Computable nominations affirm Heerlen campus’ important role

august 25, 2019

On October 29, leading specialist magazine Computable will be presenting its annual awards to companies and organizations that have achieved tried and tested innovations in ICT. Brightlands Smart Services Campus in Heerlen has landed three nominations. “This is the proof that we play an important role.”

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Peter Verkoulen will be saying farewell to his position as CEO of the Brightlands Smart Services Campus in September. Although he will be diving into his new job as the Coalition Director of the Dutch Blockchain Coalition, he will undoubtedly closely follow the awards, and particularly the ceremony on October 29. “Definitely,” he says from what is, for the time being, still his office on the fourth floor of the campus offering a view out over Heerlen. “Last year we received one official nomination and ultimately came in second place. This time, we’ve gotten three nominations, and it's just like the Oscars; you want to be able to take at least one statue home.”

On the map

Whether or not this will happen is the question; after all, the competition is fierce. A professional jury has judged hundreds of entries in 21 categories, eliminating all but ten in each one. The general public and the jury, each with fifty percent of the vote, will ultimately determine the winners through online voting.

“Correct,” Peter Verkoulen says, “and the nominations alone are a great way to put us on the map.” This is hardly insignificant for the campus, which is very young, located in “faraway” Limburg and still insufficiently known in the Randstad. We already have around 80 organizations based here, small and large companies and start-ups with a total of 650 employees. All of these organizations are pioneers in data, artificial intelligence, digitalization and robotics. It’s an attractive ecosystem where knowledge is shared and spontaneous partnerships develop. The campus acts like a magnet, but almost all of the tenants are looking for well-trained people and specialists. It wouldn't hurt if the campus were to get publicity in the western part of the country as a result of Computable so that IT professionals would at least know that there are challenging jobs available for them in Southern Limburg. And that it's a nice place to live and work, of course.”

Although Peter Verkoulen is on the verge of leaving his position as CEO, he still speaks in the “we” form. “This campus is sort of like my baby. I’ve had the privilege of being a figurehead here for four years, and it’s been the job of a lifetime. It’s been amazing to be in a position to make something out of nothing. The foundation is there, now it’s up to others to expand the campus. Thanks to my work for the Dutch Blockchain Coalition, I will still be spending time here. After all, there is a great deal of blockchain expertise here, and there are various pilots and test projects underway. Blockchain is going to play a role, believe me, and this campus will be involved.” 

Nomination 1: Train4smartservices

The first nomination in the Trainer of the Year category goes to the international retraining program Train4smartservices, a Dutch-Belgian partnership project comprised of campuses and colleges that aims to overcome the shortage of ICT professionals. The project is also supported by the Province of Limburg, the municipality of Heerlen and an Interreg subsidy. “We started the project in 2018 and are now seeing the first results. We want to retrain a total of 75 people with a program that combines the practical aspects of training and traineeship. A few of the participants actually end up finding a job here at the campus in Heerlen. The interesting part is the cross-border cooperation, and Brightlands Smart Services Campus explicitly looks across borders. We also attract people from all over the world who come here. This nomination fits perfectly within this context.”

Nomination 2: Blockstart

The Blockstart project ended up in the top ten of the Supplier of the Year category for SMEs. “This is also an Interreg project involving various partners that we are coordinating. We focus primarily on SMEs with information on and experiments using blockchain technology. How can they use this technology? What are the risks and advantages? Most small companies don’t have the means to explore this with their own people. With Blockstart, we are joining forces and getting SMEs involved. This project is also a great match for what people are working on at the Brightlands Smart Services Campus. We specifically offer support for SMEs and not just large organizations and businesses.”

Nomination 3: Cyber resilience

Finally, the third nomination applies to the Cyber Resilience Expertise Center project which also falls under the category Supplier of the Year for SMEs. “Again, the focus is on SMEs which are particularly vulnerable to cybercrime. The expertise center organizes meetings in the region and helps entrepreneurs to become aware of the risks and threats and provides them with advice and concrete measures to help fight hacks, for example. It is a sort of oracle, a source of information with input from the police, among others, that are also based at the campus.”

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