The Fontys ICT InnovationLab and its ecosystem
What happens when you place a knowledge and innovation hub in the middle of a business location? After all, the potential seen in an integration of education, research and business is exactly why the Fontys ICT InnovationLab settled at Strijp T in 2019, in the middle of an ecosystem of innovative companies. That relationship, connection and impact is one of the topics that the ongoing research into the Lab's impact focuses on. Simply put: what do the neighbours actually think? In the summer of 2021, they were questioned about this. The findings are positive and there are also many opportunities.
Meso level: the neighbourhood
In a previous article, you read about the findings of the research with regard to the spatial impact at micro level; the floor of the Fontys ICT InnovationLab itself. The second level that was investigated was the meso level at Strijp T. With this term, the research team defines the immediate surroundings at Strijp T, where about 60 (tech) companies are located. The neighbourhood, as we would normally say. By means of a survey and an in-depth focus group among companies, an exploration was made of the role that the Fontys ICT InnovationLab plays in the ecosystem and the image that the co-residents have of the hybrid learning environment.
Opportunities for collaboration
There is a great deal of enthusiasm among the neighbours at Strijp T for cooperation with the InnovationLab; according to the survey, as many as 68% are open to this. This interest is still mainly focused on the well-known internships and graduation projects, but entering into a more intensive collaboration (partner/client relationship) also appears to be an interesting option for over a third of the neighbours.
- 57% of respondents are interested in internships
- 57% of respondents are interested in graduation projects
- 53% of respondents are interested in becoming a cooperation partner
- 32% of respondents are interested in becoming clients.
- So there are plenty of opportunities for the Fontys ICT InnovationLab, researcher Jolijn Jansen explains: "The location of the branch at Strijp T was a conscious choice. The many opportunities that this ecosystem offers have not yet been fully exploited, mainly because of the pandemic. It turns out that 32% of the surveyed neighbours are aware of the possibility of working together. Given the high level of interest, there should be more to come by raising awareness of the opportunities for collaboration."
The chances of increasing that number are considerable, also because there is a lot of interest in the specific research themes that Fontys is involved in. Jansen: "Data and Software Services and Artificial Intelligence in particular are relevant innovation themes for our neighbours. It is therefore important to show more clearly what we can do in these areas. The Fontys-wide theme Sustainability & Circularity is also relevant for 73% of the respondents. With the new positioning and mission 'for society', we as FHICT, but also Fontys-wide, are much more visible as a partner in this."
Currently, of the 24 Partners in Innovation connected to the Fontys ICT InnovationLab, only 2 are located within the immediately surrounding ecosystem. In order to capitalise on the interest in collaboration in the neighbourhood, FHICT is taking various actions, including appointing four Research and Innovation project coordinators who will actively approach potential partners and link up professional issues with the research themes being worked on in the InnovationLab. Consideration is also being given to ways of involving the neighbours more actively in knowledge events that will hopefully take place again this spring.
In the spring of 2021, the research into the spatial impact will be further explored; in a subsequent article, we will look at the relationship between the Fontys ICT InnovationLab and its immediate surroundings. In particular, the impact of full occupation of the building will have an impact on the perception of users. The full research report can be viewed here. For questions, please contact researcher Jolijn Jansen.