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The scope of the OpenLab program is largely determined by the AI, Cloud & Edge sector’s requirements as well as the specific European context.
In general terms, development and implementation of new (open) standards is usually very complex, time consuming to organise and test, and costly to execute. With the expected level of AI standardisation coming from European initiatives e.g. AI4EU, Gaia-X, and EBRAINS, activities as training, testing and development can best be shared. Because open standards have proven to provide a boost to new business opportunities and technological innovation, it is logical that leading industry players, knowledge institutes and european initiatives collaborate. As such the required comprehensive, safe and open ecosystem/environment does not yet exist, the Eclipse Foundation has taken the first step towards such an AI, Cloud & Edge OpenLab.
As a starting point, the scope of the OpenLab program - in order to be relevant to all stakeholders - will address three principle areas of interest:
- Improve adoption of european standards for interoperability and portability
- The OpenLab intends to collaborate with existing initiatives e.g. Gaia-X, AI4EU, EBRAINS, as guiding programs on behalf of the European Commission digital strategy. Thus enabling incorporation of new European standards by the AI sector.
- The OpenLab provides its members the open collaborative platform where stakeholders test new standards and develop new approaches and open source (reference) implementations to comply with new standards. WIth the OpenLab as the European competency centre for AI Open Source, facilitated by the Eclipse Foundation with its long standing track record in the field.
- Address privacy, ethics and security concerns
- These are major items on the EC digital agenda to be addressed industry wide
- The open source approach and the collaborative environment provided by the OpenLab will enable specific audit services to be developed and guaranteed in the context of the OpenLab
- Avoidance of vendor lock-in and enabling of technology lock-out
- This necessitates open source and standards, which best can be provided through a vendor neutral environment where all players can meet, collaborate and share information, and contribute technology in a safe and open environment (in terms of antitrust, legal, code of conduct)
- The OpenLab can guarantee such an environment through proper proven open principles, governance and (specification a.o.) processes.
- Fragmentation within the industry
- The emerging AI sector is still heavily siloed in terms of technologies, organisations and solutions
- A vendor neutral common ground as provided by the OpenLab will facilitate and promote synchronous releases, federation of technologies, complementary solutions.
- Speed of innovation
- This requires permissionless open innovation principles applied to the development, test and implementation cycle
- The open source nature of the OpenLab practices and principles enable shorter time to market, as a central place where the ecosystem can freely access platforms and testbeds to develop, test and implement AI & Cloud solutions
- Lack of collaboration between education, research and industry
- Many new innovations in the AI, Cloud & Edge field derive from universities and research institutes. On one hand, these organisations require validation through industry players eg. start-ups, SME’s and large industry players. On the other hand they contribute heavily to the capacity building of the AI work force.
- The OpenLab will provide a comprehensive ecosystem and mix of companies, research institutes to enable transfer of technologies and expertise. Furthermore items such as provision of performance benchmarks and reproducibility can be addressed.
Principle foundations of the initiative
- This OpenLab is envisioned to be the platform to conduct AI, Cloud & Edge development, tests and (reference) implementations, based on existing open standards and the standards as set by various EU initiatives (e.g. AI4EU and Gaia-X) with an international reach.
- Topics such as governance, collaboration, processes re communication and specification will follow the guiding principles of open source, as promoted by the Eclipse Foundation.
- Membership of the initiative is open to all AI industry stakeholders under the premise they adhere to its bylaws.
- Specifications, technology and projects brought to and/or developed in the OpenLab will be distributed under the EPL 2.0 license or possibly MIT, Apache or BSD.
Consequences for future development of the OpenLab
This means it does not:
- Set standards
- Provide AI products
This means it can/must do:
- Provision of, but not necessarily restricted to, specifications, testbeds, reference implementations, open APIs, Cloud infrastructure, calibrated data-sets
- Member participation through contribution of technology and/or projects and/or funding and/or in kind services e.g. manpower, cloud capacity.
- Safeguard sustainability of operations through member contributions and proper allocation of resources
- Promote and build the ecosystem of organisations and community of developers
Implications for implementation
- A set of bylaws or Charter needs to be established.
- An initial program and projects need to be designed.