September 8, 2022

Education, research, and valorisation in informatics and AI, housed under one roof for the first time at Lab42

The 22nd of September saw the grand opening of the Informatics Institute’s new home, LAB42. The institute’s director, Alfons Hoekstra, talks about what LAB42’s new ecosystem means for the future of computer science at UvA, and for the development of the business ecosystem at Amsterdam Science Park.

The building is more than just another new building. It is meant to create a new ecosystem. ‘Our mission is to do three things’, says the institute’s director Alfons Hoekstra, ‘top education, top research and impactful valorization. This is the first time we have all those three functions sitting together in one building. The third floor houses the co-creation space. Above that, are three floors with academic research, and below is all the teaching. We easily meet in this building. It feels like a unity, which we never had before. Education and research is of course what we have traditionally been doing. The third function, valorisation is relatively new, so it is exciting to see how it will play out to have it under one roof.’

The number of computer science students grew rapidly over the past decade and the Informatics Institute nearly doubled in size in this period, one of the reasons to build LAB42. That growth is expected to continue. At the same time the European Commission expects that in the future about ten to fifteen percent of the EU workforce will have a background in information technology, from all levels of vocational education to university education.

Check out LAB42’s office spaces and flex-work desks

One billion Euros

With the opening of this new building the University of Amsterdam is taking an important step to strengthen the Amsterdam-based coalition AI Technology for People, which will be investing a billion euros over the next ten years in boundary-pushing research programs, attracting new top talent, and supporting start-ups and spin-offs.

Solution to a talent-shortage

LAB42 at the Amsterdam Science Park will provide office spaces tot he Institute for Informatics (IvI), the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC), the Innovation Center for Artificial Intelligence, as well as to entrepreneurs in the field of digital innovation and AI. It is thus the new home for students and experts in a quickly growing field. Professor de Rijke states: ‘There’s been a severe shortage of the kind of young talent we are educating. Master students are approached by businesses before they have even graduated. We are bringing these two worlds closer together and we are attracting talent to our region.’

Protecting state secrets and medical data

At LAB42, the social problems of the future are being solved today. ‘There’s definite urgency. We have to protect our state secrets and medical data today against the smarter and stronger computers of tomorrow,’ says Christian Schaffner, whose work at LAB42 focuses on encryption that remains secure even when attacked by a quantum computer. ‘Almost all current encryption will be breakable in seconds by quantum computers in the future.’

Increasing Equality of Opportunity

The role of AI-applications in our society and our daily lives is growing by the day. Sennay Ghebreab’s work at LAB42 is concerned with the creation of a fairer society: ‘We can use AI-technology to increase the equality of opportunity in society. At the same time it’s clear that AI can also increase inequality of opportunity. We have to work together with both the private and the public sector to ensure a positive outcome.’

14.000 square meters of space in an energy-neutral building

The lab is a circular, energy-neutral building of over 14.000 square meters, designed by Joost Vos, architect and partner at Benthem Crouwel Architects. The building is a model for other future buildings on the Science Park campus. Its 1800 square meters of solar panels are ingeniously integrated in its design, both on its roof and in its façade. Furthermore, the building comes equipped with a cistern for rainwater, to be used in some of its facilities. It is also built using modular construction, so that all its constituent parts are removable and reusable.

See also:

LAB42 will drive businesses towards a digital future

Pictures: Jannes Linders

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