The study by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation assessed AI using 30 separate metrics including human talent, research activity, commercial development and investment in hardware and software.
The United States leads, with an overall score of 44.6 points on a 100-point scale, followed by China with 32 and the European Union with 23.3, the report based on 2020 data found.
The researchers found the US leading in key areas such as investment in startups and research and development funding.
But China has made strides in several areas and last year had more of the world’s 500 most powerful supercomputers than any other nation — 214, compared with 113 for the US and 91 for the EU.
“The Chinese government has made AI a top priority and the results are showing,” said Daniel Castro, director of the think tank’s Center for Data Innovation and lead author of the report.
“The United States and European Union need to pay attention to what China is doing and respond, because nations that lead in the development and use of AI will shape its future and significantly improve their economic competitiveness, while those that fall behind risk losing competitiveness in key industries.”
The EU lagged notably in venture capital and private equity funding, while faring better in terms of research papers published.
The report found China published some 24,929 AI research papers in 2018, the latest year for which data was available, to 20,418 for the European Union and 16,233 for the United States.
But it said that “average US research quality is still higher than that of China and the European Union.”
The survey also concluded that the United States “is still the world leader in designing chips for AI systems.”
To remain competitive, the report said, Europe needs to boost research tax incentives, and expand public research institutes working on AI.
For the United States to maintain its lead, it must boost support for AI research and deployment, and step up efforts to develop AI talent domestically while attracting top talent from around the world.