Meet our groundbreaking new neighbor – The AI Innovation Center

Interview with Paul van Son, Innovation Manager at High Tech Campus Eindhoven

High Tech Campus Eindhoven (HTCE) is embarking on a new and ambitious venture establishing Europe’s first dedicated, integrated and global artificial intelligence innovation center. Opening 22 April, the AI Innovation Center is a partnership between HTCE, Philips, ASML, NXP and Signify.

At LUMO Labs we are incredibly excited about this news. It underlines the future forward collaborative energy on campus and makes way for unprecedented impact.

Andy Lürling, Founding Partner LUMO Labs: “This groundbreaking ecosystem initiative is literally across the street (or ‘strip,’ as we say at the HTCE) from our offices. It brings multiple crossovers and unique possibilities for AI startups. The AI Innovation Center partners – Philips, ASML, NXP, Signify and HTCE – are global torchbearers for applied innovation. Their commitment and joint effort to advance new AI concepts and applications are a unique and priceless asset to the entire ecosystem.”

“As the startup ‘investor next door,’ we look forward to contributing to the impact of the AI Innovation Center and its future startup tenants, such as our portfolio company FruitPunch AI and our partner Serendipity.” He continues: “AI and data are at the core of our impact and investment focus. With our LUMO Fund II seed capital and TTT.AI pre-seed fund, we support impact-driven AI startups to grow from idea to impact by funding their crucial first steps, and to guide them for a two year period, to gain real life traction.”

We asked Terry and Cheryl Boyd from Dispatches Europe to sit down with Paul van Son, the High Tech Campus Innovation Manager overseeing the project, to share his insider perspective and outlook for the AI Innovation Center.

DE – Still in the early stages of development, the AI Innovation Center is focused on advancing new AI concepts and applications, developing 21st century business models and expanding Brainport’s talent base. We understand the center includes events spaces, offices, co-working spaces and gathering spaces – all part of the ambitious repurposing of Building 5 on High Tech Campus into a complex completely dedicated to innovation.

DE – Can you sum up what the AI Innovation Center is all about? Is it a research center? Is it for applied sciences?

Paul van Son – It’s all about the adoption and application of AI. It’s not a research initiative. Our goal is to industrialize AI in this region.
The center will be very different from a university with PhDs working on theoretical aspects of artificial intelligence innovation. It will be dedicated to applying innovations to companies’ products, business processes and culture.

That goes hand-in-hand with our HTCE 2030 strategy. We want to be more of an ecosystem orchestrator in addition to a facilitator. We want to grow as an organization from facilitating the ultimate environment for technological innovation, to orchestrating initiatives like the AI Innovation Center, based on the needs of our residents and the region as a whole.

This is why we (HTCE) also participate in LUMO Labs and HighTechXL … to drive innovation and boost the ecosystem. We want to attract a lot of AI companies in the next few years, because this is indicated as a vital aspect of our future ecosystem by our stakeholders.

Paul – We ourselves are a company with a lot of data. We’re asking ourselves, “What can we do? How can we leverage data? What can we use to make our operations more effective or increase service levels and the experience level of people working on Campus?” We’re in the same process as a lot of companies … I think almost every company should be working on this. This is why we want to support companies in developing their data and AI strategies.

DE – Will this be just for the Brainport region?

Paul – The first part is to do this for the region. Our primary goal is to industrialize this technology for the Brainport region. Once it’s successful, why can’t we copy it to other regional systems? Why can’t we set this up in Amsterdam or in another country? Especially for events, it’s too easy to make use of international members, international speakers. So, we can bring in a speaker from the U.S. for this. Also specialists at, say, Philips in the U.S. or wherever. These networks are accessible. That’s the first step to internationalization. That being said, the impact of the AI Innovation Center is global as its founding partners are active and influential global players. In addition, many of the other companies in the Brainport region that will benefit from the center also have a wide international reach.

DE – Input from the tech companies on campus is vital, then?

– The AI Team – the guys from Philips, NXP, ASML and Signify – they’re specialists at those companies either in the business or the technology. They help me with strategy. If I have any technical questions, I ask them. But I’m in the lead where the center’s strategy and activities are concerned.

This effort is about orchestrating and driving the ecosystem, delivering an enabling infrastructure, organizing workshops and other events in a structured way, in a professional way. We’re now working out the whole program of activities, starting with events, toward supporting applications and everything in between … portfolios, educational service, programs, program events, workshops and the kind of services that we’re going to develop.

DE – What are your plans at this point for the AI Innovation Center events space?

Paul – To give you one example, we have this nice event space there. You want to bring in young people and experienced people with ideas for an AI startup or venture, let them pitch in front of a Dragon’s Den. Let them pitch in front of investors as well as industry experts who can give them valuable feedback on the development of their products or services.

Instead of a Dragon’s Den, we’d have more of a Shark Tank where we put our ecosystem partners as, let’s say, the dragons or sharks, and help high-level people within businesses who are struggling with the deep transformation and the adoption of AI and make it part of their culture.

Do round-table sessions, those kinds of things to help leverage the knowledge and experience for founders of other companies. All those kind of events are what we’re going to do in the next few months to build up this community and deliver tangible results, to provide value to different target audiences as soon as possible.

In the opening Leadership Forum on 22 April, founders are going to explain what AI means in their company, either in their products or innovations. How they do the whole transformation process. And how you get people on a personal level to adopt this technology and start applying in daily life processes.

So, these are the two main topics of digital transformation and AI in product innovation.