5 min

Preface May 2017

Each month, our CEO reflects on his life and work and discusses the topics described in that month’s imec magazine issue.

Sitting forever in the classroom?

We’re now into the final preparations for our imec technology forum (ITF). On 16th and 17th May we’ll be hosting some inspiring speakers from all over the world in the wonderfully refurbished Elizabeth Hall in Antwerp (Belgium), where a dedicated audience will be happy to return ‘to the classroom’ for the occasion. During ITF you will be able to find out everything you need to know about the latest technological developments in the area of chip technology, technology for better health, smart cities, the Internet of Things and much more. You can also see two of the experts featured in this magazine, Chris Van Hoof and Jef Poortmans, at work – live – in Antwerp. Respectively, they will be talking about digital health coaches and a sustainable energy grid. And – even more important – you can also meet Chris and Jef and exchange thoughts with them. Because that’s also what ITF is all about: networking and swapping knowledge with the leading experts in your particular area of interest.

I am currently working on my own presentation, which will be about the unseen opportunities presented by the fourth industrial revolution. We are, in fact, on the eve of a technology revolution that will radically alter our way of living and working. Concepts such as automation, interaction between humans and machines, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, big data and the way that data is interpreted, will all be highlighted. These concepts will bring us many opportunities. But as is the case with every (industrial) revolution, there is also a degree of fear about change. The doom-mongers are convinced that machines will take over all of the jobs from us humans. Which is why it is important for us to keep putting humans front and center with every technological development we make. The story that Chris Van Hoof has to tell us in this magazine is a good example: we will all have our own personal (digital) coach, who will get to know us in depth through sensors and contextual information. This coach will help us to live more healthily and is a good example of how humans and technology can work together.

Another characteristic of this fourth industrial revolution is that technological developments follow one another at astonishing speed. Did you know, for example, that supercomputers help us to develop medical drugs more quickly and that silicon photonics will enable us to exchange data even more quickly in datacenters? You didn’t? Well, you can read all about it in this magazine.

However, a rapidly evolving world also means that we have to keep on learning. We can do that by reading a lot, by attending conferences and lectures, or by doing courses online, etc. Spending our whole lives ‘in the classroom’ in other words.

But how do the young people of today fit in that picture? Those youngsters who are still in the classroom, the way they were 100 years ago, jostling next to each other on the school bench in front of the teacher, from 8.30 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon, with just the lunch break to look forward to… And anyone wanting to ask a question has to be brave enough to put their hand up… So maybe there’s a way that technology can make the classroom a more dynamic place, with customized education and a greater degree of interaction? Imec believes there is.

For that reason, we opened the ‘Edulab’ in Kortrijk (Belgium) this month – part of the brand-new imec ‘Smart Education’ program, which you can also read more about in this magazine. Working with researchers from KU Leuven, UGent and VUB, as well as companies like Barco and Televic, and the Flemish schools, our aim is to use technology to make schoolwork more interactive and collaborative – both at school, but also in professional after-school education. Learning technology enables you to take part actively in lessons at home via your laptop. Or you can ask the teacher a ‘silent’ question online (anonymously and without having to put your hand up!) and have the amount of attention you are paying monitored, with the teacher being involved, too. And all that can be done based on imec’s technology and insights. So you can see how imec is laying the foundations for a future in which lifelong learning plays a central part. Just like the telephone with a dial or black-and-white television, ‘sitting in the classroom’ could soon become a thing of the past.


Luc Van den hove,
President and CEO imec

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