Norway’s Telenor is investing in AI and IoT to help its country’s startups, as its head of research warned of the consequences if such R&D was left to US internet giants.

Working with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), and the SINTEF research institute, the operator will set up a lab focused on artificial intelligence and big data. The lab will be situated at NTNU in the city of Trondheim.

Telenor is also planning to launch a “dedicated, next-generation” Internet of Things (IoT) network across several Norwegian cities. Norwegian startups and students will get what the company describes as “cost-free” access to the IoT network so they can develop and test their products and services. The first pilot will be located in Oslo, in collaboration with StartupLab.

“We aim to stimulate productivity in Norway by developing new competencies and supporting the startup community,” says Sigve Brekke, president and CEO, Telenor Group.

Meanwhile, a warning was sounded by Bjorn-Taale Sandberg, head of Telenor Research: “With every day that passes, with every search in Google, purchase in Amazon or ‘Like’ on Facebook, the AI of a handful of dominant players make it increasingly less interesting for consumers to test out alternatives.”

“There is a real risk that the most fundamental technology of the 21st century will be dominated by a few large companies, unless we take the necessary steps,” he added.

By launching the AI Lab at NTNU and backing local startups, Telenor was acting as a counterbalance, he said.

The size of Telenor’s backing for the two initiatives over five years is set at NOK50 million-plus ($6 million), perhaps not a massive sum to roll back US dominance.