Clear role for engineers in the effective and ethical use of artificial intelligence, says Engineers

Clear role for engineers in the effective and ethical use of artificial intelligence, says Engineers Ireland head

01 March 2019 at 10:38

AI already revolutionising Irish business and society, delegates to hear at conference as Engineers Week begins

There is a clear role for engineers in ensuring that artificial intelligence is used in an effective and ethical way across Irish industry and society, according to Engineers Ireland.

Caroline Spillane, Engineers Ireland Director General, said that applied artificial intelligence was already revolutionising Irish business and industry in a positive way, and that engineers, who were taking the lead in its use and development, had a clear role to play in its effective and ethical application.

Speaking on the eve of Engineers Week 2019 at the Engineers Ireland Applied Artificial Intelligence (AI) Forum and Conference in Kilkenny, Spillane said: “Artificial intelligence and machine learning is already reshaping business, society, and life as we know it and offers tremendous long-term economic and societal potential - but it needs to be applied and used in a manner that most benefits the citizens of Ireland and the world.”

“Almost every manufactured item today in Ireland and across the world is engineered and directly involves engineering professionals.  Engineers are at the forefront of developing products, systems and structures that are now harnessing AI.  As Chartered Engineers who uphold the highest ethical standards to protect the public, assure product safety, and work with integrity and competence, it is our job now to ensure that the growing pervasiveness of AI systems, which offer superhuman scale, speed and accuracy, is underpinned by human-level ingenuity, ethics and oversight.”

Despite a recent study by University College Cork warning that two out of every five jobs across the State are at high risk of being lost to automation, delegates at the Engineers Ireland conference are to hear from expert speakers in the sector that AI is already bringing new knowledge and advanced capability to organisations in Ireland and beyond, radically overhauling business models and core processes to foster productivity and human ingenuity.

Dr Martin J Hayes, head of electronic and computer engineering at the University of Limerick, is also to give a presentation on how Ireland’s third-level educators need to adapt to the increasing demand for AI talent and technological advances in machine learning and data sciences.

Dr Glen Collins, Chartered Engineer, Member of Engineers Ireland South East Region and Conference Director, said: “From health-care to real-estate, autonomous driving to recruiting, image recognition for branding, marketing, process optimization, to farm status management and agri-business, applied AI is already permeating virtually all facet of business.  We are seeing exceptional companies and talent in Ireland using advanced machine-learning AI technology as a key aspect of their business models.  Today’s contributors are giving a powerful illustration of how start-up companies and agile operators can apply AI technology to drive business efficiencies, increase profits, and create a competitive edge.  Business owners, government, engineers and researchers can no longer ignore this rapidly advancing technical arena.”

Dr Glen Collins, chartered engineer, and artificial intelligence specialist speaking at the Engineers Ireland applied artificial intelligence forum and tech conference held in Kilkenny. The event marks the start of Engineers Week running nationwide from 2 - 8 March - picture Dylan Vaughan.

The all-day event will cover a range of issues, from current AI applications and commercialisation across several sectors to what it takes to make AI work for small businesses in Ireland.  Delegates will hear from a wide arrange of companies such as LogoGrab,, Popertee, Emdalo, IBM Watson, Valeo and Kx Systems, with the profound impact AI will have on the manufacturing industry in Ireland also a focus.

“It is vital that Ireland is ready for Industry 4.0, which is in effect the 4th Industrial or ‘digital’ revolution which will feature increasing levels of manufacturing automation, and that we ensure our manufacturing base continues to flourish to provide high-value employment and ongoing export growth,” added Spillane.

Engineers Ireland recently presented its policy statement on ‘Industry 4.0: Manufacturing in Ireland’ to Minister of State, John Halligan TD, and officials in the Department of Business and the Department of Education.  This policy calls for national action to prepare Ireland for Industry 4.0.  AI and machine learning are core constituents of this action. 

The Kilkenny Forum and Conference takes place on the eve of Engineers Week 2019, the week-long annual festival that celebrates engineering in Ireland which is now in its 13th year.  Engineers Ireland is encouraging engineering companies and industry all over Ireland to engage with their communities and host events large or small to showcase the profession over the course of Engineers Week 2019, which runs until Friday, March 8.  With hundreds of events already confirmed for the week, the festival is coordinated on a national basis by Engineers Ireland's STEPS programme – funded as a strategic partner of Science Foundation Ireland’s Discover Programme Call.

To find out more about events taking place around the country or to register an event visit