Monday 20 September 2021

Five Dutch companies club together to fund university AI researchers

Five of the Netherlands’ biggest companies have clubbed together to pay for new professors in Artificial Intelligence, following reports earlier this year that universities are going to limit the number of places because of staff shortages.

Ahold Delhaize, Philips, KLM, ING and Dutch railway group NS will pay towards the salaries of at least 25 new academics as part of a project dubbed ‘Kickstart AI’.

By placing the professors partly on corporate payrolls, their salaries can be increased to encourage more to come forward, the Financieele Dagblad said on Thursday.

The tenures will run for at least five years, and possibly as much as 10, the paper said. Several universities have already begun recruitment drives.

‘The Netherlands has always been a technology pioneer… but without a national AI strategy, the serious shortage of AI talent will remain one of the biggest obstacles to reach the technology’s full potential,’ said Amsterdam university professor Maarten de Rijke said in a press statement. ‘This initiative underscores the urgency of speeding up AI education and keeping talent.’

The initiative is costing tends of millions of euros, Philips chief innovation officer Jeroen Tas told the paper.

The initiative also includes a competition to find new applications for AI and a campaign to boost public acceptance of AI-related technologies.

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