Earlier this summer Singularity University (SU), think tank, business accelerator and unaccredited educational institution founded by futurists Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil, opened its very first international department in Eindhoven. Why did this notable institute choose The Netherlands?
The opening of an innovation hub in Eindhoven makes the Dutch a beta partner of SU’s planned international expansion. A series of regional partnerships around the world must follow in support of the expansion of knowledge about the theory of technology singularity.
The theory (further explained in Peter Diamandis’ book Abundance) is that exponential technologies like nanotechnology and machine learning are converging in this moment in history, developing at an accelerating pace that can be leveraged to solve a great many of society’s current and upcoming challenges, and will ultimately lead to a watershed moment in human history in which human intelligence and artificial intelligence converge.
Singularity University was founded in 2008 and is backed by technology companies like Google, NASA and Cisco. The Dutch department works together with several companies and public institutions and is partly subsidized by several cities, including Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
The facility in Eindhoven will offer visitors from the Netherlands and the European community the chance to experience a combination of emerging technologies like food scanners, nano satellites, laboratory-grown meat, personal robots, self-driving cars, in order to illustrate the impact they can have on society.
"We believe strongly that in order to positively impact the lives of billions, we need to mobilize a global community of individuals committed to teaching others the power of exponential technologies. This partnership will do just that," said Rob Nail, CEO and associate founder of Singularity University.
Why the Netherlands?
One reason is the high concentration of alumni, with around 300 Dutch having completed a training program at their Mountain View campus since its inception. Yuri van Geest, one of the four founders of SU The Netherlands, is himself a triple alumnus of the Singularity University, Exponential Medicine and Exponential Finance.
"Our goal is to build upon the strengths of our country by integrating the most important exponential technologies to help solve some of the global grand challenges like water, food and health," said Van Geest. Another reason is the status of the Netherlands as a regional innovation hub. In April the European Commission awarded its capital, Amsterdam, the European Capital of Innovation (iCapital). Amsterdam also ranked 2nd place as startup city and 3rd place as scale-up city by the European Digital City Index.
In fact almost half of the 65 examples of the most recent innovations presented during the launch of the hub on June 2nd were Dutch inventions.
A key activity at the hub will be to spread awareness of emerging technologies and boost cross-sectoral collaboration through its education programs. An in-house incubator is also tasked with churning out one startup per year, based on one of the challenges in which companies and scientists in the Netherlands are recognized as world leaders: food, health, mobility and water.
Outside of Eindhoven, their inaugural Summit is set to take place on September 12-13 in Amsterdam, which will give attendees a taste of what the regional expansion of the institute and its innovation hub has to offer. Half of the speakers have been selected locally in order to ensure that the event preserves its Dutch heritage.
A series of smaller events will also be held across major cities throughout the Netherlands, beginning with Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Eindhoven. They will focus on bringing together startups & scale-ups, research institutions, businesses, government and investors in order to accelerate innovation.
Amir-Esmaeil Bozorgzadeh is currently working on Virtuleap in Amsterdam, a VR startup in edtech. He is Managing Partner at Gameguise, a Dubai-based publisher of online games in the Middle East and a consultancy to global game developers and publishers that need local help in understanding and operating in the market. Image credit: Queen Maxima opens the Innovation Hub at SingularityU The Netherlands, Eindhoven - photo by Sebastiaan ter Burg