Last week, Ahold Delhaize officially opened its AI for Retail Lab (AIR Lab) in Delft. It’s not the only initiative in the field of artificial intelligence. Through 'Kickstart AI', the company, together with 4 other large Dutch companies (ING, KLM, NS and Philips), wants to give AI a boost in the Netherlands.
Robotics in retail
The AIR Lab is the result of a collaboration between Ahold Delhaize and Delft University of Technology. It is an extension of the existing AIR Lab in Amsterdam and the intention is to develop new robotic applications that can be used in retail. For example, there will be investigations into how robots can best learn, how they can perform repetitive tasks, and how they handle delicate products, like fruit and vegetables.
However, Ahold Delhaize is undertaking other initiatives to give AI a boost. The group is one of the driving forces behind 'Kickstart AI', a joint project by the company, along with ING, KLM, NS and Philips. The five Dutch companies want to promote and accelerate the development of AI technology through a combination of initiatives. They want to add educational capacity and foster the development of talent, thus highlighting the position of the Netherlands in the field of AI. The companies are of the opinion that the Dutch government, companies, organisations and universities need to catch up with other countries, such as the UK, China and the US, when it comes to the AI gap.
"The Netherlands has always been a technological pioneer, a frontrunner in AI development and innovation. The quality of our AI specialists is well-acknowledged worldwide. However, without a national AI strategy and swift action, the severe shortage of AI talent in our country remains one of the biggest roadblocks to realising the full potential of AI talent and technology. 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", explained Maarten de Rijke, Professor at the University of Amsterdam and Director of the Innovation Center for Artificial Intelligence.
As part of Kickstart AI, the five companies intend to invest in public-private collaborations through the joint appointments of professors and university lecturers, which will provide the next generation of AI students with access to quality education and training. They also want to increase understanding and acceptance of AI in the Netherlands. To this end, the national AI Course will not only be promoted among the general public, but there will also be an English-language version in order to reach even more people.