What artificial intelligence ("AI")/Big Data/Machine Learning ("ML") trends are you seeing in your jurisdiction? How has COVID-19 affected these trends, if at all?

Ireland is home to a vibrant open AI ecosystem, adopting the tagline "AI Island". Its reputation as the "Silicon Valley of Europe", its educated workforce, low corporation tax of 12.5%, R&D tax credits of 25%, and a 6.25% preferential tax rate on income derived from qualifying intellectual property (through the so-called "knowledge development box") ensure that Ireland is an attractive hub for AI investment. The AI ecosystem is composed of well-known corporations basing AI R&D and hubs in Ireland, home-grown AI companies attracting the interest of major investors and existing technology companies adding new skillsets and new products to their existing range. Ireland's leaders in AI include IBM, Movidius, Accenture, Veritas, Xilinx and Nuritas. These leaders are complemented by the AI presence of other multinationals in Ireland, including Siemens, SAR, amazon web services, Deutsche Bank, Fujitsu, Salesforce, Huawei, Dell, Intel, Mastercard and Cisco.

The COVID-19 pandemic rapidly accelerated the rate of technology adoption and innovation in Ireland. Up until that point, the use of AI was mainly focused on automating tasks. The potential for AI to have a greater impact across all sectors from fintech, medical diagnostics, entertainment/gaming and transportation has come more to the fore in response to the pandemic.

In 2020, Nuritas, an Irish company that uses artificial intelligence and genomics to produce healthier food, began to use its AI technology to help identify therapeutic peptides that might help those diagnosed with COVID-19. Nuritas has received a €30 million facility in late 2018 from the European Investment Bank and previously raised €16.8 million in a Series A round led by Cultivian Sandbox Ventures of Chicago.

The Centre for Applied Data Analytics Research ("CeADAR") is Ireland's national centre for Applied AI and Data Analytics. Its work focuses on developing tools, techniques and technologies that enable more people, organisations and industries to use analytics and AI for better decisionmaking, unlocking hidden insights and sustained competitive advantage. In 2020, this included offering help to businesses, government agencies and charities with AI projects aimed at tackling the spread of COVID-19 and making its portfolio of technology demonstrator projects freely available to license for tackling COVID-19. It also acquired its first supercomputer, giving it the capability to provide a powerful data science computer platform as a shared resource to its 90 industry members and for collaborative projects at national and European level.

Dublin is the home to IBM Research Europe, which assists with research on AI Security. IBM Ireland has a particular focus on the Watson AI platform. In December 2020, a County Council in Dublin partnered with IBM to develop a virtual agent to assist with answering common questions from the public about COVID-19. Based on the IBM Watson Assistant, the "COVID-19 Assistant" provides answers in English and Irish through the council's website.

Microsoft Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland ("SFI") announced the co-funding of a climate change project called Terrain-AI. The project will focus on improving the understanding of the impact of human activity on land use and how it relates to climate change. It will build AI models to inform more effective and sustainable management practices, leading to significant carbon reduction.

The challenges of AI were brought to the fore when a study by a researcher from Lero, the SFI Research Centre for Software and University College Dublin's Complex Software Lab resulted in the withdrawal of an 80-million image library that had been used to train AI and ML systems. The research found that the images in academic datasets, used to develop AI systems and applications, were contaminated with racist, misogynistic and other unacceptable and offensive labels and slurs.

How are companies maximising their use of data for ML and other applications?

Before the pandemic, Ireland had been slower on average than its European counterparts to adopt AI in business. In a survey published by Microsoft and Ernst Young at the end of 2018, just 40% of Irish companies expected AI to have a high impact on their core business, as opposed to an average of 65% across the rest of Europe.

COVID-19, however, seems to have had a galvanising effect on businesses' attitudes to AI in Ireland. With the en masse transition to remote working in many sectors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many Irish businesses seem to be rethinking their use of AI. In Expleo's Business Transformation Index 2021 Report, which surveyed 200 businesses and IT leaders, it is projected that two-thirds of businesses in Ireland will be using AI or ML by 2023. This is a significant increase from the 22% of businesses who currently use such technology. This change is directly linked to the pandemic, as 40% of businesses state that they automated more processes as a result of the pandemic. An additional 17% believed that automation could help reduce backlogs caused by COVID-19.

