Skip to content

Report: U.S. Leads in Global AI Race while China Is Closing the Gap

On January 25, The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a Washington DC based think tank on technological innovation and public policy, issued a report titled, “Who Is Winning the AI Race: China, the EU, or the United States? — 2021 Update”

“This report examines the progress that China, the European Union, and the United States have made in AI relative to each other in recent years and provides an update on a report released on their comparative rankings from 2019. It found that the United States still holds a substantial overall lead, but that China has continued to reduce the gap in some important areas. In addition, the EU continues to fall behind.”

“This report measures the progress each region has since made in AI by using new data to update 15 of the metrics and it adds 1 new metric. It finds that the United States still leads, with 44.6 points, followed by China with 32.0 and the European Union with 23.3.”

The U.S. “has an unmatched number of AI start-ups, which received $8 billion more in venture capital and private equity funding than did China in 2019.” “In 2019, U.S. software and computer services firms still spent three times more on R&D than did China and the European Union combined. Furthermore, average U.S. research quality is still higher than that of China and the European Union. Lastly, despite China’s growing attempts to reduce its reliance on U.S. semiconductors, the United States is still the world leader in designing chips for AI systems.”

“China’s AI capabilities relative to the European Union and the United States have improved in several ways. First, China has surpassed the EU as the world leader in AI publication. Second, the quality of its AI research has generally trended upward year to year. Third, its software and computer services firms have increased their R&D spending. Fourth, China now has nearly twice as many supercomputers ranked in the top 500 for performance as the United States. The United States led in this indicator as recently as 2017. Finally, China likely continues to lead in the amount of data generated. Overall, however, China has not significantly reduced the gap in AI between itself and the United States, but its trend of consistent progress could eventually evaporate the U.S. lead.”

“The European Union has fallen further behind the United States in terms of the number of funding deals, the acquisition of AI firms, and AI firms that have raised at least $1 million in funding since our last report. In addition, EU software and computer services firms have failed to close the gap between themselves and U.S. firms in R&D spending. The United Kingdom’s departure from the bloc will also diminish EU AI capabilities, both in absolute terms and on a per-capita basis.”

Source: Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.