Executive Board President Smits seeks half a billion from ‘Wopke Fund’

TU/e wishes to draw on the investment fund set up by Minister Wopke Hoekstra to the tune of half a billion euros. Together with Fontys, Summa College, Tilburg University, JADS, TNO and partners in trade and industry such as ASML, Philips and VDL, the university wants to deliver a proposal for that around springtime. This half a billion from the ‘Wopke Funds’ would be used to considerably strengthen regional cooperation in the field of artificial intelligence, said Executive Board President Robert-Jan Smits yesterday during the New Year's Reception held by Brainport Eindhoven.

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“It is our ambition to see this proposal accepted in 2020 and implemented in 2021,” Robert-Jan Smits told his audience of eleven hundred yesterday in the Evoluon. It would, he said, give the Brainport Region a significant boost. And in 2021 of all years, he continued, the year TU/e celebrates its sixty-fifth year.

That Minister of Economic Affairs Eric Wiebes also recognizes the value of the Brainport Region is evident, according to Smits, in view of the 'growth letter' that Wiebes presented last month to the Lower House. Smits referred to this document as a song in praise of Brainport. “No fewer than twenty times the letter made mention of the value of innovation ecosystems as the driving force behind economic growth. This represents a national embracing of innovation ecosystems, and that is wholly attributable to the achievements of Brainport.”

Beating heart

Smits dubbed TU/e the beating heart of Brainport. “We were founded in 1956 for and by the region, to provide industry with the best engineers and to create solutions for tomorrow's problems.” This, he said, is why attention is now focused on artificial intelligence, and the university is investing 100 million euros in this area alone. According to Smits, not only because this is the most sensible decision in terms of the economy, “but also for what artificial intelligence is going to mean to us all, to our society. Think of better, earlier and more affordable ways of diagnosing cancer. Leading to reduced mortality and better quality of life. Think of smart cars that can see a cyclist turning left, or a child about to cross the road, that increases traffic safety.”

Smits went on to say that Brainport Eindhoven is excellently positioned to become one of the world's hotspots in the field of AI for high-tech systems. “Many companies and institutions in this region are already in the vanguard.”

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