EIB sees up to 10 bln euro investment shortfall in AI and blockchain

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Flags are seen behind the logo of the European Investment Bank pictured in the city of Luxembourg, Luxembourg, March 25, 2017. Reuters/Eric Vidal

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BRUSSELS, June 1 (Reuters) - The European Union's attempts to catch China and the United States in artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies are set to be hobbled by an investment shortfall of as much as 10 billion euros ($12 billion) annually, the European Investment Bank (EIB) said on Tuesday.

The EIB, the EU's lending arm, said while the United States and China together account for more than 80% of the 25 billion euros of annual equity investments in both technologies, the 27-country bloc contributed just 1.75 billion euros or 7% of the total.

It cited the importance of both technologies and their potential to reinvent sectors hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as financial services, healthcare and business intelligence, and boost the bloc's economic resilience.

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"Companies and governments in Europe are substantially underinvesting in AI and blockchain compared to other leading regions and it has become clear that the European Union struggles to translate its scientific excellence into business application and economic success," the bank said in a report.

It estimated an annual investment gap of between 5 and 10 billion euros in both technologies.

The EIB said access to finance may become more challenging in the short run as a result of market conditions, potentially widening the investment gap.

"EU and member state support schemes could plug part of the gap, but private markets will clearly need to contribute the balance," the bank said.

It cited several factors for the EU's investment shortfall, among them European funds' limited appetite due to high upfront investment needs, lack of knowledge and the limited specialisation of EU venture capital funds in both technologies.

($1 = 0.8178 euros)

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Reporting by Foo Yun Chee Editing by David Holmes

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