Mate Rimac Says Croatia Focuses Too Much on EU Money Bag

As Novac/Filip Pavic writes on the 30th of June, 2020, Mate Rimac, Croatian entrepreneur and the owner of the well known Rimac Automobili discussed investments and Croatia's apparent obsession with EU funds at a recent virtual forum.

''We’re all looking at this European bag of money and trying to grab a bit of it, and that’s a problem. I think we expect too much from EU funds and that we invest too much time and effort in withdrawing that money, instead of turning to building our own businesses and seeking private investment,'' said Mate Rimac at the first virtual "European Forum on artificial intelligence'' which was held on Tuesday.

The forum, organised by the Croatian Artificial Intelligence Association, Cro AI, on the last day of Croatia's EU presidency, in cooperation with partners KI Bundesverband from Germany and France HUB IA from France, addressed the recovery of the European economy with the use of innovative technologies, with a particular emphasis on artificial intelligence.

In addition to Mate Rimac, European technology company owners Cyril Kabbara, the co-founder of the French company Shark Robotics, Frenchman Benjamin Benharrosh, the co-founder of the Delair drone company from California and Anthony Whelan, the digital technology consultant of the European Commission, participated.

The introductory speeches, expressing full support for the initiative and the hope that the EU will become a leader in trends in artificial intelligence, were given by Croatian President Zoran Milanovic and Margrethe Vestager, Vice President of the European Commission.

In the discussion, which was mostly about European regulations in regard to new technologies and artificial intelligence, as well as the possibility of financing such businesses from EU funds, Anthony Whelan, one of the main advisers to the EC's president, Ursula von der Leyen, said that European innovators are available and have programs like Digital Europe that provided 2.3 billion euros for AI, and Horizon 2020 which provided 2.7 billion euros for new technologies. Now, there is a new Next Generation programme worth 750 billion euros, which aims to develop a green and digital economy.

Mate Rimac withdrew several million...

When asked how much he withdrew from such funds and programmes, Mate Rimac answered that in more than ten years of doing business, he received about 4.5 million euros, some were state incentives, some were European funds, but that this is nothing compared to 17 million euros in taxes he paid and the 100 million euros he invested in research and development. By the way, Mate Rimac has made 150 million euros in investments in his business in the last year from the car companies Porsche, Hyundai and Kia.

Benjamin Benharrosh, of Delair, a company that makes and develops drone management software, acknowledged that he hasn't received any funding from the funds so far, nor has Cyril Kabbara, whose robot company Shark Robotics became famous for last year's firefighting at the Notre Dame Cathedral.

As far as European artificial intelligence regulations are concerned, all of the panelists agreed that these regulations are too slow and don't follow the pace at which new technological trends are emerging. Whelan acknowledged the excessive bureaucracy, but stressed that the EU legal framework is stable and predictable.

Mate Rimac countered that China's regulation of artificial intelligence is much better than Europe's, and they're currently technology leaders. As for the potential of artificial intelligence in economic recovery, Rimac was clear - we need a regulatory framework for research and the testing of autonomous vehicles.

''For the last three years, Rimac Automobili has had an artificial intelligence department that primarily serves us to research autonomous driving. Clearly, once autonomous driving becomes the rule, and we’re close, cars won’t need a steering wheel, brakes, or exact window specifications. The situation today is such that, given that the regulations stipulate that the car must have all these components, we can't make or test an autonomous car that doesn't meet these conditions,'' explained Mate Rimac.

He reiterated the old proposal that a European country (perhaps Croatia) could create a national regulatory framework for research and the testing of autonomous vehicles. This, he says, would make it a global "playground" for such technology and as such attract companies and talent.

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