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'Individuals Or Cos, Who Are Not Up-skilling Employees Are Under Serious Trouble'
On his tenth visit to India since seven years of President-ship at Dublin City University, Professor Brian MacCraith managed a good one hour to discuss his work, Indo-Irish relations and purpose of his visit
Photo Credit : Tarun Gupta
On his tenth visit to India since seven years of President-ship at Dublin City University, Professor Brian MacCraith managed a good one hour to discuss his work, Indo-Irish relations and purpose of his visit.
What is your purpose of visit to India?
My trip is supported by ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations) and, among other things, I will give a talk about ‘Future of Graduates’ in a number of locations. My talk primarily focuses on the attributes required of graduates and technology’s massive impact on the future of jobs. Some significant jobs will be altered or even replaced by advances in technologies like artificial intelligence and data analytics. So we will need highly adaptable graduates who can navigate their way around the upcoming opportunities and challenges.
In this visit, I also seek to strengthen our relationships with Indian universities, Indian companies and multinationals that have a presence in India as well as Ireland. For example, we will shortly sign a partnership deal with TCS in Mumbai and we are in discussions with Tech Mahindra about Smart Ageing.
What kind of jobs will get affected?
I don’t think the full picture is clear yet. However, it is clear that aspects of accountancy, such as fraud detection and some routine task, will be affected.
Last year, the White House released a comprehensive report on the impact of AI on jobs. Other examples would includes areas of healthcare. For example, the IBM Watson computer is already being used as an advisory system for oncologist. Watson uses natural language processing to extract all the useful information from multiple sources (e.g. medical journals) for effective and faster decision making. I think that is indicative of what’s going to happen in lots of situations.
With AI and IOT hazarding jobs of many, what should industries be doing about it?
Continuous up-skilling is crucial. In fact, I think one of the emerging roles of the university is in Continuing Professional Development (CPD), by partnering with major employers and making sure that staff are being up-skilled on a continuous basis. Individuals or companies, that are not up-skilling themselves or their employees are likely to end up in serious trouble.
What are the elements of a good innovation ecosystem?
An ideal case to study is Taiwan. Taiwan, which was only known for cheap toys and ornaments some time back, now is a global leader in a number of key technologies. The way they did this was to create technology parks like Hsinchu Science Park. DCU also created its Technology Park (DCU Alpha) that houses about 50 advanced technology companies. Their close proximity to the university makes the collaboration easy. Joint research projects, internships for students, industries using some of our facilities are indicators of this synergistic ecosystem in the DCU campus.
How has your work affected DCU’s strategic decisions on research and development?
My work started off with working on a range of chemical sensors and bio sensors. I also spent time at the US Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC developing bio sensors for detection of biological warfare. Post my return to Ireland, I headed the bio-medical diagnostic institute (BDI) where we developed low cost, mass-producible bio-sensors to detect early indicators of heart disease or cancer using micro fabricated platforms. Although I am not directly involved in research now as president of the university, my experience as an active researcher, often working closely with the industry, influences my strategy in DCU.
We have major research centers in data analytics, machine translation, natural language processing and cloud computing. We have also just announced a Fraunhofer Project Centre in partnership with the Fraunhofer system in Germany. Research here will focus on embedded bio-analytical systems that can be produced at scale using advanced precision manufacturing techniques.
What is your observation of ‘change’ in India or Indian mindset?
A big change we observe is that many Indian students now want to come back to India after study abroad. Ireland, because of the quality of its higher education and its welcoming, safe culture, has become a very attractive destination for Indian students. One of the many reasons for us collaborating with the Indian companies is to create a pathway back to India for our Indian students.
I have noticed a greater focus on innovation in India. I’ve watched PM Modi’s speeches focused on innovation with interest. That’s the reason I see India becoming an economic powerhouse soon, particularly at the cutting edge of innovation.