On Wednesday 25 September, Executive Board President Geert ten Dam joined with Mayor of Amsterdam Femke Halsema and the presidents of the Amsterdam University Medical Centre (UMC), the Vrije Universiteit (VU), the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI)/ Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital, Sanquin and the Amsterdam Economic Board to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on collaboration in the field of Life Sciences & Health (LSH) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Amsterdam is the perfect city for an LSH hub. In the Amsterdam metropolitan area there are already 300 companies working in the Life Sciences & Health sector and the number is still growing, helped by, among other things, the arrival of the European Medicines Agency and Brexit. Amsterdam has high-level institutions such as the two hospitals mentioned above, UMC and NKI/ Antoni van Leeuwenhoek. In addition, Amsterdam has an excellent position on which to build in the area of Data Science and AI, given the research and knowledge bases at the UvA and the VU. The bringing together of these two distinctive strengths of Amsterdam – LSH and Data Sciences/AI – has enormous potential. Furthermore, Amsterdam has an attractive business climate for international companies, with good international accessibility (through Schiphol airport, among other things), the availability of talent, high internet speeds, a focus on startups and innovation, and a high quality of life.
Amsterdam’s distinctive position
But, with all the competition internationally, such a hub is not going to happen on its own. Therefore, the city of Amsterdam is working with the UvA, VU, UMC, NKI/ Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital, Sanquin, the Amsterdam Economic Board and other companies to make Amsterdam the standout choice for LSH companies in the Netherlands, by strengthening the climate for business and innovation and by attracting, training and retaining talent.
Data and AI are becoming increasingly important within the LSH sector. The number of innovative companies that process large amounts of data and use it to improve care continues to grow. This is done not only through work on new medicines, but, for example, also through a focus on lifestyle and prevention. The MoU is aimed at increasing cooperation in the field of LSH and AI.
Close cooperation between medical centres and AI researchers
Executive Board President Geert ten Dam: ‘In order to innovate in the field of Life Sciences & Health, AI research and the availability of data are essential. We are fully committed to attracting, training and retaining the talent needed for this. The close cooperation between the medical centres and AI researchers is a great example of ‘AI technology for people’.’ The UvA’s Informatics Institute is planning to set up a new “ELLIS Unit” – the European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems is an initiative aimed at keeping in Europe talent in machine learning and AI research fields.
The MoU contains agreements to work on:
• A clear and unambiguous positioning of Amsterdam within this sector;
• Strengthening joint acquisition;
• Strengthening the exchange between the municipality, knowledge institutions and companies;
• Stimulating talent programmes related to Life Sciences & Health and Artificial Intelligence;
• Developing and helping to facilitate new initiatives (for example, enough laboratory space with supporting office facilities);
• Drawing attention to financing possibilities;
• Strengthening the LSH ecosystem.