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Q&A ASP 942

To accommodate the growth of the Faculty of Science of recent years, the UvA intends to realise a new building at Amsterdam Science Park. ASP 942 (working title) is to become a hotspot for teaching, research and collaboration in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

  • Which Design Team is building on ASP942?

    On 31 October the Executive Board of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) issued its final authorisation to Benthem Crouwel Architects for the construction of Building ASP942 at Amsterdam Science Park. The architects presented a soundly based design vision which also offers enough freedom for creating a building that will fit the goals of the University of Amsterdam and the various building users.   

    When selecting the architects and consultants (the Design Team), the UvA was required to follow the European procurement rules. On the basis of the vision, action plan, building company and circularity, in combination with the costs, Benthem Crouwel Architects, then proved to be the unanimous choice.

    The Design Team also comprises the construction consultancy firm Strackee, the building installation services consultancy firm Deerns and the building physics consultancy firm DGMR.

  • What will the look and feel of the building be?

    The look and feel we are aiming to create is fresh, light and warm. The building lets in plenty of natural light, and this, in combination with the greenery, will create an appealing environment which everyone will enjoy. At the same time, the use of colour and materials will create a warm ambience. Providing a variety of spaces and ambiences will ensure that the building’s various zones are clearly recognisable. The building will be practical and multifunctional, and its design and layout reflect this. 

    It is important that different spaces have a different look and feel according to the building's various zones:

    • Foyer and clearly recognisable space in the foyer for the catering facility.

    • Robot, gaming and visualisation lab;

    • Teaching rooms; 

    • Study spaces;

    • Co-creation;

    • Offices.

    In addition, particular attention will be paid to three areas in order to make them particularly attractive:

    • The central catering facility in the foyer;

    • The lounge at the heart of the co-creation zone;

    • The robot, gaming and visualisation lab.

    When deciding on the look and feel, account must be taken of the diverse population and cultural background. The idea is to create an international look in which users from different cultures can feel at home.

     

    Atmosphere of the offices
  • What will the foyer be like?

    The foyer will invite people to come into the building. It will be a space with lots of natural light from which you can look into the building. 

  • How will the teaching rooms and study spaces be organised?

    The teaching rooms will be flexible and multifunctional. All rooms will have adequate natural light, which will help create a healthy environment for learning. The design will encourage activity and will be colourful. The layout and furnishings will enable active learning. 

    Each study space will have a different look and feel, but their function will be clearly recognisable. A high-intensity study space will create an atmosphere in which it is clear from the outset that silence is required. All spaces must be comfortable and must have a power socket!

    Atmosphere teaching rooms
  • Atmosphere in the co-creation zone?

    It is clear from the change in atmosphere that you are entering the co-creation zone. The atmosphere can best be described as a combination of office and creative space. The professional, business-like appearance of an office environment, combined with the creative side of entrepreneurship. 

     

  • Will I be working in an open-plan space?

    The two institutes, IVI and ILLC, will have office spaces for one, two, three or four people, including (open-plan) work spaces for Master’s students and visitors. ICAI will have office spaces for five to ten people, and the spaces will be flexible and adjustable according to requirements.

     

  • Where will the offices be, and will I be able to concentrate and hold meetings?

    Each floor will have a Development, Meeting and Concentration zone. There will be coffee corners and common rooms and, the higher up you go, the more concentration office spaces there will be.

    The office environment in the concentration zone is designed for concentrated working.  Comfortable, characterful spaces in a calm environment are conducive to this. You can come up with ideas or share information with each other on writable walls. Colleagues must be able to concentrate on their work without being interrupted by noise in the corridor or from the common rooms. Consequently, good acoustics are essential. Soft, warm materials help achieve this.

    The Meeting Zone, which can be used for both formal and informal meetings, is a space for chatting over a coffee. The third area will be a dynamic route between the two permanent zones. The emphasis here is on cross-pollination (Discovery) between the various disciplines.

    The design must pay particular attention to the design and layout of the common rooms. The common rooms must facilitate interaction, and must therefore be attractive spaces to spend time in. Work groups will be closely involved in the choices that are made during the design process, so the environment that is created meets everyone’s requirements. Preferences and requirements vary from one institute to another. The architect must take this into account.   

