Under one roof: residents tell all with Koen Suilen and Frens Vonken (Fontys ICT)

31 May 2022

Just a little while until MindLabs is moving. Our ecosystem will take residence in a brand new building in the Tilburg Spoorzone. And not just any building; the complex will be the central point for education, research and business in Brabant. Because we are not moving in alone; our partners are moving in with us. So that we can meet, inspire and motivate each other all the time. In 'Under one roof' we introduce all of our new neighbors. They tell us about their work, their reasons for moving and their plans for the future. In this edition: director Frens Vonken and program manager Koen Suilen of the Fontys Hogeschool ICT (FHICT).

Frens and Koen, to start at the beginning: what kind of work do you do exactly? 
Frens: "I have been director of the FHICT since the beginning of this year, but have been working at Fontys since 1990. As director, I like to work on an organization where everyone with their specific qualities makes a valued contribution to success." 
Koen: "As program manager Smart Media I am the contact person for one of our research lines (Digital Communities & Applied Games) and translate research and innovation issues into projects for our students. So as far as the move is concerned, I'm working with a number of colleagues to see which education (ICT is broad!) fits best here. 

Why move to the MindLabs building? 
Frens: "We are expanding. The FHICT is now spread over 3 locations; in Eindhoven you'll find 2 branches of the program and the third is located at the Tilburg Campus Stappegoor. So our spot in the MindLabs building will be our fourth FHICT location. In Eindhoven you will find the Fontys ICT InnovationLab. Also near the station, at Strijp-T in building TQ." 
Koen: "In the MindLabs building we want to create such a similar environment as in Eindhoven. In the innovation lab there, senior students get the chance to work and do research. As far as we are concerned, this is the best preparation for the business world. The focus on research and innovation together with the field, which is what we also do in Eindhoven, fits in perfectly with the ambitions of MindLabs. 

How many FHICT students will we meet in the MindLabs building? 
Koen: "We are moving some of our activities from Stappegoor to the Spoorzone. There will be about 100 workstations, which means that about 200 students will use our facilities every week." 

Has FHICT worked with other MindLabs partners in the past? Or have you pinned your hopes on the new building?
Frens: "We are definitely looking for those collaborations right now. But once we are neighbors, we can expand this further. We will soon be easier for both the knowledge institutes and the companies to find. At the FHICT, education and research go hand in hand. In the MindLabs building, our students and colleagues will work on research questions from partners." 
Koen: "And also for students among themselves the lines will be shorter and it will be easier to benefit from each other's knowledge."

What is pre-eminently something that the FHICT will add to the whole? 
Koen: "Our students are the future employees of our MindLabs partners." 
Frens: "FHICT is a national pioneer when we talk about the form of education we offer. And by that form, we mean that our students are not in the classroom sec, but actually get to work in a business-like way already during their studies."
Koen: "We think it is important to bring our students into contact with the business world already. That's why we invest in modern teaching spaces such as those in the lab in Eindhoven and the MindLabs building." 
Frens: "In addition, the ambition is to set up a lectureship with Tilburg as its home base in addition to the 4 existing lectureships (which will also do research in MindLabs)." 

How does it feel when you walk past the construction site now? 
Koen: "We hope to start in the Spoorzone next school year. So in September. Until then we regularly look at the map that is hanging on the wall here." 

Where will you be seated? What will the view be?  
Frens: "Often ICT staff are hidden away in the basement, but not this time. The FHICT will be on the third floor. Almost in the penthouse." 

Have you already met the new neighbors? Or have you yet to have your first cup of coffee? 
Koen: "That first cup is already there, since we share our floor with the Fontys College for Journalism; acquaintances of ours. Where we only move a part of the whole building to the Spoorzone, the whole school is moving. About 800 students." 
Frens: "There are also great opportunities for collaborations. For example, when an ICT student wants to spar about the future of AI and copywriting. Then he or she will soon be able to talk to a journalism student very easily." 

What plans do you hope to realize from the new location? 
Frens: "For us it is very important that our education can also be carried out in Tilburg in all its forms and facets. We have already reached this point in Eindhoven. Tilburg is the next step." 
Koen: "In addition, we hope to increase our visibility in the region. An educational campus is less often seen as an environment where the professional field is also located. We want to undermine that idea. This is a great opportunity to make an impact on the environment!" 

Have the first boxes already been packed? 
Koen: "No, fortunately we do not have to do that. But the new furniture has already been ordered." 
Frens: "Did you know that the interior was designed by ICT people? They are good at making an online user interface. But they also do a great job of designing an environment that will be used physically!" 

It's time to wrap up. What's on the agenda for you today? A little daydreaming about the new building? 
Frens: "Dreaming? For us there is still quite a bit of work to do now. Determine which parts of the education system fit best in the Spoorzone, for example." 
Koen: "What's really nice to see is that the students are extremely enthusiastic about the fact that they will be living in the Spoorzone. Because let's be honest: it's a much more dynamic environment than the campus in Stappegoor."