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Cumulus Park: collaborating on social issues

Interview with Program manager Collaborative Innovation Irene Duyn

At the end of last year, a new innovation district was opened in Amsterdam Southeast. Cumulus Park is an initiative of ING, the City of Amsterdam, ROC Amsterdam and the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. In the coming years, Cumulus Park wants to grow into the place where entrepreneurs, large and small companies, researchers and students work together on solutions to social challenges. Program manager Irene Duyn tells more about the ambitions of the district.

How did Cumulus Park come about?

“Within ING, the idea arose about two years ago to set up an innovation ecosystem within Amsterdam Southeast. An open system that is not only aimed at the financial sector, but is accessible to multiple industries. We conducted extensive preliminary research and held numerous discussions with experts, the potential target group and potential partners. It showed that there was a lot of interest in developing such an initiative.

The City of Amsterdam, the ROC of Amsterdam and the Hogeschool van Amsterdam soon joined the project as partners, which eventually became the development of an innovation district: Cumulus Park. An area in which different parties reinforce each other and entrepreneurs, large and small companies, researchers and students work together on solutions to societal challenges. In order to be able to function completely independently of ING, we are now setting up a foundation, Cumulus Park Studio, from which we will further build the ecosystem. ”

What exactly do you do?

“We focus on facilitating collaboration and innovation in two domains: urbanization and digital identity. These themes are relevant in many sectors, are extremely urgent and require cooperation to move forward. The themes are very broad in practice: topics such as mobility, e-commerce and retail, construction and smart city also fall within these domains.

As a result of technology, we see that sectors are becoming increasingly intertwined. We also see an increasing overlap between public and private. Only innovating within your own organization is therefore becoming increasingly difficult, but working with many other parties is also not always easy. We are therefore developing new innovation models that make (complex) collaboration on innovation run faster and more effectively.”

Who are your partners?

“Within the district we work together with various parties in the field of physical district development, innovation processes, knowledge sharing, research and education. Because ING is a member of the Network Council of the Board , we benefited a lot from the network and the events of the Board. In general, organizations were immediately enthusiastic when we approached them, we were pleasantly surprised to see how people immediately see the larger perspective. To really succeed, we have to join forces, and that is happening on an increasing scale.

For example, Plug and Play Tech Center is involved, a large Silicon Valley accelerator that focuses on scaling startups. We also work together with Delft University of Technology and the AUAS deploys its own (research) departments, which, among other things, are concerned with urbanization and digital identity. We conducted our first innovation experiments at the AMS Institute on the Marineterrein, when we did not yet have housing ourselves.

We can conduct our experiments in our building at Cumulus Park. As we hope to welcome more and more projects and participants in the coming years, a new building will be added, which is specifically designed for innovation purposes. There will be event spaces, shared workplaces and other facilities that make collaboration and knowledge sharing even easier.”

How do you see the future?

“Until 2025 – in any case – Amsterdam Zuidoost will continue to develop. More and more capacity is being added and we will organize and use existing capacity in new ways. With Cumulus Park we would like to build a sustainable infrastructure that we continuously optimize and on which different collaborative projects take place, with different participants each time.

So, as an organization, if you have an innovation issue for which you need other parties, or if you are looking for knowledge and expertise that lies outside your sector: register with Cumulus Park. Good to know: where many innovation hubs mainly focus on startups and corporates, we are expressly open to different types of organizations and companies that want to move forward on these themes. After all, innovation and collaboration play a role everywhere.

A thriving place in the big city

In five years’ time, we hope that around 20,000 people per day will study, work, research and develop in this district. People from all kinds of backgrounds, young and old, national and international, are engaged in innovation, creation and technology and together make it a special and flourishing place in the middle of the big city.

And if I may secretly look even further ahead: we hope that in thirty years’ time those people will say: ‘I discovered my passion in Cumulus Park’, or ‘That’s where I started my company’. Or: ‘there led that one collaboration to wonderful things that I could never have achieved on my own.’ That seems like a great goal to me.”

Text: Ronne Theunis

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