  • Where will I be able to get a good cup of coffee?

    The building will have various catering outlets, each with its own individual function. There will be coffee corners and common rooms on the various floors of the office area. The common rooms will be centrally located within the building in order to facilitate interaction.

    The central catering facility in the foyer is the place to start the day with a good cup of coffee. Around the central catering facility are a number of different spaces, which are a combination of catering spaces during peak hours and study spaces outside peak hours.

    The lounge in the heart of the co-creation (cross-pollination) zone, combined with the meeting and seminar zone, has a different atmosphere to the central catering facility. This space is primarily designed for co-creation. It’s a place where you can have a coffee, receive guests and talk in comfortable furniture and in a calm, professional environment. 

    Intended look of catering facility (Volkshotel Amsterdam)
  • Where can I park my bike?

    The current bicycle parking area near the Science Park 904 building is to be dismantled and a new plan for bicycle parking for both buildings is to be drawn up.

  • Why is a new building constructed?

    The Faculty of Science is outgrowing its accommodations thanks to an increase in the number of students, staff, PhD candidates and new collaborations. There is a need for expansion, work stations for staff, and classrooms and study spaces for students in order to continue to safeguard the quality of our research and education programmes. The realisation of the new accommodations will also fulfil the desire to offer a permanent solution in lieu of the current, temporary classrooms and work stations such as the temporary lecture hall in Building H, the classrooms leased from CWI and Startup Village and the accommodation of two institutes at ASP 107 (the former Astronomy/Computing Science building, next to Nikhef).

  • Why does the UvA wish to create an AI hotspot in a new building?

    The University of Amsterdam wishes to combine the necessity of realising new accommodations for the Faculty of Science with the desire for expansion and intensification of the collaboration with the business community and social partners. The UvA's excellent artificial intelligence (AI) research and teaching and the demand from the corporate sector offer great opportunities to take major strides in technological AI innovation. In this new building, we will be able to create more of such partnerships, in order to address the technological and societal challenges posed by AI. The establishment of an AI hotspot will yield educational opportunities for our students; encourage co-creation, and forge a link between fundamental, pioneering scientific insights and innovation in both business and society. In light of the serious legal, ethical and cultural implications related to AI, as a comprehensive university, the UvA is uniquely qualified to study these particular aspects from the perspective of different disciplines. The new building offers opportunities to promote the desired collaboration between faculties in the field of artificial intelligence.

  • Who is the new building for?

    The objective is that the new building ASP 942 (working title) should be a hub that brings together researchers, lecturers, students, scientific partners and businesses within the field of informatics in general and AI in particular. The UvA envisions a building with 12,000 m2 of lettable floor space. The current building programme takes into account the following distribution of space: 39% for scientists from the Informatics Institute and the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (including working space for Master’s students); 26% for UvA lecture rooms, training areas and study places; 34% for the purposes of the co-creation programme (offices, AI research labs); and the remaining 1% for facilities such as toilets. The 34% for the co-creation programme is primarily in connection with the Innovation Centre for Artificial Intelligence (ICAI) and consists of AI research labs which collaborate closely with (potentially) major corporations, AI society labs which explore the use of AI in social issues in cooperation with other research disciplines, local research departments from companies taking part in the AI research labs or other partnerships with the knowledge institutions, space for AI-related businesses that began as start-ups (such as in the Startup Village at ASP), have close ties to research and are now taking their next steps as scale-ups, and space for SMEs to “get a taste of” AI research in order to discover how it might benefit them. This will be facilitated through inviting shared facilities that will encourage encounters, knowledge exchange and cross-pollination between scientists, students and members of the business community. In doing so, the new building will house a tight-knit AI community.

  • Where will the building be located?

    The new building will be located in the immediate vicinity of SP 904. Several plots at Amsterdam Science Park are possible options for the new building. In the coming months, the wishes and requirements for the new building will be further elaborated. The decision on a location will depend on the wishes of the users and other developments at play at the ASP, along with other factors. Plots 12, 15 and 16 are the most obvious candidates at the moment, in connection with their locations immediately adjoining SP 904.

