Friday 24 January 2020

#FlandersAIForum 2020: A recap

On the 23rd of February Micropole attended and held a booth at the #FlandersAIForum at Bluepoint, Brussels.

Flanders AI Forum: A plan to put Flanders on the digital map.


On the list of speakers were an impressive set of names and organizations such as Minister Vice-President Hilde Crevits, Herman Derache of Siiris, Jo De Boeck of Imec, Jens De Vos of VOKA and many more.


Each party present wanted but one thing: to create a unified policy for Flanders that would bring about collaboration between all the actors on the innovative playing field. That’s why the ‘impulse program’ for AI' was launched.


In this article, we will present you with the most notable takeaways and quotes made by these speakers on the subject of AI, innovation and digital transformation.


SPOILER ALERT! Some themes and plans for the future are revealed for these important organizations.

Speech by Hilde Crevits, Minister Vice-President, Flemish Minister of Economy, Innovation, Work, Social Economy, and Agriculture.


"The possibilities to innovate business models with AI are almost endless."


Only 1 in 5 Flemish people answered yes to the question: ‘Have you ever used AI applications?’ When elaborating on the question with examples such as chatbots, speech assistance on phones and more, the number mounted but only to 44%. This indicated many people are either unaware of their daily use of artificial intelligence or a certain distrust towards it, leading to avoidance.


AI-driven innovation will offer answers to certain societal issues. As Flanders, it is in our best interest to not miss that train.”


An ambitious AI impulse program was launched to accommodate this and can count on 32 million euros of backed investment, already put down in the national finances of this year. This indicates a clear message from the government of Flanders to want to act quickly and not miss the opportunity to be a part of the future that becomes more and more digital.


Implementing AI into business is one of the key factors where much of the focus is put on. Currently, already 12% of corporate support budgets from VLAIO go to artificial intelligence development in companies.


“3 out of 10 Flemish people do not feel comfortable using AI applications.”


Another important aspect of the AI impulse program is a dedicated focus on the ‘ethics’ part of artificial intelligence. Minister Vice-President made adamantly clear that all these new developments and technologies would bring about certain ethical questions that need answering.


Herman Derache – Manager Sustainability, Product Compliance & Innovation at Agoria. General Director at Sirris.


The impulse program has a few main goals: expand the knowledge of AI inside businesses and business leaders; work on successful AI adoption within these corporations; focus on the ethics of AI.


The program is based on 3 pillars: strategic basic research, technology transfer, and industrial applications and supporting activities such as creating awareness, training, and ethics.


“We do not only wish to focus on the vendors of technology during this program but also the users of these technologies.”


The AI adoption within corporations will be able to count on 15 million euro to be achieved. Next to this other channels may be approached with another 200 million euro at the ready to be invested. However, in order to be subsidized by the government, there must always be a development risk or development research that still needs to be done. Off-the-shelf implementations without any further development or research will not receive a grant.


“It’s imperative that we raise the digital literacy of many small and medium-sized companies.”


Jo De Boeck – Chief Technology & Strategy Officer and Executive Vice President at Imec.


Our attention is brought to “the edge” as a place where to make decisions. This is the moment when systems make their own decisions in complex and changing environments. This happens at a speed that can’t be followed and thus the information can’t be sent up to the cloud. This means we have to look at creating the intelligence in the device itself, which is the edge. Lots of decision-making processes and data will be brought and made much closer to the user.


A third part of the search will be focused on the competence to make autonomous actors work with each other.


“In all this, how man reacts to AI and AI reacts to man will be the focus point of everything.”


Ares Lagae – Scientific Advisor, Vlaams Agentschap Innoveren & Ondernemen


“The gap between industries and universities is too big. We want to address this by bringing industrial and academic research together by letting both tracks run alongside each other under one umbrella theme. This will allow each of them to contribute to the same theme from their own perspective.”


SPOILER: In March, a matchmaking will take place in Lamot in Mechelen for this program to match businesses/industries to research topics.


Ferdinand Casier – Business Group Leader Digital, Agoria


Agoria created an AI online business course. Today with already 1.700 participants. Executives credit the course for allowing them to broach the subject of artificial intelligence within their own companies and businesses. This course is created by businesses for businesses.


“Is your data really ready to start with AI projects?” An important question every business and researcher should ask themselves first before embarking on this journey.


“We’ll instigate a lot of initiatives for companies in the early adopter’s phase as well as later on the curve.”


Philip Bogaert – Projectmanager Finance and Innovation at VOKA


“It’s important that a Flemish policy is developed and run to put Flanders on the digital map.”


‘Verderkijkers’ is a project that has a goal to unite groups of entrepreneurs under one big topic.
SPOILER: Soon in Vlaams-Brabant they will organize a session with as for topic: ‘KMO of the Future’.


Many accolades are distributed to all participants who bring something innovative to the table. Watch out for the next AHA! Awards.


SPOILER: Sunday 4 October will be another ‘Open Bedrijvendag’ with as theme ‘Digital Transformation’.


Mieke De Ketelaere – Program Director AI, Imec


“We know the number of IoT devices will only increase. By 2030 about 20% of all carbon emission will be caused by AI applications. That needs to change”




It is clear that Flanders plans to start and continue many innovative projects to put Flanders on the roadmap towards being a valuable player in the digital field.


Question is of course, when and what will these projects bring forth as results? We're already excited and will follow Flanders's plans for AI adoption and be a part of this journey to help Flanders with digital transformation.


Want to know more about how Micropole can help your business become AI-ready? Contact us today!


Bart Van Mechelen, Regional Director of Flanders



Thomas Dallemagne, A2C Practice Lead and AI Expert



Thierry Turpin, CTO and AI Expert