Opening session AI Innovation Center High Tech Campus, © Hilde de Vocht

The AI Innovation Center, located at High Tech Campus Eindhoven, today officially opened with the first edition of the AI Leadership Forum. During the live event, a series of keynotes and panel discussions focused on “de-mystifying Artificial Intelligence”. The AI Innovation Center was founded by Philips, ASML, Signify, NXP, and High Tech Campus Eindhoven.

In his introduction, Netherlands AI Coalition manager Kees van der Klauw focused on the importance of human-centered AI. “Thirty years ago, people were already working on AI, but now things have changed. It’s still in its early phase, but we can also say that AI is happening right now. To be successful, also in relation to developments in the United States and China, we need institutes like this AI lab in Eindhoven. Europe is late, but we still have a chance if we focus on human-centered AI. Let’s make a hell of a lot of applications that are human-centered, in every sector. Because we have to be aware that AI is not something for ICT, it’s for pharming, healthcare, mobility, energy, it’s for all the important societal challenges.”

Look at all keynotes of the opening session here

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As the Coalition Manager of the Netherlands AI Coalition, Kees van der Klauw is one of the driving forces behind the AiNed investment program. This program has been put forward by the advisory committee of the Dutch Growth Fund and Phase 1 of the AiNed program has already been largely accepted. It is a multi-year program to accelerate the development and application of artificial intelligence, with the goal to let the Netherlands reap the economic and social rewards of AI and keep pace with other leading countries. The AI Coalition recently received 276 million euros from the national growth fund.

“The AI Coalition wants to help the country find solutions around finding talents, sharing knowledge, building data, helping start-ups in their acceleration, and creating legislative frameworks and rulings”, Van der Klauw adds. “For this, we want to work together with governments, and jointly focus on developing rules – always keeping in mind our human-centered approach.”

Industrializing AI

Paul van Son, AI Innovation Center High Tech Campus

For Paul van Son, as the initiator of the AI Innovation Center, the mission of his institute is to ‘industrialize AI’. This is needed, he says, “because AI and data-related technologies are the most important to be applied in society in the next five to ten years.”

Van Son distinguishes three “big needs”: a fundamental level of knowledge and capabilities, an organized ecosystem and infrastructure, and the adoption and acceleration of the technology. “These three are essential for any company to be successful in the field of AI. The level of knowledge is too low at the moment, we need more partnerships and a better technical infrastructure, and finally, a lot of new projects and applications.”

Van Son hopes the AI Innovation Center can lead the change that is needed. “In fact, we need AI leadership to create the highest possible impact and relevance. We want to invite this community of leaders to a range of subject-based ‘circles’, around themes like the adoption of AI, education, start-ups, events, talent, ethics, deep learning, and more. With this, we can set the agenda, not only for the region but for the whole country.”

Diversity is needed

To achieve this, one serious challenge has to be met first, acknowledges Sebastiaan Laurijsse, currently working as ‘Transformational Global Leader’ at the AI Innovation Center. “Also today, we must be aware that this is a male-dominated forum. To be truly effective, we need a much more diverse group of transformers. Especially in AI, data accuracy is critical, we need to prevent working with biased data.”

It’s not the only challenge the AI Innovation Center has to deal with, he adds. “AI is just one piece of the puzzle of true digital transformation. The full potential comes from three main elements: besides AI, it’s also about culture and processes. We would really like to know more about the barriers that people working with AI are experiencing. What fears do we see? Is AI really the job killer some people think it is?” Laurijsse sees “a huge conflict”: how do you make sure that what we do today will be done differently tomorrow? Will people be willing to leave behind what they have today and replace it with something they don’t know yet?

We need to understand the challenges, the fears, the lack of capabilities, the human acceptance, Laurijsse says. “There is a huge complexity around removing the existing barriers. Funding is needed, but we also need to know all the fear factors. We have to touch upon them from an organizational and human perspective, but also from the point of view of market opportunities. We want to remove the anxiety around AI.”

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Author profile picture Bart Brouwers is co-founder and co-owner of Media52 BV, the publisher of innovationorigins.com.