    Location Amsterdam Science Park
  • How will all parties be housed until the new building is ready for use?

    Right now, many temporary solutions for classrooms and work stations are in place. To resolve the shortage of space (including teaching space), we are already making use of accommodations in other buildings at the ASP (and to a small extent, the REC as well). This situation is not ideal, however, and was always intended to be temporary. The temporarily leased classrooms are quite expensive, relatively speaking. Until the completion of ASP 492 in 2021, the institutes currently in temporary accommodations outside ASP 904 (the Korteweg-De Vries Institute for Mathematics and the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation) will remain in ASP 107.

    As work in cooperation with third parties – various research labs and the developments within the ICAI – has already begun, and we would like to see these partnerships increase quickly in scale and intensity, possibilities for temporary expansion of the offices and labs at ASP are currently being explored.

  • How will the UvA pay for this building?

    The total investment for the new building has been calculated at €45 million, which is to come from the UvA Accommodations Plan budget. The 2018 Accommodations Plan has already earmarked €10 million for expanding the Faculty of Science’s premises. This budget category will be increased by €35 million in the 2019 Accommodations Plan. The UvA Programme costs €29.9 million. The annual costs of this UvA usage will be offset by leasing space to internal tenants, particularly the Faculty of Science. The remaining €15.1 million will be earmarked for the completion of the co-creation building that is to house ICAI, a joint initiative between the University of Amsterdam, industry partners and government, among other tenants. This sum will come from external rental income as well as a grant from the City of Amsterdam and a €2 million operational contribution from the UvA. The €4 million grant from the city will be used to facilitate leasing of space in the building by small businesses and scale-ups which, while they (thus far) lack sufficient scale to take on major financial burdens in connection with lease contracts, are nevertheless able to make significant contributions to the AI community. These parties will then be able to lease space in the building under more favourable terms, such as a lower rent or short-term lease contract.

  • Will this investment come at the expense of teaching and research in other faculties?

    Investments are being made in teaching and research: this expansion is necessary to accommodate the strong growth in teaching and research at the Faculty of Science. What’s more, the co-creation aspect will considerably reinforce the university’s third duty: that of positive societal impact. In the coming years, the Faculty of Science will be billed for the costs of its new space according to the current allocation model. The remaining portion will be recouped via rental income and a €4 million contribution from the City of Amsterdam. This is therefore not at the other faculties’ expense. It is true that pre-financing is occurring, in that the UvA is investing in the new construction; however, because the UvA has enough liquid assets (capital) available for this purpose, any pre-financing will not be at the expense of plans involving other faculties (such as the University Quarter).

  • What scenario will we face if the co-creation fails to materialise?

    Within the business community, there exists a great deal of interest in cooperation with regard to AI innovation. Two AI labs are already in operation and being funded by businesses as we speak: the Delta Lab (in cooperation with Bosch) and the QUVA lab (in cooperation with Qualcomm). On 26 April, a partnership agreement was signed with Ahold Delhaize in connection with the AIR lab. The further expansion of these labs (to around twenty) is included in the plans to establish the Innovation Centre for Artificial Intelligence (ICAI). Interest from external partners will be further explored and formalised in the coming months. The grant awarded by the City of Amsterdam at the start of 2018 will offset a portion of the risks the ICAI partner programme entails. Creating space for cooperation with other parties will result in a tremendous boost to our own teaching and research.

    In the event the co-creation aspect of ICAI is ultimately unsuccessful, or develops more slowly than anticipated, other decisions may be taken concerning the use of the space for partners. It might be explored, for instance, whether other computing science partners – or other businesses in keeping with the ASP’s profile – are interested.

  • What will happen if there is a great deal of interest? Is space limited?

    Yes, space is limited. We are, however, maintaining close consultation with the Matrix organisation at ASP. If interest proves to be great, we will consult with Matrix to determine whether there might be additional space for interested parties in the existing Matrix buildings or their planned new construction. These parties will then have accommodations not in the new building, but in the immediate vicinity instead.

  • What is the basis for this continued growth of the faculty?

