Ireland’s first Masters in Artificial Intelligence (AI) was launched in Dublin today in response to a growing demand by industry for AI skills in Ireland. The programme, which will run in University of Limerick from this September 2018, was launched this morning by the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys (TD) at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

This new innovative course will include a fast-track Introductory Course to be developed in collaboration with the Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC), Ireland’s national centre for HPC. The design of the entire programme will be led by ICT companies under the aegis of Technology Ireland ICT Skillnet and the 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.

Speaking at the launch of the Masters today, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD said:

“I welcome this new programme that will be delivered by the University of Limerick with the Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC). Artificial Intelligence is shaping a new reality for Irish businesses, creating exciting new opportunities for innovation across all industries. To keep pace with these fast-changing technologies, it’s essential we have a workforce with the skills needed to drive this digital revolution.”

Skillnets, the national agency working with businesses to address their current and future skills needs, collaborated with IDA Ireland to develop this leading-edge programme in order to address the growing need for Artificial Intelligence skills in Ireland.

“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”, said Chief Executive of Skillnets, Paul Healy.

“Although a thriving AI ecosystem is taking root in Ireland, we know that a significant skills shortage in Artificial Intelligence 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 Artificial Intelligence 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.

Leo Clancy, Head of Technology, Consumer & Business Services at IDA Ireland said:

“AI is an area of huge growth globally and is fundamentally important to IDA’s clients and their future plans. 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 Masters in Artificial Intelligence through its Future Skills Needs Programme (FSNP). The key focus of this programme is to facilitate collaborations between enterprise, academic institutions and industry training providers to develop innovative new programmes that specifically address the future skills needs of businesses and emerging skills gaps within growth sectors. Other innovative programmes developed include; Ireland’s first ever Master’s in both DevOps and IT Architecture and a Master’s programme in Cyber Security.

Paul Sweetman, Director, Technology Ireland said:

“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. 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.”

The new MSc in Artificial Intelligence aims to educate over 300 people within the next five years. The course will run over two-years part-time and will be delivered primarily online with some intensive Problem Based Learning (PBL) workshops taking place at 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 Masters programme.

The programme is aimed at (a) existing information technology professionals, (b) those migrating from associated disciplines and (c) appropriately qualified recent graduates (new entrants) who are interested in pursuing a career in this field.

Dr Ann Ledwith, Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies, University of Limerick said:

“The University of Limerick recognises the importance of ICT skills in maintaining and growing the Irish economy; nowhere is this more apparent than in AI. We are delighted to be partnering with Technology Ireland ICT Skillnet on this new Master’s programme. We believe that our technical expertise along with our ability to collaborate with external partners and engage flexibly with students will ensure that this programme will produce the motivated and skilled engineers necessary for sustaining the growth of the AI sector in Ireland.”

Applications for the first 60 participants for the course will begin in late Spring – early Summer 2018. For further information go to https://www.ictskillnet.ie/training/launch-national-msc-artificial-intelligence/

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