Northern Ireland has the potential to become a leading artificial intelligence (AI) testing center in the UK, as stated by The Software Alliance, a group representing the software industry. Kainos, an IT company based in Belfast, is investing £10m in advancing the use of generative AI within its business. The head of The Software Alliance, David Crozier, expects other companies in Northern Ireland to follow suit due to the region’s strong track record in developing enterprise software solutions.
The Cyber AI-hub at Queen’s University Belfast facilitates research and development for AI-enabled cybersecurity projects. Kainos, which operates across more than 20 countries, has already been involved in AI projects for organizations like the United Nations, the Ministry of Defence, and the National Crime Agency. Russell Sloan, Kainos’ incoming CEO, emphasizes the importance of investing in the skills of their 1,000+ staff to leverage generative AI for the benefit of their customers.
The advent of AI and its ability to answer complex questions in a human-like manner, as demonstrated by chatbot ChatGPT, has led to a surge of interest in the field. The computational power possessed by AI systems has raised concerns among some due to its implications.
However, Mr. Sloan believes that AI will not eliminate jobs but rather reduce mundane tasks, allowing individuals to focus on higher-value work. He also acknowledges the need to ensure security, ethics, and unbiased implementation and utilization of AI.
The UK is set to host a global AI summit in November, bringing together key countries, leading tech companies, and researchers to address the significant risks associated with AI and establish safety measures. With 50,000 individuals employed in the sector and an estimated value of £3.7bn to the economy, the UK aims to push boundaries and become a worldwide center of AI excellence.
Simon Whittaker, the CEO of Northern Ireland cyber-security firm Vertical Structure, highlights the significant investment made by Kainos as a testament to their commitment towards AI. While many local employers in Northern Ireland already develop and utilize AI technologies, their efforts often go unnoticed. Responsible use of AI involves empowering users while ensuring that individuals remain in control of the technology’s output.
Enzai, a Belfast-based firm, offers a governance platform that helps users manage and understand AI risks. This platform has gained clients across various countries, including the US and India. Ryan Donnelly, the co-founder of Enzai, believes that Northern Ireland has the potential to become an AI center but must adapt quickly to the fast-paced advancements of the technology. As the power of AI increases, companies must proactively manage the accompanying risks.
David Crozier emphasizes the importance of education in embracing AI opportunities. While AI may not be a panacea, he believes it will create pathways to new possibilities. Comparing the emergence of AI to inventions such as the printing press and the steam engine, he recognizes the potential for building new tools and solutions. Northern Ireland, with its strong education system, is well-positioned to harness the benefits of AI and ride the next wave of technological advancement.