On January 18, 2023, the Fontys Knowledge Center Applied AI for Society was launched at the Fontys ICT InnovationLab. Martijn van Gruijthuijsen, deputy for Economy, Knowledge and Talent Development from the Province of North Brabant, was allowed to symbolically open the center as a special guest. The knowledge center brings together various expertise from Fontys and partners, with artificial intelligence (AI) as the central theme. With a festive gathering, the Knowledge Center officially comes forward as the knowledge partner in the region for applied research, education/professionalization and work field innovation.
With the establishment of knowledge centers and Centers of Expertise, Fontys offers the professional field direct entrances to key themes. It also opens up new opportunities for applied research in which various institutes, professorships and research groups connect and cooperate interdisciplinarily. Under the leadership of leading lector Gerard Schouten, the Applied AI for Society Knowledge Center was launched on January 1, 2022 with the goal of innovating in and with AI through collaboration. After a first year dedicated to its establishment, the opening to the outside world will take place in 2023 through a "road show" in the region. From the role of the knowledge center, a logical choice according to research managers Anke Bardie and Danny Jonker: "If we are looking at a future with AI, it is essential that we shape it together. With researchers, industry and society. That is why we are going out to show that we are there and that our door is open to anyone who wants something to do with AI."
Innovating with and in AI
The meeting on Jan. 18, led by presenter and technophilosopher Rens van der Vorst, focused on "AI for (and with) society: people health & planet health. In front of an audience consisting of colleagues, partners and interested parties, leading lector Gerard Schouten and Bart Wernaart, affiliated with the knowledge center from the Moral Design Strategy lectureship, presented the future dream of a sustainable, reliable and above all democratic AI with a positive contribution for people, animals and planet. Schouten emphasizes the importance of that collaboration and broad connection beyond lectureship and institute and with the field, necessary for applied research on this major theme: "What I want to emphasize here is that we are a community. A group of people who together embrace the challenging theme of "AI for Society." A group of people learning and innovating together. Knowledge development and talent development go hand in hand here. We are a knowledge center where exploring the future together is central. We do this with our students, our teacher-researchers and our partners."
Schouten and Wernaart therefore see this collaboration as necessary to give proper attention to the ethical, legal and social aspects early in the design process of AI applications. This will prevent applications being launched and causing the necessary unrest and question marks, as is now happening with ChatGPT.
Added value for Brainport region and province
After the presentation of the knowledge center, delegate Martijn van Gruijthuijsen had the honor of opening it. He does this with a wink, by reciting a speech written by ChatGTP. Surely an unavoidable topic this day when it comes to AI and the disruptive power of the technology. Van Gruijthuijsen is enthusiastic about the knowledge center and emphasizes its relevance: "I think a Fontys knowledge center around AI is very relevant from several points of view. First, Fontys brings knowledge about AI in applied form to society; to companies, institutions, organizations and governments. Second, they train a new generation in it with the skills and knowledge to start using AI in their work after graduation. That this is happening here now is incredibly beautiful. I am positively surprised by what has already been done and optimistic about the impact of the knowledge center in the future."