Just about 10 years ago, in 2014, MediaLAB Amsterdam was created as part of the Digital Media and Creative Industries Department of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. It was a response to various problems faced by companies by providing creative and technical solutions. Currently, Amsterdam’s creative and digital media businesses are engaged in a number of joint projects in many fields including energy and healthcare, with the MediaLAB playing a very important role in this.
In some cases, this starts with the owner of the project making their requests; in others, MediaLAB works to recruit corporations as sponsors. “In most cases, we begin with a proposal from the corporation,” says MediaLAB coordinator Gijs Gootjes. “However, we prefer projects related to MediaLAB policy of “Citizen Empowerment.”
MediaLAB is involved in studies related to citizen education, in a number of fields including games, cross-media, information science, fashion and others, all of which it calls Citizen Empowerment. It is not about academic research: its main characteristic is that it is very much focused on practical research.
At the MediaLAB, students from around the world spend half of their final year participating in many kinds of projects with companies and other organizations. Projects include the production of interactive movies for use with 3D heads-up displays such as the Oculus Rift, projects for the use of Google Glass in the construction industry—about five projects a semester, or 10 in a year.
“Not all the teaching staff here are full time, we have people from a wide range of fields including design, journalism, technology, business and others,” Mr. Gootjes says. “Through the creative process of the projects, the students learn a great deal. After discussing the outcome of their study with the instructors, the results are delivered to the sponsors. I believe that the cooperation within the faculty team plays a big role in linking the companies and the MediaLAB.”
The Amsterdam MediaLAB space, in the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.
Gijs Gootjes. He is mainly involved in research projects into new development.
From its start, the MediaLAB has been a place that responds to the needs both within the school and from a variety of industries as well, although there are times when projects spread out across complex areas. “The design and digital media fields are evolving rapidly, so we also have to update the education system and curriculum,” Mr. Gootjes says. “If we don’t, when students graduate after studying for four years, it’s very likely that there will be whole new areas of technology apart from the knowledge they learned in school. So it’s very important that we be able to predict what will be important in four years, when they do graduate. In that sense, the idea of having a research facility on-campus is a reasonable one.”
For the companies, too, it could be said that they are in a position where it is difficult for them to innovate. There are always a number of constraints in-house, such as limited time and budgets. “A place such as ours therefore enables outsourcing,” Mr. Gootjes says. “Creativity, flexibility and multidisciplinary teams is what the industry needs.”
Because of this, many different projects are going on at MediaLAB, but in the autumn of 2014, some of the students successfully started up their own business. “The product they work on is called Oglow,” Mr. Gootjes says. “In the beginning, a smartphone app was used to transmit information to a smart and connected bracelet. This project started as a collaboration between the the University of Applied Sciences Amsterdam and a company focusing on smart screens. MediaLAB students were in charge of the design, and as they saw the potential for commercializing the product, they created a business organization.”
So, to make use of the talented people who come together in MediaLAB for study and research, the thought was that there would inevitably be the need for facilitating the startup culture. “The projects we are involved in today including work with many different business areas, so we are now working to create in-house sections on design, research and business innovation”
The global company Cisco is a firm known for doing its own long-term research programs, but it, too, is involved in a joint project with Cisco. There are a great many small companies and freelancers in Amsterdam’s creative community, so the question is how to involve these talented people in a product development project. “We naturally want to strengthen our cooperation with countries such as India, Japan and Brazil, but we also want to strengthen our collaboration and use the same themes and methods with foreign companies and organizations,” Mr. Gootjes says.
By not shutting themselves in with a framework of “research,” and creating strong ties with society, MediaLAB can also make a strong impact on society. In recent years, awareness of MediaLAB has grown in Amsterdam.
Consulting (Work style): In-house
Interior design: Olll Architects
Architectural design: Anouk Dekker OIII
An outdoor space, busy with many students bustling about.
The campus is equipped with a studio for television and radio editing.
On the MediaLAB website is an introduction to the services provided by Oglow, complete with animations.
A farm operated as part of a project renting space to the citizens of Amsterdam.