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Ulysseus’ initiative to close the AI skills gap in European businesses

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) increasingly reshapes the business landscape, the ability of businesses to adopt AI solutions is becoming a crucial factor in distinguishing global market leaders. This opens new opportunities for higher educational institutions in providing education and training.


Johanna Koskinen

development officer, Ulysseus
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Published : 07.03.2024

Haaga-Helia is launching its first joint degree within the Ulysseus European University. The programme is called the Joint European Master’s Degree in AI for Business Transformation (UlysseusAI in short). It is coordinated by Haaga-Helia UAS in collaboration and jointly offered with Ulysseus partners.

The UlysseusAI Master’s programme responds to the changing needs of European businesses and society in AI adoption.

Benefits and challenges of AI for European businesses

AI is introducing new possibilities for Europe, its businesses and educational world. AI enables the development of new products and services in sectors where European companies already have a strong position, e.g. green and circular economy, machinery, farming, healthcare, fashion and tourism. Moreover, AI offers new possibilities to reduce costs in education and public transport, increase energy efficiency and improve the sustainability of products, thus, contributes in achieving the goals of the EU Green Deal. (European Commission 2019; 2020a.)

EU faces significant risks if AI is either underused or overused: underuse may lead to missed opportunities and competitiveness, while overuse may lead to using AI for unsuitable tasks (European Parliament 2020). To maximize AI’s potential, not only do businesses need to adapt with foresight and strategy to stay at the forefront of innovation, but also navigate within a changing framework of AI regulations and ethical standards. Especially the introduction of the EU AI Act aiming to make AI ethically founded and human centric, emphasizes this (European Commission 2021).

European businesses are in a global race against major tech hubs in the United States and China, where there are different regulatory landscapes and levels of investment in AI. European businesses must find ways to remain competitive, fostering environments that encourage innovation and investment in AI technologies.

Increasing skills and knowledge in Europe is imperative

According to research conducted by the European Commission (2020b), 42 % of businesses presently employ at least one AI technology, 25 % employ at least two, and 18 % intend to do so in the following two years. Despite greater access to AI, companies struggle to leverage it mainly due to a skills shortage (Denicolai, Zucchella & Magnani 2021).

The 2023 AI Skills Needs Analysis report (Arisa 2023) sheds light on the most needed AI roles and skills in Europe and emphasises that also policy- and decision-makers rely on AI advisors that combine deeper AI knowledge and skills with expertise in policy or business. The report also brings out that each AI professional role needs a set of skills on transversal topics (e.g., ethics, security), soft skills (e.g., problem-solving), and skills on functioning in organisations.

The clear and increasing demand for highly qualified talents in AI and related fields emphasizes the need for education addressing the skills gap.

UlysseusAI responding to business and societal needs

As Europe aims to be at the forefront of AI development, the introduction of the Ulysseus’ AI for Business Transformation Master’s programme marks a crucial step towards addressing the evolving needs of business and society in Europe.

The new programme is set to launch in January 2025. By equipping students with both technical and business skills, taking into account the ethics, responsibility and sustainability, Ulysseus aims to empower European businesses to thrive in the global AI race, fostering innovation and responsible growth. Graduates of the programme will be poised for leadership roles, equipped for large-scale AI projects, innovation, and shaping AI discourse.

The author is currently conducting her PhD on the impact of AI on SME internationalisation at the level of entrepreneurial ecosystems. The thesis aims to increase the understanding of how AI may be utilized to support SME internationalisation, and how entrepreneurial ecosystems, including universities, may support SMEs in implementing AI.


Arisa. 2023. Europe’s Most Needed AI Skills and Roles. Retrieved on 13.02.2024.

Denicolai, S., Zucchella, A., & Magnani, G. 2021. Internationalization, digitalization, and sustainability: Are SMEs ready? A survey on synergies and substituting effects among growth paths. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 166.

European Commission. 2019. The European Green deal. Retrieved on 13.02.2024.

European Commission. 2021. EU AI Act. Retrieved on 09.02.2024.

European Parliament. 2020. Artificial intelligence: threats and opportunities. Retrieved on 13.02.2024.

Editing: Marianne Wegmüller

Picture: Haaga-Helia