Why SMEs need to prepare for the EU AI Act

Businesses and their staff are rapidly adopting AI without considering the consequences. Failure to comply with the EU’s upcoming AI regulations could mean severe financial penalties for businesses, warns John Clancy from Galvia AI.

AI is a game changer for SMEs, providing you with the ability to improve your business processes, enhance customer experiences, and drive growth. However, as I wrote previously about the business potential of AI for SMEs, now is not the time for posturing if you want to stay ahead. 

Yes, you need to prepare for an AI driven future and that includes preparing for the EU AI Act. 

“While the AI Act might seem daunting, it offers a structured framework that can actually enhance innovation and trust in AI”

Similar to GDPR, we will have 24 months before all parts of the new regulation take effect. The penalties are severe, up to €30 million or 6% of annual turnover. However, what might be more damaging for SMEs is the hit to their reputation if they are found breaking the new law. Trust is crucial in the world of AI, and businesses that lose it are likely to face additional consequences from consumers.

The upcoming EU Artificial Intelligence Act (AI Act) is not just another regulatory hurdle; it’s a significant shift that will affect how businesses across the EU, including Ireland, develop and deploy AI technologies. While the AI Act might seem daunting, it offers a structured framework that can actually enhance innovation and trust in AI.

Understanding the EU AI Act

The EU AI Act, expected to become law later this year, is set to be the world’s first comprehensive regulation on AI. Its primary goal is to protect EU citizens by taking a “risk-based approach” to AI. This means it will classify AI systems into four categories based on their risk levels: minimal, limited, high, and unacceptable.

Unacceptable Risk AI: These are AI applications that will be banned outright, such as those used for social scoring or manipulative techniques.

High-Risk AI: These include AI systems used in critical areas like healthcare, transportation, and employment. Such systems will face stringent requirements to ensure transparency and accuracy.

Limited-Risk AI: AI systems in this category, such as chatbots, will need to adhere to specific transparency requirements, like informing users they are interacting with a machine.

Minimal-Risk AI: These systems, like spam filters, will have minimal regulatory requirements.

Why Should Irish SMEs Care?

  • Market Access and Compliance: With the EU’s market being crucial for many Irish businesses, compliance with the AI Act is non-negotiable. The legislation will apply uniformly across all 27 EU member states, ensuring no discrepancies in its implementation. For Irish SMEs, understanding and adhering to these regulations is vital to avoid fines and maintain market access.
  • Building Trust and Competitive Advantage: The AI Act aims to make AI more trustworthy by enforcing principles like transparency, fairness, and accountability. For SMEs, this can be a unique selling point. Consumers and businesses are more likely to engage with companies that demonstrate a commitment to ethical AI practices.
  • Innovation within Boundaries: While there are concerns that the AI Act might stifle innovation, the reality is it sets clear boundaries that can actually foster creativity within safe and ethical limits. By complying with the AI Act, Irish SMEs can innovate confidently, knowing they are on the right side of the law.

Four Practical Steps for Irish SMEs:

  1. Conduct an AI Audit: Evaluate your current AI systems to understand how they fit within the AI Act’s risk categories. Identify areas that might need adjustments to comply with the new regulations.
  2. Invest in Compliance: Ensure that your AI systems meet the transparency, accuracy, and accountability requirements set out in the AI Act. This might involve updating data practices, enhancing documentation, and ensuring proper training for your AI models.
  3. Stay Informed and Agile: The AI landscape is rapidly evolving. Stay updated on the latest developments in AI regulation and be prepared to adapt your strategies accordingly.
  4. Leverage Support and Resources: Utilise resources from AI-focused organisations and regulatory bodies to help navigate compliance. At Galvia, we offer tailored solutions to help businesses align with the AI Act, ensuring they can leverage AI safely and effectively.

The Future of AI in Ireland

The AI Act represents a significant step towards a more regulated and ethical AI landscape in Europe. For Irish SMEs, this is an opportunity to lead by example, showcasing how compliance and innovation can go hand in hand. By preparing for the AI Act now, Irish businesses can position themselves as trustworthy and forward-thinking leaders in the AI space.

At Galvia, we are committed to supporting our clients through these changes. We believe that with the right approach, the AI Act will not only protect consumers but also pave the way for a more innovative and competitive market.

In conclusion, the EU AI Act is not just a regulatory challenge but a chance to build a robust, trustworthy AI ecosystem. Irish SMEs that embrace these changes will be well-positioned to thrive in the new AI-driven economy. 

  • Bank of Ireland is welcoming new customers every day – funding investments, working capital and expansions across multiple sectors. To learn more, click here

John Clancy
John Clancy is the founder and CEO of Galvia, an AI-powered decision intelligence platform that draws actionable insights from enterprise data. Since 2017 Galvia (formerly known as Chatspace) has been working with some of the World’s largest companies including Nestlé, Medtronic and Atos. As a serial entrepreneur John is continually identifying new opportunities to make AI accessible to every organisation, big and small. In 2022 he was appointed a board member of the Enterprise Digital Advisory Forum (EDAF) to advise and work with the government of Ireland to drive industry adoption of artificial intelligence. John has won numerous awards for growing companies in different industries. He has a passion for creating successful businesses, building enduring business relationships, value selling, and leading teams.



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