Dutch firms unite to boost AI talent development

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The Netherlands wants to join the AI race to the future.

By U2B Staff 

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Five Dutch companies have clubbed together in a united effort to help the Netherlands claim its place in the global AI race, as the country tries to keep pace with other global economies in the battle for technological domination.

The companies–Ahold Delhaize, ING, KLM, NS and Philips–want to boost the national AI ecosystem by accelerating and promoting the development of the technology, at the same time also nurturing AI talents to fill current and future needs.

To do this, the firms will, among other initiatives, invest in lifting educational capacity by paying for the salaries of at least 25 academics. 


A first of its kind, the effort called “Kickstart AI” has a single goal: to bridge the AI development gap between the Netherlands and other countries, such as the US, UK and China.

“The Netherlands has always been a technology pioneer, a frontrunner in AI development and innovation.

“The quality of our AI specialists is well-acknowledged worldwide,” Maarten de Rijke, Professor at the University of Amsterdam and Director of the Innovation Center for Artificial Intelligence, said when introducing Kickstart AI at the World Summit AI last week.

But whilst from a standing start, the Netherlands may be light years ahead of other economies in terms of technological advancements, the country still struggles with a talent shortage,

de Rijke called this a major roadblock in AI development, a technology recognised as having great potential to truly transform human lives. 

“The joint efforts between universities and companies, as part of Kickstart AI, underlines the urgency in accelerating AI education and talent retention and signals our commitment to collaboration and investments needed to accelerate AI innovation in the Netherlands,” he said.


Collaboration lies at the very heart of Kickstart AI. Working together with the government, industry, universities and other technology leaders, the five firms intend to not only focus on developing AI uses and applications but also meet the ethical and social standards of Dutch society. 

What they want to do is ensure the technology is used to augment human potential and create better lives for Dutch society, both at work and at play.

Among others, it will entail efforts to address societal challenges, provide new opportunities for the youth and accelerate the introduction and development of AI in the Netherlands.

These initiatives include:

#1: AI superchallenges

Competitions to raise the Netherlands’ global profile will be held, mobilising global AI talent to address societal challenges such as in the areas of health and mobility.

#2: Joint appointments

The firms will invest in the appointments of academic staff. In their first commitment, each of the five firms will creative five joint appointments, adding up to 25 positions in total. This means the salaries of these professors will go on corporate payrolls, a more attractive proposition for academics in the field. Their tenures will run for at least five years, and possibly up to 10.

#3: Dutch national course for AI

To increase educational understanding and adoption of AI in the Netherlands, Kickstart AI firms will promote a national course for AI among the general public as well as in their own workforces. The course will also be offered in English and the aim is to secure at least 170,000 sign-ups from across the country by end-2020.

According to Dutch News, Kickstart AI will cost tens of millions of euros.