Cumulus Park: what comes after the startup hub

Cumulus Park is a new innovation district initiated by the bank ING, in Zuidoost, the southeastern area of Amsterdam, in collaboration with the city and with two educational institutions, a vocational college and the Amsterdam of Applied Sciences. It has two goals: innovation and urban development. According to project manager Irene Duyn this is the next model after the startup hub. Irene is speaking at the live talkshow Stadsleven on Nov. 26th in Pakhuis de Zwijger.

The idea is to create a platform for innovation and to facilitate new tech talent while at the same time improving this part of the city with new housing and greenery. Amsterdam’s plans for the area, an investment of 1,5 billion euros, include leisure and housing near the Arena, an upgrading of the shopping center Amsterdamse Poort, an improvement of the station Bijlmer Arena and a landcape plan by studio Karres & Brands.

ING is aware that businesses change over time, and Irene is convinced that the bank will be a different kind of business in ten years. “Who would have thought that Philips would move from lighting to health care? Who could have imagined that the biggest hotel business in the world, Airbnb, would not have a single physical hotel room? Who would have thought we would be paying at the cash register with Apple Pay, which is not a bank in traditional sense at all?

“In order to stay relevant, companies like ING will have to work together with others outside their own sector”, she says. As a result of digitization we’ve become more connected than ever before and therefore also dependent on each other for success and new developments. We know that for innovation it’s important to be physically close each other, that’s what we’re facilitating in this district. Not just for ING but for any organisation interested to progress in the areas of digital identity and urbanisation. She compares it to the area around the two university hospitals, which in only a few years’ time has developed into a life sciences district. “And this is course very much in our own interest. As the entire world becomes more digital, it becomes harder to find skilled workers. So we’re not going to sit and wait, we’re going to train them ourselves.”

ING is a big player, with 40 million customers and 52.000 employees, and has made the initial investment in the project, but Cumulus Park is emphatically intended to be independent. This is the third phase in ‘throwing open the windows’, as she describes it: first companies innovated from within, then they bought new ideas by investing in startups, now we’re moving towards co-creation and co-development with multiple organizations. To this end, the four partners will be working together with the Technical University in Delft, the new urban scientific institute called AMS (Advanced Metropolitan Solutions) and companies Plug and Play, which connects investors and startups worldwide, and Teeming, specialized in collaborative innovation.

Doesn’t Cumulus Park compete with ING’s own corporate  innovation initiatives, such as ING Labs and ING Ventures? “No, we’re not replacing anything, we’re adding something. Cumulus Park is an underlying ecosystem – what’s new is the physical aspect of urban development and the fact that it’s open. That is what will add value to the city in a different way.”

One location of innovation district Cumulus Park in Amsterdam