The Railway Zone – ‘Spoorzone’ – in the Dutch city of Tilburg will provide new accommodation for start-ups. The ‘Startup Kitchen‘ is meant to form a link in a newly created local start-up ecosystem. The first entrepreneurs have already registered and will open this year. The Kitchen is an initiative of MindLabs, a partnership for research, education and entrepreneurship at the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and humans.

The Startup Kitchen was created for entrepreneurs who have an affinity with this topic, says Karin Croes, representative of the municipality of Tilburg and MindLabs. “The educational institutions, for example, have a lot of smart, young entrepreneurs who can really contribute. The thing is that you have to feel the importance of being part of MindLabs.”

Read more about the ambition of MindLabs? Read our interview with Loet Visscher and Wim van der Maas, two of the founders. (in Dutch)

Avoid disappointment

The Startup Kitchen has room for 36 workplaces, “but a flexplace where you just sit at a table for a while might be enough for some as well”, Croes expects. According to her, the plan has not yet been widely marketed, to avoid disappointment. After all, there’s always is a lot of demand for this kind of workspace. “Every start-up wants to be part of the Spoorzone. They like the rough, the unrefined.”

More dynamic

The Startup Kitchen is not the only new location for (starting) entrepreneurs in the Spoorzone. There is Plan-T, which should become a platform for data-driven companies, according to Croes. “And we’ve already realized Station88. That includes starters as well and that’s nice, but there needs to be more dynamic in the Spoorzone”. MindLabs wants to facilitate growth opportunities step by step: for a maximum of two years in the Startup Kitchen, then on to the Deprez building, and finally, as a fully-fledged company in the MindLabs collection building, which is to be completed next year.

Croes is pleased that the new Spoorzone is taking shape, thanks to MindLabs as well. It has taken a long time to find the right interpretation. “It’s always been a workshop. In fact, we still want it to be like that, but with a whole new dynamic. Here in the heart of Brabant we mainly have the manufacturing industry and SMEs. That is the DNA of Tilburg. But companies can no longer find people with the right skills”. MindLabs has to close that gap. “Companies want to be at the forefront of social developments.”

Castlab

There are eight participating start-ups so far. One of those is Castlab, a start-up that originated from Melis Gieterijen, a traditional Tilburg manufacturing company. Together with the Dutch Railways and the military, Castlab is investigating how the supply of spare parts can be made more flexible and accelerated. “By digitising separate parts, we want to make a kind of Spotify of the metal industry,” explains general director Koen Melis. Within the Startup Kitchen, Castlab focuses, among other things, on experimenting with new materials and the use of sensors in those separate parts.

“We want to make a kind of Spotify of the metal industry”

“The Startup Kitchen seems like an excellent idea to me because I believe in this cross-pollination”, Melis says. “Otherwise, I might as well have rented some kind of neat office unit. But often you get insights from people who work in a totally different industry.” Castlab wants to grow within MindLabs. “We want to move from four places in the Startup Kitchen to twenty in the new building.”

Melis also sees the added value for the regional economy. “The Tilburg manufacturing industry needs a future-proof strategy. You have to be close to the developments to see opportunities.”

Together with the start-ups, the physical needs for the workspace are currently being examined. The Startup Kitchen should be up and running later this year.