AI startup Iconic is trying to improve translations of under-represented languages for EU bodies

The Dublin startup is part of a consortium that recently received €1.1 million in European Commission funding.

By Jonathan Keane Reporter, Fora

ICONIC, A DUBLIN startup that uses artificial intelligence to improve language translations, is working on a project to enhance multilingual services in the public sector after being awarded €1.1 million from the EU.

A spin-out of DCU, Iconic develops neural machine translation (MT) technology that uses artificial intelligence to translate information into various languages.

It builds neural MT engines for companies that learn and understand terms and language to improve services and is working with a number of academic partners on this new project.

This EU funding comes via the European Commission’s Connecting Europe Facility, which was seeking ways to translate different languages in the public sector.

Chief executive John Tinsley told Fora that most major languages, like French and German, are well represented but many other tongues around the bloc and wider Europe are “not all served equally”.

The project focuses on four languages: Irish, Croatian, Norwegian and Icelandic.

“Think of something like Google Translate, that’s essentially what we’ll be looking at developing except very specifically for these languages for use in certain public sector areas within the European Commission,” Tinsley said.

“They provide translation across all different aspects of (public services). It might be legal, some might be health, intellectual property.

“That will ultimately be a service that the European Commission will provide to citizens of Europe or organisations in the public sector.”

Iconic is part of a consortium working on the project with DCU’s ADAPT Centre as well as the University of Zagreb, University of Iceland, and the National Library of Norway.

The academic partners will be responsible for collating resources on the four languages that Iconic will build the tech around.

john-tinsley-iconic John Tinsley
Source: Iconic

The project, which will be coordinated out of DCU, has been dubbed PRINCIPLE – Providing Resources in Irish, Norwegian, Croatian and Icelandic for Purposes of Language Engineering.

Highly-regulated sectors

Beyond the EU project, Iconic builds neural machine translation services for enterprise customers in “highly regulated sectors” like legal and healthcare.

“We sell to law firms or service providers for law firms working in the area of litigation, for example, where there may be a lot of multilingual information,” Tinsley said.

Other examples include translation services for pharmaceutical research contractors or customer support hubs in the IT sector.

Iconic, founded in 2013, raised around $500,000 from investors in 2014 to kick-start the company and is currently finalising a growth round.

Under the same EU funding programme that Iconic is participating in, IT Sligo has been earmarked for funding for two projects around electronic invoicing, or eInvoicing.

This includes an online course to assist business in switching from paper-based records to fully digital processes. The other side relates to developing secure communications channels for transferring this information.

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