    The number of students enrolled at the Faculty of Science has increased by over 15% in the last 10 years, from 2,465 to 6,325. There are various reasons for this growth. The most significant are: the total number of pre-university education pupils has increased; the portion of those pupils who choose the Nature & Technology or Nature & Health tracks continues to grow; the range of science programmes on offer has been redesigned and expanded; and that, at a national level, educational programmes in science and technology have seen promotion from many quarters due to the societal demand for highly-educated workers in these fields.

    In what is known as its reference forecast, the Ministry of Education, Culture & Science predicts that the number of students in academic education will continue to increase until 2024 by a total of around 10%, followed by a slight decrease of a few percentage points. The relative share of the science and technology disciplines is expected to maintain modest growth through 2030, which marks the end of the forecast period.

    Besides this general trend, there are a number of other developments within the Faculty of Science which may impact the future growth of enrolment numbers. Due to the societal demand for highly-educated technical specialists, the faculty intends to investigate whether it should offer more technology-oriented tracks or programmes, which would attract new groups of students. The enrolment quota for Computing Sciences (particularly the AI programme) could be lifted if the number of academic staff were to increase. Finally, the vast majority of the Master's programmes are taught in English, meaning they could potentially benefit from the heightened popularity of Dutch university education among international students.

    Based on both the general trend in higher education (the Ministry’s reference forecast) and estimates from the College/Graduate School directors, the faculty considers it realistic to cautiously assume a 10% growth in enrolment (some 6,900 additional students) in the mid to long term.

  • What will happen if enrolment numbers drop?

    Even if the predicted growth does not occur, the new building will offer solutions to a number of problems we have been dealing with for years: the two knowledge institutes currently housed in external accommodations ( KdVI and IILC) will be able to take up quarters in a UvA building in close proximity to their colleagues, and all teaching taking place at other, temporary or expensive locations (CWI, Building H, Startup Village) will be reunited under a single roof. This is another way in which we are underscoring the four-campus policy, e.g. the UvA’s goal of clustering all its teaching and research into four locations in Amsterdam. The advantage of ASP 942 is that it will be built so that (for the most part) classroom space, office space for Faculty of Science staff and space to be leased to third parties will be mutually interchangeable. In the event of an unexpected and undesired drop in enrolment, the portion of ASP 492 leased to third-party tenants can be expanded.

  • How will representative advisory bodies be involved in the process?

    The Central Works Council and the Central Student Council have been informed of the intent to develop this plan for new construction. We will be keeping in close contact with them in the coming period. Furthermore, proposed investments of this magnitude are always included in the Framework Letter, for which the Central Works Council and the Central Student Council have the right of approval. Such investments are included in the main elements of the budget. The 2019 Framework Letter will be drafted in spring and decisions regarding it will be taken in June 2018. The project will additionally be incorporated into the budget and the 2019 Accommodations Plan, for which the Central Works Council and the Central Student Council also have the right of approval. With regard to the decentralised representative advisory bodies, consultation will take place via the existing consultative structures.

  • What does the decision-making process involve?

    The Executive Board approved the draft project plan in early May. This draft project plan was then further refined and on 22 May, formal decision-making by the Executive Board with regard to the feasibility phase of ASP 942 will take place. At that time, it will be decided whether we will be investing further in the plan (no implementation decree yet). The main elements of the budget will be set out in the 2019 Framework Letter – decision-making to take place in June – including the required investment. This will then be finalised in the 2019 budget (including Accommodations Plan), for which decision-making is scheduled at the end of the year.

  • Will there be consequences for other accommodations plans?

    No, the development of this plan is a separate undertaking. Both the projected costs for the realisation of the University Quarter and the projected costs for ASP 942 have been taken into account in the Accommodations Plan. Based on the current financial data, these estimates are within the financial parameters of the Accommodations Plan and the UvA as a whole. Visit this page for information on the UvA Accommodations Plan.

  • Is the university investing enough in high-quality teaching facilities?

    ASP 942 will contain new study spaces and high-quality classrooms. With regard to the classrooms, we will explore which design (such as an active learning space) best meets educational desires. Attention will also be devoted to the mixed use of classrooms and study spaces when the design is further elaborated.

  • Will the new building and ICAI offer opportunities for research in other disciplines?

