Amsterdam’s AI milestones of 2021
From detecting heart defects to growing climate resistant crops, AI is developing at lightning speed across sectors. We’ve rounded up the innovations from Amsterdam companies and institutions in 2021 that have world-changing potential.
Considered one of the most AI-ready cities in the world, backed by a thriving ecosystem of AI-focused companies, startups and research labs, Amsterdam is an effective living lab for AI solutions. Vitally, these solutions are underpinned by a commitment to responsible technology that benefits society. We’ve rounded up the AI stories of 2021 showcasing this effort.
AI in health
AI has many applications in health, and there are various labs in Amsterdam dedicated to finding new ways to treat diseases. The AI for Oncology lab launched in June, where researchers from the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) and the University of Amsterdam (UvA) are developing cancer treatments using AI, such as accurately guiding radiotherapy to a tumour.
In October, researchers at Amsterdam’s Centrum Wiskunde en Informatica (CWI, centre for mathematics and computer sciences) achieved a mathematical breakthrough for the development of energy-efficient AI to detect heart defects. A special chip can use this low-power AI model to record electrocardiograms (electric signals from heart beats) at a factor of 20 to a thousand more efficiently than traditional AI techniques.
A breakthrough in using AI to increase the success rate of organ transplants came in November, when researchers at Amsterdam UMC, part of a European team, developed the world’s first AI algorithm that can detect whether rejection has occurred following a kidney transplant.
AI to improve diversity
In November, AI tech startup Lalaland and model photography provider Exposar announced their collaboration to increase diversity in e-commerce. Lalaland uses AI to generate models that better reflect customers in various skin colours, body shapes and ages. The AI-formulated models will expand Exposar’s photography content for more than 200 fashion brands.
Steps towards ethical AI
The AI, Media and Democracy lab opened in March to examine the role of AI in news production and democratic processes, and to design responsible applications for AI for a “more diverse, inclusive public space and an informed society”.
At the start of the year, the City of Amsterdam and the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS) launched a Responsible Sensing Lab aimed at testing transparency and privacy-related issues arising from sensors and other methods of data collection in the city with the aim of ensuring they are responsible, transparent and inclusive.
AI for a healthier planet
In October, a revolutionary method using AI to grow crops more resilient to climate change was one step closer to becoming a reality. Plant scientists at UvA now have the funding to develop agricultural crops resilient to heat, drought, pests and diseases - without the need for pesticides - by basing AI models on the optimal genetic properties.
Amsterdam agritech scaleup 30MHz got a funding boost in November for its data platform that helps farmers remotely track and manage their crops. The company’s mission is enabling horticulture to achieve global climate and sustainability goals.
Expanding AI expertise
The Netherlands’ most powerful supercomputer ‘Snellius’ was launched at Amsterdam Science Park in July. With the equivalent calculating power of 100,000 interconnected laptops, it will advance scientific research in, for example, climate solutions or COVID-19 diagnostics.
Also in July, Amsterdam welcomed the opening of a Microsoft research lab, headed by renowned scientist Max Welling, focused on speeding up molecular simulation using machine learning.
In October, the brightest minds in AI gathered in Amsterdam for World Summit AI, an internationally renowned event focused on global AI challenges and innovations. This year also saw UvA add a new minor course in AI with the goal of broadening AI literacy and widening the talent pool. It also added a fifth professor to its AI faculty.
And finally, in March, a large group of Dutch universities and research centres, including Amsterdam’s CWI, UvA and VU Amsterdam were awarded €8m to boost the application and marketing of innovations in AI.