MHC: Tech leaders see legal risk as biggest barrier to AI adoption

MHC: Tech leaders see legal risk as biggest barrier to AI adoption

Most Irish technology business leaders see legal or regulatory risk as the biggest barrier to adopting AI, according to a survey by Mason Hayes & Curran.

The business law firm surveyed more than 300 industry professionals at its technology and digital disruption conference at The Marker Hotel in Dublin yesterday, finding that 51 per cent of respondents identified legal/regulatory risk as the biggest barrier, followed by lack of skills/talent on 33 per cent.

Speaking at the conference, Oisín Tobin, technology sector lead partner at Mason Hayes & Curran, urged attendees to “avoid building up legal debt, as there will be interest accruing on outstanding issues”. Businesses should “build in compliance from the start”, he said.

More than four in five (81 per cent) of technology leaders are investing in AI research and development, the survey found. Nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) said they had increased their investment levels compared to last year, while 17 per cent said their investment levels remained the same.

Brian McElligott, partner and head of AI at Mason Hayes & Curran, said: “Our findings underscore a robust commitment to innovation despite the complex challenges the sector faces. They also highlight critical hurdles that companies need to overcome, to harness the full potential of AI technologies.

“Legal complexities present a significant obstacle, emphasising the importance of informed, strategic approaches to AI implementation. As companies increasingly invest in AI, investing in the right skills and talent is also critical.”

The research highlighted that eight out of 10 tech industry leaders (81 per cent) do not invest in or use cryptocurrencies.

Rowena Fitzgerald, partner and co-head of financial regulation at Mason Hayes & Curran, said: “Despite the buzz around digital currencies, eight out of 10 of tech industry leaders are steering clear of cryptocurrencies. This suggests a cautious approach towards crypto, reflecting concerns around volatility, regulatory uncertainty, and the lack of mainstream adoption.

“But it will be interesting to see how the new regulations for crypto asset service providers changes this picture. The Markets in Crypto-Assets Regulation (MiCA) will apply to certain crypto-asset issuers from June this year, with other issuers and crypto-asset service providers impacted from end-December.

“We expect that these new rules will reshape the sector’s engagement with digital currencies and will be watching this space with interest.”

The survey also showed that more than two-thirds (67 per cent) see financial services as a potential growth avenue for their companies.

Ms Fitzgerald added: “The data paints a clear picture of the sector’s confidence in fintech as a key driver for growth. As traditional barriers between sectors blur, tech companies are uniquely positioned to create financial products that meet the needs of today’s digital-savvy consumers and businesses.”

Ireland remains an attractive location to set up a new business, according to 85 per cent of respondents. Additionally, close to seven out of 10 (69 per cent) identified Europe as their primary growth market for 2024.

Conall Geraghty, corporate partner at Mason Hayes & Curran, said: “These results paint a clear picture of Ireland’s position in the global market as an attractive location for startups.

“The overwhelming preference for Europe as a growth market also reveals where Irish tech leaders see their future opportunities. It reflects a strategic choice influenced by Europe’s large market, its openness to innovation, and a regulatory environment that, while complex, can be navigated with the right expertise.”

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