Social Innovation

Science with a Soul: Tilburg University Impact Program enters into dialog

Tilburg University’s Impact Team has seized the occasion of the Dear Future Festival on social innovation to enter into dialog with parties in civil society. What parts of the program can be tackled together to reinforce resilience, care and wellbeing in society and to stimulate the use of (big) data?

“You may still be people ‘from outside’, but you will not be for much longer,” Ton Wilthagen explained, one of three leaders of the Impact Program. “We want to create impact together, but in order to do so we need to work together from the start. (…) That is why we are inviting you to join us in reflecting on what should be high up on the agenda.”

Shared vision

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One of the partners already working together with the Impact Team is the Robot Academy, a training center seeking to share knowledge on robotics, as many people are still largely unfamiliar with it and afraid of the consequences its implementation might have. “We need to create sufficient volume, and there is no way we can do that without partners,” Josje Verbeeten explained. The Robot Academy and Tilburg University share the common view that the rise of robotics is not just about technology, but just as much, for instance, about the social, educational and data aspects involved in robotics. Both government institutions and companies need new knowledge and insights on how to make as many people as possible benefit from the developments.

Koen Peters, consultant at the World Food Programme, put in an appearance from Rome via Skype: "In dealing with all kinds of data from all kinds of sources, it is important to be creative as well as pragmatic." In his experience, every day confirms that the human factor in all this is indispensable. He is currently working on optimizing food aid in Nigeria. Which is more efficient: buying locally, handing out vouchers to the people themselves, or importing?

Inspired

Dick den Hertog, program leader of Creating Value from Data in the Impact Team, is proud of Tilburg University’s collaboration with the World Food Programme. “You do not engage in projects like these sitting in your office; you come out from behind your desk, go out into the world.” For Koen Peters this not only resulted in an interim position at the WFP as a representative of the university, but indeed in a job. Den Hertog in turn was inspired into engaging in similar data projects under the title Data Science for Humanitarian Innovation. “We will soon be starting on the optimization of medicine distribution in Africa. These are fantastic applications that can mean a great deal to a great many people.”

In the course of the afternoon, four workshops and the concluding networking drinks yielded fresh insights, creative ideas, intensive discussions, and new contacts. The Impact Themes are recognized and shared, that much is clear. Some of the leads that may be pursued in the future:

  • The more robots, the more fun jobs we will get - but how do we organize people keeping abreast of developments?
  • Data Science is a game changer, but how do we prevent the negative aspects involved?
  • New smart neighborhoods can be made social and resilient by promoting the residents’ engagement, or by dividing the neighborhood up into modules, which in turn will become small testing grounds;
  • The knowledge needed in health care is constantly changing; constant co-creation of this knowledge with partners is essential to really make a difference;
  • Data Science can be used to personalize medical treatment, for instance by using new diagnostic methods to establish what treatment is best for you.

Communities

In short – We are off to a good start building communities around three impact themes. To be continued! If you are interested in joining us, please contact the Impact Team - go to www.tilburguniversity.edu/impact.