    Through the development of an AI hotspot at the Science Park, we can create more collaborative partnerships in order to address the technological and societal challenges posed by AI. AI is becoming ubiquitous in society and offers scientific disciplines beyond the computing sciences new possibilities for academic research: Digital Humanities, for instance. As a university that covers a wide range of fields, the UvA is also ideally placed to play a pioneering role in research into the ethical and social aspects of AI. The use of AI offers numerous opportunities for issues relating to health care, safety and sustainability, for instance, and can also contribute to finding responsible solutions. The UvA is developing various initiatives that work in tandem with each other, such as the appointment of professors, a new broad-based research priority area and an application for a Gravitation grant for the ‘Human(e) DataSociety’ project from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research. This is creating a strategy in which “deep AI” (consisting of machine-learning, deep-learning and knowledge representation technologies) and “broad AI” (aimed at societal and ethical aspects) complement, stimulate and reinforce one another.

  • Why are investments being made in AI rather than another discipline?

    Developments in Artificial Intelligence, or AI, are progressing remarkably quickly at the moment. In the years to come – not only in the Netherlands, but across the globe – AI will move forward by leaps and bounds, drastically impacting a wide range of applications. Currently, Amsterdam is widely recognised both in the Netherlands and Europe for its leading scientific expertise in the area of AI. ICAI is already a partner in the ELLIS network, along with other top European institutes. In order to maintain this position, research into AI must increase substantially – not only at the UvA, but at other knowledge institutions in Amsterdam as well, such as the VU University Amsterdam (VU) and the National Research Institute for Mathematics and Computer Science (CWI). The UvA and FNWI are responding to this need and emphatically seeking cooperation with third parties in order to reinforce both the research and its relevance to society. The possibilities and exact steps to be taken will be further explored and elaborated in the coming period.

  • What is the relationship between the AI hotspot / the ICAI and Amsterdam Data Science?

    Amsterdam Data Science is an enormously successful network organisation that unites various knowledge institutions (partners include UvA Informatics Institute, VU Computer Science, UvA Social and Behavioural Sciences, AUAS, UvA ABS/ASE, CWI) in connection with the broad theme of data science. Knowledge, applications and businesses are brought together through events (involving over 6,000 members) and collaborative projects, among other initiatives. The Amsterdam School of Data Science provides a one-stop portal for the full range of data science educational programmes. The ICAI will become a partner in this existing ecosystem, thereby offering vast enhancement in terms of technological possibilities for application in data science. The major advantage for ICAI is the opportunity to become part of an ecosystem in Amsterdam which has already demonstrated outstanding performance. In ASP 942, a physical meeting place will be created, in which co-creation between AI technology and data-science applications can take place.

  • Does cooperation with the business community pose a risk to the independent role of scientists?

    One important motivation for our cooperation with the business community is that we, as a faculty, are committed to promoting excellent, ground-breaking research that is linked to creating value for society’s benefit. The stronger focus on value creation is also connected to the changing vision held by society and the public with regard to the universities’ role. In combination with these factors, sources of funding have shifted and it has become necessary to obtain external resources. Alignment with the Top Sectors, the Dutch National Research Agenda and, yes, collaboration with the private sector are therefore developments faced by every university. We view the launch of ICAI, which will prioritise both cooperation with the business community and preserving the independence of researchers, as a promising step in further reinforcing our position within society.

    Innovation and societal research will be the primary concerns in the collaboration within ICAI. For major technology companies such as Qualcomm and Bosch, patents are an essential component of collaboration; yet at the same time, explicit agreements are in place with regard to publication of the results via internationally renowned conferences and journals. This combination yields research that occupies the outer limits of scientific possibility. Experience with the current labs has shown that there is more space to be had there for use-inspired fundamental research than in many EU or NWO projects. As for data-driven companies, they will have access to unique data that would otherwise be unobtainable for use in joint research. It offers possibilities for arriving at new scientific insights and testing scientific theories that would not be achievable in any other setting. Each contract with an external party is based on two principles: that it will be possible to publish the results (not necessarily the data) within the international scientific community and that the independence of the researcher is guaranteed.