DiTTLAB office space officially open!

The official opening of teh new DiTTLAB office space has been on the agenda for a long time (because it has been around now already for a couple of months), but due to personal circumstances we had to push it a bit backwards. Today we celebrated the occasion with the department and a select group of early supporters. On the menu a toast, and catching up with them with food and drinks. I gave a brief speech. Here it is:

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Today, February 2018, DiTTLAB - an idea I've had for 5 years - has come to life in ways I could only hope for.

  • At the end of this year I am surrounded by 16 or 17 (depends how you count) smart PhDs, postdocs and programmers ...
  • ... whom I supervise and work with in close collaboration with colleagues all over our department ...
  • ... in super relevant and interesting research in two EU projects, three NWO projects and several industry / external sponsored projects ...
  • ... on subjects of which some I didn’t even know would be so incredibly interesting—I’ve turned into an enthusiastic public transport researcher

I’m not gonna talk about contents—at least not very long. Today I really wanna thank some people that have helped me along the way to realize this idea of DiTTLAB. So, in order of appearance, I will put some people in the spotlight and say thank you! First, a wonderful example of serendipity. In the summer of 2012. I was in the Czech Republic playing a reunion concert with my former band at a big festival, that we have played in the late nineties multiple times. Between beers and fries I got to discuss with the bass player (Jan) about both our jobs and it turned out that we saw ways to help each other out. He worked at a company that worked with advanced storage and computing solutions. So we had a couple of talks in which he mentioned he knew some other people he had worked with and who might be really interested in my ideas. Long story short: I organized a meeting with Jan, and, as it turned out, with Dirk de Groot and his colleague both working at CGI, quickly followed a second talk with Dirk and another colleague Laurens Lapre. These were the best short meetings I had in 2013.

That year I was appointed full prof Traffic simulation and Computing and I was really cracking my head about what central message to put in my inaugural address. I just missed out on a big proposal that I hoped was going to be the center piece of that inaugural talk. The shared  enthusiasm in the discussions with Dirk and Laurens, about data science and simulation in an open lab in which researchers and professionals in public organizations and the industry collaborate, turned out to be a fruitful new theme for my talk, and essentially for my research portfolio as a whole. Those talks gave me renewed energy and direction and I am still grateful for that.

Particularly, because following that meeting, I went with Laurens to NDW, with whom over the years I had collaborated in various occasions. Laurens and I talked about what DiTTLAB could do for NDW. I got to write a long-term research proposal for NDW (NDW traffic observatory) and quickly after that was given the opportunity to start working on part one: to bring together different sources of data (traffic, weather, incidents) in a single database and visualization. That project was a success. The visualisation behind me [we will post it online!] is a two minute movie made by Panchamy and Peter of nearly a gigabyte of traffic and weather data on december 11th (the annual first day of snow when our roadnetwork turns into a parking place). We can do all that stuff now and much, much more. NDW has been one of our biggest sponsors and active partners and I am very grateful for that! Thank you Frits, Edoardo, Olaf, Ernst and all the others for all the support. In an awesome new NWO project MiRRORS, we have the pleasure to really achieve all the objectives in the NDW Traffic Observatory plans. Obviously, we will collaborate with NDW, CGI and also RHDHV and Mezuro are partner in that project.

Early on I had an idea to start a DiTTLAB foundation as a means to funnel money from the field into DiTTLAB research. Dirk, Theo Stevens and I are the proud board of the DiTTLAB foundation we started back in 2016, and Frits chairs the scientific advisory board of that foundation that is filled with enthusiastic and influential public and private partners from the field: RWS, province of Brabant, CGI, Geodan and Innovactory. Although in a practical sense, the foundation did not succeed in pumping serious money directly into research, it did most certainly result in fruitful alliances. I really thank everyone involved for their support

And sometimes, you don’t need money, but just a little bit of guts to start a really cool research project. Studio Bereikbaar is a relatively small company that simply walked in, we had a really good talk, and they proposed to sponsor a PhD position on a subject that matters to them and that, at the same time, is scientifically challenging. I am very grateful for their vision—that research is a viable investment—and the guts to just go do it and take the risk. It would be a wonderful world if many organisations would follow that example

I wanna say four more quick thank you’s. 

  • First, I wanna thank Serge for the support that led to my research chair in the first place
  • Second, I wanna thank Alexander for the collaboration from the very beginning. Without you no OpenTrafficSim. We’re gonna have fun in MiRRORS!
  • Third, DiTTLAB started on the second floor in 2014, to the third floor in 2016 and last year all systems went green to move to this floor. This used to be a teaching room. And removing a room from the pool of teaching rooms at a university is about s difficult a problem to solve. It’s virtually impossible. So I thank Bart and Simon for fighting that fight and winning it. And thank facilities for turning into a beautiful place that everyone loves to work in. And frankly, I think the whole department should look like this.
  • Finally, I wanna thank all my DiTTLAB researchers for adopting that team spirit that goes with a lab. I can have a zillion great ideas, but you got to do it.

Thanks every one, I hope we’re gonna have some great fun together and cheers!!!