The new LAB42 building at Amsterdam Science Park reflects the changing culture at the Institute of Computing Science. No more closed doors, but an open atmosphere and a layout that encourages collaboration. The building’s third floor has been reserved for companies, who can rent office space in order to facilitate collaboration. Like her students, Director of the College of Informatics Jacobijn Sandberg recently relocated to LAB42. She hopes the new building will lead to many inspiring collaborations between researchers, students and businesses.
How can an office at LAB42 benefit companies?
‘Companies are having a lot of data, but they often lack the tools to put it to good use. They need researchers to help them do that. Researchers need large datasets to do effective research. At LAB42, they can use that data to develop new algorithms and data analysis techniques. Those kinds of exchanges had already been taking place for several years through the ICAI labs.
LAB42 aims to intensify collaboration between researchers and the commercial sector. The companies who set up offices here tend to be active in the fields of data science, AI, infrastructure and digital innovation.’
‘They’re also closer to our students, which obviously offers lots of benefits. Our students are in great demand on the labour market because of their unique skills and expertise. They’re also a great window into the latest developments in digital innovation and AI. It works both ways, though. Working closely with commercial partners gives researchers and students a better understanding of the market’s current needs. Not that we should only be doing research in response to societal demands, but it’s good to see both. We need to combine fundamental research that doesn’t necessarily translate into practical applications with socially relevant research.’
‘Another option is the refresher course. Today’s workforce needs to make sure they are always up to date in terms of knowledge and skills. Our researchers can offer a lot of the knowledge they need. While companies can obviously enlist the expertise of our researchers, having certain knowledge and skills in-house can pay off in the long run. We’re currently exploring the options for offering staff retraining modules.’
LAB42 is the University of Amsterdam’s new centre for Digital Innovation and AI. Where students and researchers from UvA’s Informatics Institute, the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC) and companies all work together.
Read more about LAB42
To finish, which collaboration project would you like to highlight?
‘The Blue Student Lab is a good example of an ongoing collaboration between students and industry. This project is aimed at students from all three degree programmes. They do their own individual graduation projects, but the subject has to focus on the same common theme determined by the participating company.
For example, we did a project with ABN AMRO. Students worked in the same space, which allowed them to learn from each other. They were also in regular contact with experts from ABN AMRO. The project was themed around the issue of digital security.’
The Blue Student Lab is appealing to companies because it explores the same subject through the lens of different disciplines: ‘For example, an information science student might assess the authorisation protocols, or in other words; who actually has access to these systems? A Computing student might focus on software that helps you prevent your system from being hacked, while an AI student would figure out a smart way to intercept hacking attempts.’
This interview has been accomplished with the approval of LAB42’s website
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