Key to the Future: Cooperation
CHRIS NAP | PHOTOGRAPHY:
Walking past Weena towards the station square, you get a glimpse of the future. It’s all happening here! We can’t wait to see the future unfold. And not just see it but create it too! Barack Obama once said: “The future rewards those who press on.” That is precisely the vibe in Rotterdam Central District: pressing on, working to build the city of the future. Melissa Ablett of Cambridge Innovation Center Rotterdam, in collaboration with Venture Café, invited three individuals who are actively shaping that future for an interview. Each of them, a firm believer in cooperation.
Data and Ehealth
Carola Immerzeel-Goosens works at Erasmus MC as TTO advisor (Technology Transfer Office) and manager of the Erasmus MC Incubator. She sees data and eHealth as challenges for the city. “An unfathomable amount of data is being collected. Our task lies in making useful predictions with that data, so we can improve medical treatments and applications. We all want to stay healthy as we grow old! eHealth solutions ensure that we can live independently for longer.”
Immerzeel-Goosens is an excellent networker and connector. “We bring together the finest of Rotterdam’s networks.” Compared to other Dutch cities, Rotterdam is ahead of the game, she explains. “This is also thanks to the efforts of the Rotterdam Municipality, particularly in the Life Sciences & Health sector (LS&H). I am grateful for their contribution. We’ve developed a thriving community in the areas of innovation and entrepreneurship; not only from LS&H, but from many sectors. This cooperation is essential if you want to achieve results and generate impact.”
Space as a bottleneck
“A major bottleneck for mobility in the city of the future is space,” states Niki Sie, CEO and founder of car-sharing platform Juuve. “More than half of the public space in Western cities is occupied by vehicles, moving and stationary. Moreover, cars account for 90% of air pollution in urban areas,” Sie elaborates. His solution is large-scale sharing of clean cars.
“City centers such as Rotterdam Central District must not be burdened with additional parking,” claims car enthusiast Sie. “Even better: reduce inner-city parking. Because where there is parking, there will be cars. To beautify Rotterdam and make it more liveable, we must do away with parking. Period.”
Sie is not dissatisfied with the policy of the Rotterdam Municipality. The parking fees have been greatly increased, large underground parking garages have been constructed and, before the year 2020, there will be 3,000 fewer ground level parking spaces. Sie: “That will definitely upgrade the city. Biergarten is a perfect example: what was once a parking lot is now one of the most fun outdoor spaces in the city.”
Cooperation on the go
From Sie’s perspective, cars have no place downtown, at least not to the extent they are now. With his company, Juuve, he offers an alternative: car sharing. “Particularly people in their thirties in the city who don’t need a car more than three days a week are choosing not to own one. To seduce the market, we are making car sharing easy with an app. Because it has to be clean, the cars are electric. That adds a fun and exciting dimension, and everything is taken care of for you,” explains Sie. “To offer a complete mobility system, hundreds of shared electric scooters will be introduced this summer as an alternative for short distances in the city. There will be scooters for in and around the city, and cars for longer distances. Users will get a free scooter ride to reach their car, so the need for cars in the city will be even less.”
For 11 years, Caroline Williams worked for Microsoft, the past 4.5 of those in the Netherlands. In her last project, 24 women were coached and retrained as data scientists. When the project ended early 2018, American-born Williams founded her Do Good Only Company to continue the work she did for Microsoft the Netherlands; now independently in Rotterdam. In July 2019, she launched her first program: SkillUP Lab. An intensive development course in technical and personal skills and a leadership program in practical data science or data analysis. The underlying goal is to cultivate a culture of digital inclusivity around learning.
“This work – teaching people digital skills to create new opportunities, to empower them – was very important for me as well,” shares Williams, a self-proclaimed technology enthusiast. “It was something I had to keep doing and it’s why I became self-employed. With the technological developments, the fast-growing mass of data around us and deteriorating job security, the need for long-term learning has never been greater,” she emphasizes.
Williams is adamant about the concept of life-long learning, a notion that is more widely accepted among professionals in the United States. “Here, employers are focused on filling vacancies, often looking for qualified ‘puppets’. Many employees believe once they’ve graduated: ‘That’s it, I’m done with my education.’ But only continued learning can make us resilient,” she tells further. “You have to keep gathering knowledge and skills that will take you forward.”
The future of learning, according to Williams, is in doing it together as a community. With all of the relevant disciplines in one place, people of all ages exchanging knowledge, on the basis of equality. Whereby people’s experience is the foundation upon which they can build their knowledge. Williams: “By strengthening your knowledge, it is easier to become a master of your own future.”