Most exciting innovations appear in ‘cross-overs’ between disciplines. In the city of Tilburg (the 6th largest city in the southern part of the Netherlands), a new regional initiative ‘MindLabs’ (www.mind-labs.nl) was announced in 2016 and has started in the Summer of 2017: Tilburg works on the development of an ecosystem where knowledge institutes, public and private organizations, start-ups and scale-ups collaborate, with a focus on interactive technologies and behavior.
In the past century, the Tilburg economy has to a large extent been based upon textile production. After the industrialization, a period of unemployment started, followed by a slow shift towards a knowledge economy. Nowadays a textile museum remembers to the rich textile history. At the same time, this history is still alive as fashion, as part of creative industries, is a very innovative sector. Smart textiles know many different applications already. Think of incubator babies wearing an outfit with sensors integrated that can measure respiration, heart rate, and so on.
Over the past years, Tilburg knowledge institutes have developed their own specific research and educational programs in relation to creative industries. For instance, Fontys University of Applied Sciences knows an academy for creative industries, next to schools for ICT and Journalism. The recent initiative ‘MindLabs’ was launched with the collective ambition to create a unique ecosystem where education, research and business reinforce each other on the crossings of interactive technologies and behavior.
The vision behind this initiative is that digitalization is the key driver for the transition of our society and economy. These changes require new educational programs, new research methodologies (think of design research, co-creation, embedded research and living labs) and new and flexible business models for businesses. Virtual- and augmented reality, language technologies, robotics and avatars, and gamification are important themes in the development of MindLabs. Application domains are manyfold, ranging from health & well-being to smart industry.
Tilburg University, Fontys University of Applied Sciences, the regional education center ROC Tilburg and the municipality of Tilburg in June 2016 signed a letter of intent for collaboration. The Persgroep (a large Dutch-Flemish publisher with both national and regional newspapers, as well as strong online outreach with diverse websites and radio) has joined the consortium as a first private partner, and other private partners have shown serious interest. The coming years will have to prove the potential of MindLabs as an iconic hotspot.