Ireland’s first master’s degree in AI driven by spectre of a skills shortage
From left: Paul Sweetman, director, Technology Ireland ICT Skillnet; Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys, TD; and Paul Healy, CEO of Skillnets. Image: Andres Poveda

Ireland’s first master’s degree in AI driven by spectre of a skills shortage

26 Jan 2018

Industry-driven master’s degree is a powerful statement of intent from Ireland, the AI island.

Ireland’s first master’s degree in artificial intelligence (AI) was launched this week in response to demand by industry for AI skills.

The new MSc in Artificial Intelligence aims to educate over 300 people within the next five years.

‘AI is an area of huge growth globally and is fundamentally important to IDA’s clients and their future plans’

The course will run over two years part-time and will be delivered primarily online with some intensive problem-based learning workshops taking place on the University of Limerick campus.

An integral part of the programme will be a fast-track 12-week online course – Introduction to AI – to be developed in collaboration with the Irish Centre for High End Computing which will build the foundational skills of participants to enable them to enter and complete the master’s programme.

A major AI ecosytem is taking root in Ireland

The master’s degree was an initiative spearheaded by Skillnets and IDA Ireland in response to the need for specialist AI skills.

The creation of the degree sparked the imagination of the tech industry in Ireland.

The design of the entire programme is being led by ICT companies under the aegis of Technology Ireland ICT Skillnet and University of Limerick. Companies that have been involved in developing the programme to date include: Accenture, Advanced Metadata, Analog, Arvato, Citibank, Ericsson, Fujitsu, GM, Google, IBM, Image-Vision, Microsoft, Movidius, Nokia Bell Labs, Pramerica, SAP, Storyful, Sytorus, Valeo and Zalando.

“Artificial intelligence will have a transformational effect on business and on society over the coming years. In supporting the skills needs of over 14,000 companies in Ireland, we consistently hear of both the opportunities and risks presented by AI,” explained the chief executive of Skillnets, Paul Healy.

“Although a thriving AI ecosystem is taking root in Ireland, we know that a significant skills shortage in AI is emerging which needs to be addressed. We see the launch of this master’s programme as a great opportunity to not only respond to the needs of business, but also to grow our economy by making Ireland a centre of excellence in artificial intelligence,” he added.

There are currently over 80,000 tech professionals working in Ireland, with over 8,000 more IT jobs forecast to be created this year.

Companies that have an AI presence established in Ireland include: Siemens, Zalando, SAP, HubSpot, Deutsche Bank, Amazon Web Services, Salesforce, Ericsson, Intel, Dell EMC, Microsoft, Fujitsu, Mastercard, Nokia Bell Labs, Huawei, LogoGrab and Soapbox Labs, to name but a few.

“AI is an area of huge growth globally and is fundamentally important to IDA’s clients and their future plans,” Leo Clancy, head of technology, consumer and business services at IDA Ireland explained.

“Ireland has a significant opportunity to build upon our record base of foreign direct investment through ensuring we have a skilled and capable workforce in this critical area. We welcome the announcement today by the Technology Ireland ICT Skillnet and the University of Limerick and commend both organisations on the initiative shown in making this happen.”

Skillnets awarded funding to Technology Ireland ICT Skillnet last year to develop this master’s in artificial intelligence through its Future Skills Needs Programme (FSNP).

“Design and development activity for AI systems is growing exponentially, constrained only by a skills demand. This presents both a problem and an opportunity for countries like Ireland,” said Paul Sweetman, director of Technology Ireland.

“By enthusiastically supporting this initiative, employers are placing Ireland at the forefront of the AI revolution. Investing in AI skills will produce a pipeline of highly capable experts for this strategically important sector and will have a positive impact on the Irish economy.”

John Kennedy
By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years. His interests include all things technological, music, movies, reading, history, gaming and losing the occasional game of poker.

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