What is the government view with respect to the adoption of AI?

The Irish Government is supportive of the development, adoption and use of AI and is positioning Ireland as an international leader in the field. This is reflected in Ireland's membership of the Digital 9+ – those countries in Northern Europe ranked by the EU's Digital Economy and Society Index ("DESI") as being ahead of their peers in the use of robotics, ML and AI and ranking within the DESI.

There are two state agencies promoting AI in Ireland. Firstly, the Industrial Development Authority ("IDA") is responsible for securing foreign direct investment into Ireland and highlights Ireland's AI capabilities as part of that brief. Enterprise Ireland ("EI") is the government organisation responsible for the development and growth of Irish enterprises in world markets. It works in partnership with Irish enterprises to help them start, grow, innovate and win export sales in global markets.

The Technology Centre Programme is a joint initiative between both the IDA and EI to facilitate Irish companies and foreign multi-nationals working together on market-focused strategic research and development projects in collaboration with research institutions. This led to the establishment of CeADAR (see above). Insight, Connect, Lero, ICHEC, the Tyndall National Institute and ADAPT are examples of other research bodies that have contributed to 25 years of AI research in Ireland. The Government has also established a team on AI Standardisation led by the National Standards Authority of Ireland.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment ran a public consultation process on AI in Ireland in 2019. Adoption of a national AI strategy was expected after this consultation. The strategy has not, however, been published as of yet – this is expected in 2021. It is understood that, when published, the strategy will have seven strategic pillars. These are: (i) addressing societal opportunities and challenges of AI; (ii) driving adoption of AI by Irish enterprise; (iii) boosting public sector use of AI; (iv) ensuring a strong AI innovation ecosystem; (v) fostering AI education, skills and talent; (vi) ensuring supportive data, digital and connectivity infrastructure; and (vii) establishing an appropriate governance and regulatory framework which takes account of human rights and ethics.

For further detail on anticipated regulation and implementation, see the below section "Regulations/government intervention".

What industries/sectors do you see being leaders in the development and adoption of AI?

Ireland's proliferation of technology companies will be key to future AI development. In particular, Ireland has an attractive infrastructure for start-ups, with many such start-ups specialising in the development of AI.

Ireland is also home to world-leading universities providing education on computer science, programming and engineering. Research centres and programmes affiliated with Ireland's education centres, which provide avenues for industry academic collaboration, will be the other leaders in development.

Various sectors will find AI particularly useful to its everyday operations, particularly financial services. In response to a survey conducted in 2020 by the Deloitte Center for Financial Services, 43% of respondents in the finance function expected increases in investment spend on artificial intelligence. AI and automation have been an important consideration in this sector during the pandemic, for example with respect to retail banking, customer service "chat bots", and online payments.


When a company creates an AI algorithm, who is the owner?

While intellectual property law can address some of the ownership aspects of AI, it most likely cannot be used to cover all of them. Therefore, absent any changes to current law, ownership may have to be a combination between intellectual property rights and contractual arrangements.

What intellectual property issues may arise regarding ownership?


Section 17(2) of the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 ("Copyright Act") affirms the existence of copyright in literary works, the definition of which includes computer programs. Copyright can only be owned by a legal person – effectively an individual, company or partnership. It essentially has to be created by an individual (works created by an individual in the context of his/her employment being owned by the employer). Therefore, a machine that is creating content cannot be the legal owner of that content.

Section 21(f) of the Copyright Act states that copyright in computer-generated software is owned by the person by whom the arrangements necessary for the creation of the work are undertaken. A "computer-generated" work is defined as work that is generated by a computer in circumstances where the author of the work is not an individual.

It may be difficult in the context of an AI system to establish the involvement of a human in the creation of content. Some AI tools or systems will have the capacity to create content themselves. In such a scenario, it will be difficult to identify the individual who undertook the "arrangements necessary for the creation of the work", in order to satisfy the authorship test in Section 21 of the Copyright Act.

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Originally published by Global Legal Insights.

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