Amsterdam AI and Smart Health Amsterdam towards an innovative future

Smart Health Amsterdam is merging with Amsterdam AI. Geert ten Dam, a member of our Board, is the chair of the Amsterdam AI governing board. She says the transition is the “next logical step” in Amsterdam’s development as an international hotspot for responsible AI. Health is one of Amsterdam AI’s key focus areas.

The initiative Smart Health Amsterdam (SHA) was initiated in 2019 by the Amsterdam Economic Board and the City of Amsterdam, to  strengthen the Life Sciences & Health (LSH) ecosystem, stimulate data-driven AI innovation in healthcare and encourage collaboration and entrepreneurship. The network has grown to more than 1,300 members and achieved great results in connecting academics and researchers with the business community. Amsterdam AI, formed in 2019 as AI Technology for People, is a coalition of governmental, academic, medical and research organisations. The initiative aims to develop and deploy ethically responsible AI tech and to stimulate collaborative projects.

Geert ten Dam, chair of Amsterdam AI

“AI is becoming increasingly important for improving healthcare,” says Geert ten Dam, chair of the Amsterdam AI governing board. “It was the next logical step for Smart Health Amsterdam and Amsterdam AI to join forces. We aim to consolidate the Netherlands’ position as a leader in Life Sciences & Health and Amsterdam as a centre of collaboration and innovation. We aim to further strengthen the ecosystem of major LSH tech organisations, leading academic hospitals and research institutes and innovative startups, which inspires life-saving innovation in healthcare. Amsterdam’s collaborative spirit and sense of connectedness is reflected in a rising number of public-private partnerships and healthy investment opportunities for research.”

Deploying responsible AI

Amsterdam AI focuses on a number of different themes within the field of responsible AI, including business innovation, citizen support and health. The group is working to further expand and strengthen the life sciences and health ecosystem in partnership with hospitals, government and private parties. Ethical data sharing is a key concern for the group, Ten Dam explains. “It’s important that existing medical data is made accessible to researchers and that there is a structure in place to do this in a responsible way. The Amsterdam Economic Board’s initiative Health Data Infrastructure will enable the use of such data in a way that it can be re-used for research purposes without the privacy being compromised. An independent trust will secure data & privacy. The initiative is a great best practice example of building trust and collaboration between partners to facilitate healthcare innovation.”

Talent attracts talent

Another of Amsterdam AI’s key goals is attracting and retaining talent in the Amsterdam Area. Ten Dam believes that much more should be done to encourage this. “The Netherlands has invested far too little in AI, and we run the risk of falling behind. In Amsterdam, we have had research and education in AI since the 1990s, with outstanding professors. Investing in attracting and retaining talent will not only bring Amsterdam further in terms of innovation, but the whole of the Netherlands. We see that the US, and other European countries as well are competing for talent. In Germany, for example, AI professors receive a substantial budget and a number of PhD candidates upon appointment. Collaboration between academia, government and the private sector is an important start, but we also need to invest. If we do so this will lead to a flourishing talent pool, and talent in turn attracts talent.”

Collaboration is key

“By initiating projects together, we develop the knowledge and applications of AI faster and better,” Ten Dam says, and she believes the collaborative nature of Amsterdam AI is a unique benefit: “Developments within AI are rapid, and we can only keep up with these developments together. Our strength is the integrated approach to achieve responsible AI, and that is what we’re practicing in Amsterdam and within the Amsterdam AI coalition.” Collaboration was also the guiding spirit of Smart Health Amsterdam, which has fostered many partnerships between researchers and business.

Coalition for future benefit of all

The initiators and founders of SHA and Amsterdam AI largely overlap. The University of Amsterdam, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU), the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Sanquin, CWI, Amsterdam UMC, the Netherlands Cancer Institute/Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital (NKI-AvL), the City of Amsterdam and the Amsterdam Economic Board are all partners of both initiatives.

Welcoming the merger, Ymke Fokma, member of the board of directors and director of organisation and business operations at the NKI-AvL, said: “Our mission is a cure for every cancer and excellent care for every patient. To solve the cancer problem in the 21st century, there is a great need for large qualitative data sets for research, developing applications and AI. Only by working together and sharing knowledge and data between institutions can we make a significant impact in the field of healthcare and cancer research. By combining these datasets with medical expertise and the latest technologies and the innovative power of startups, we can make this essential digital transformation happen.”

Chris Polman, chair of Amsterdam UMC’s board of directors agreed (and also a member of our Board), said: “Unity in data and diversity in people are crucially important to perform the best research and provide transformative innovation in care to promote health for all people living in the wider Amsterdam region.”

Those SHA partners – who are not yet partners of Amsterdam AI – have been invited to continue the partnership and help shape the cooperation through Amsterdam AI. Ten Dam is positive about the organisation’s future. “Amsterdam’s knowledge institutes have built up a wealth of knowledge about AI and data science over the past twenty years. We are sharing this knowledge and that benefits everyone.”

Amsterdam AI is a collaboration between government, academic, medical and research organisations in Amsterdam aiming to develop and deploy responsible technology in AI. Together with partners, they’re working on research and innovative solutions in various fields of responsible AI, such as business innovation and citizens and health.

Follow Amsterdam AI on LinkedIn for all the latest news and updates from the AI network.

23 May 2023

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