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Northern Ireland could be Centre of Excellence in Artificial Intelligence

More than 400 business leaders and technology experts will hear today that Northern Ireland can become a centre of excellence in Artificial Intelligence. 

A report by The Alan Turing Institute, commissioned by MATRIX, says that Northern Ireland has sufficient capability, skills and experience to develop its own Artificial Intelligence Centre of Excellence. 

‘AI Con’, the first all-island artificial intelligence conference is being held at the Europa Hotel in Belfast, bringing together business leaders with technology experts who will discuss how AI can transform the business landscape for the better and generate growth in the regional economy. 

The ‘Artificial Intelligence Research in Northern Ireland Report 2019’ acknowledges high levels of commercial and academic potential and says this should be expanded in collaboration with public sector agencies and research institutions. 

Rapid growth of the AI sector in Northern Ireland has led the local AI community to establish this landmark conference that aims to drive forward the ambitions outlined in the report. 

The community here now has more than 1,000 active members and represents around 150 companies. 

Growth in the fintech and technology sectors in Northern Ireland have led to many global organisations setting up bases in Belfast, with over 150 full time people employed in AI research at both Queen’s and Ulster University, and more than 100 companies here working in the sector. 

Director of Innovation at Kainos and Lead AI Con Curator, Tom Gray said: “The report is a promising indicator of the direction Northern Ireland is headed in terms of AI development and application. A Centre of Excellence would establish Northern Ireland as a world leader in this field and allow us to compete on a global scale and attract investment in our local companies.” 

“’AI Con’ is the first practical step that the AI community is taking to build the foundations of a Centre of Excellence. The conference allows us to showcase our abilities in AI to government agencies and business leaders. 

“To have this report and backing from The Alan Turing Institute validates our work and shows this ambition can become a reality given the right strategy and support from key decision and policy-makers.” 

Chair of MATRIX, Dr Robert Grundy added: “The ‘Artificial Intelligence Research in Northern Ireland Report 2019’ indicates that there is serious potential for an AI Centre of Excellence to be based in Northern Ireland. 

“AI is a fast-evolving specialism in the science and technology sector and one where we see huge potential. As we become accustomed to the ever changing and rapid development of new technologies, our economy will depend on it more and more. With strong research commitments to AI in both Queen’s and Ulster Universities, we will see it become a much-needed commodity in the Northern Ireland economy. 

“The report states that AI will impact upon five of Northern Ireland major industries; Fintech, Manufacturing, Public Services, Agriculture, and Life and Health Sciences. This shows that the contribution of a centre of excellence could be far reaching across the region. 

“MATRIX NI welcomes the establishment of ‘AI Con’ as a key proactive step by the AI community here in Northern Ireland to take the report we have commissioned and begin to make its ambitions a reality. Engagement with key business leaders and organisations as part of this conference is an essential part of that.”