turned it into the foundation of innovative solutions, which has attracted many investors. For example, in 2016, Microsoft, in collaboration with the University of Latvia, opened the Microsoft Innovation Center, and Roche invested in a big data pilot project on gene analysis. Estonia has also focused on innovation, and the Government’s initiative to make data publicly available has resulted in more than 2,500 eGovernment services for citizens. Milly Doolan (CroAI and Euronavigator) presented the contribution of CroAI AI to the act of the European Commission.
During the panel discussion, Jan Štedul (CroAI) moderated a conversation with Goran Dautović (Project 3 Mobility – Rimac), Martina Dragičević (A1), Bojan Jerbić (FSB), Mislav Malenica (CroAI) and Ivana Vukov (Advisor to the Prime Minister). ). They discussed how to create a national AI sandbox, a secure environment for the development and application of artificial intelligence, which is flexible enough to create new startups and globally competitive solutions. All actors agreed that Croatia urgently needs a plan and that there is an interest of all stakeholders involved, from the Government and the academic community to business, to adopt the necessary regulations for Sandbox. It is important that the regulation is based on an understanding of technology and that it provides a legal framework that will not stifle, but encourage innovation.
Heidi Chenan (CroAI) presented AI Landscape 2.0. Croatia is just experiencing an AI boom – in 2020, 72 startups developed solutions based on artificial intelligence, and in 2021 we reached the number of 115 startups. Last year, startups earned more than 3.5 billion kuna, while this year the amount of investments exceeded 5 billion kuna. Users are mostly found in the IT sector, telecommunications, e-commerce and banking. 65% of products, services and solutions are placed on the markets of the European Union, followed by North America with 27% and Central and Eastern Europe with 24% share. More than 60% of the capital is domestic capital, while the share of foreign capital is 11%, and 27% have mixed sources of financing. Private capital predominates (81%), and the Croatian AI scene bases its connection with foreign countries mostly on networking (associations, clusters) and international cooperation. Compared to 2020, the share of women founders of startups is growing (from 15% to 17% in 2021), and women are an integral part of the AI team in 50% of respondents. As a challenge, startups point out that it is difficult for them to find AI experts (64.52%), AI sellers (61.29%) and employees abroad (50%).
In 92% of cases, talent is found through networking, and more than half rely on job advertisements (53%) and universities (52%). There is significant room for improving collaboration with universities and academia because in the survey, 42% of startups surveyed said they do not collaborate with academia. After Zagreb, most startups are based in Split, Lipik, Osijek and Rijeka.
Artificial intelligence has become an area of strategic importance and a key driver of economic development and can provide solutions to many societal challenges, but it is necessary to build an ecosystem that will support development. At the panel discussion, Krešimir Žmak (Infobip), Ratko Mutavdžić (Microsoft), Davor Runje (CISEX) and Damir Sabol (Photomath) discussed how to lay a stronger foundation for cooperation between all key stakeholders – AI community, academia and the state – in building it. ecosystem. They agreed that the role of leading domestic companies, in addition to the placement of top products, is to educate people and that it is necessary to strengthen cooperation with academia and universities in the form of research projects. They also pointed out that the challenge of hiring domestic talent became even greater during the pandemic as a large number of domestic AI experts took advantage of the opportunity to work remotely for foreign companies.
During the first day of the program, Croatian AI League awards were presented. The topic was AI – support for the protection and research of bottlenose dolphins in the Adriatic, and the task was to create an algorithm that will automatically recognize and identify dolphins. The best students – participants were awarded gold medals. As part of the conference, a CroAI pitch was held, at which selected TOP 10 AI startups from Croatia and the region were presented. The best team was chosen by a jury composed of investors, representatives of European venture capital funds, WC funds, which combined have hundreds of millions of euros of investment capital. The winners are Farseer and Cidrani with the same number of points, and the third place went to Ascalia.
The conference is supported in partnership by A1 and Photomath as TOP partners and Ascalia, BonsAI, Infobip, Megatrend, Business Intelligence, Robotiq and TIS.