Czech Republic plans AI university

The Czech government has unveiled plans to establish a €55m fund of funds to support three independent venture capital (VC) firms, including a fund that will focus exclusively on university spinouts in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). Managed by the European Investment Fund (EIF), the pilot project will set aside €15m for the AI technology transfer fund. The initiative aims to create a better environment for AI scientists to commercialise their research while also encouraging cooperation with the wider AI research ecosystem in Europe.

According to Atomico and Sifted analysis, at least 14 European countries have a state fund backing local VCs, as policymakers attempt to speed up startup creation. The advantage of a fund model for governments is that it doesn’t require the same expertise needed to back individual startups. However, these funds have also faced criticism from local VCs. Investment typically comes with the stipulation that a certain amount of the fund will be invested in the local ecosystem, which can hamper the ability of managers to build pan-European investment companies.

The AI spinout fund will also require investment in early-stage startups that have links with the Czech Republic, such as the participation of at least one Czech university or scientist in the research. While the final target size of the fund has not yet been decided, the EIF spokesperson suggested it would end up somewhere between €20-40m. Other private investors and resources from the EIF could potentially complement the Czech government’s contribution.

The Czech government’s broader AI initiative also includes plans to create an “AI regulatory sandbox” to provide startups with a safe regulatory space to test their products and services. The initiative also aims to establish support and best practices for scientists to commercialise IP in a way that benefits both universities and researchers. The government says these measures would represent Europe’s first framework to comprehensively support tech transfers in AI.

The Czech Republic is known for its talented researchers and IT specialists, but it lags behind western Europe in turning science into business. Jan Klesla, the ministerial advisor responsible for the project, said that the initiative aims to solve some of the challenges that still exist with technology transfer in the country, including legal hurdles to transferring IP into private companies, especially in the AI sector. The government hopes to build a bridge of trust between universities and VCs by solving these issues. The official agreement between the ministry and the EIF is expected to be signed on March 9, 2023..

Pan Finance is a print journal and news website providing worldwide intelligence on finance, economics and global commerce. Known for our in-depth analysis and opinion pieces from esteemed academics and celebrated professionals; our readership consists of senior decision makers from across the globe.

Contact us