ICT Spring Europe organiser Kamel Amroune, pictured, said more startups requested to take part this year than in past years
Photo: Maison Moderne/Jan Hanrion
The 10th annual ICT Spring Europe event takes place on 21 and 22 May 2019 at the European Conference Center. Attended by high-profile speakers, it includes expert workshops and an exhibition area with stations dedicated to AI, fintech, space and digital, and start-ups.
Our colleagues at sister magazine Paperjam spoke to the event’s organiser, Kamel Amroune, about what the 5,000 attendees from 72 countries can expect this year.
Described as the biggest gathering of the European e-world, who comes to the ICT Spring?
Kamel Amroune ICT Spring brings together international participants from many different sectors. It hosts a Fintech Summit, an AI/Digital Summit, a Space Forum and events dedicated to fund industry experts, cybersecurity professionals, and European students. It also gives start-ups the opportunity to share insights, exhibit, and meet with key decision-makers. Attendees are a mix of professionals coming from the finance, IT, HR, marketing, web, and space sectors, but also VCs, investors, governmental bodies, and start-ups. We organise the international European championship for students in parallel with this event on the second day.
There are several headline speakers, but who are you excited to hear from?
For the first time this year, we have created a two-day conference dedicated to AI because it’s so topical. Professionals are hungry for user case studies and concrete applications which rely on AI, deep learning or machine learning. We wanted our audience to better understand the proven strategies and recommendations experts can share.
The strength of ICT Spring is that it has a very diverse and rich programme. So whether you come from the finance, IT, HR or other sectors, you can always broaden your knowledge. For that reason, we did not focus on having one big guest speaker. We have many of them and each one has been carefully selected for the experience they can share on a specific topic. To mention a few: Luc Julia, Chris Skinner, Duena Blomstrom, James Chou, Brett King, Lord David Willetts, Jean-Jacques Dordain, Benoît Legrand and Douglas Feagin.
The exhibition space will include demonstrations. Which are the ones to watch out for?
If you are a regular “Springer” then you should definitely explore the start-up village. They have really innovative products and different experiences to share as they come from many different countries, including Japan, Korea, Israel, Ukraine, France, Germany, and Singapore. We will also have an AI village with robots powered by DeepBlue, and you can use the B2B programme to organise one-to-one meetings.
If you’re new to ICT Spring, then we recommend you select the conferences you wish to attend in advance, because you will not be able to cover everything.
This year start-ups have the opportunity to win €100,000 in prize money – who has entered?
We received a lot more requests from start-ups to take part in the event and exhibition than in previous years, with AI, fintech, IoT (Internet of Things) and cybersecurity dominating the 300 applications for the prize. With the “Pitch Your Startup” (PYSU) competition, the fintech accelerator NadiFin launching this year for the first time, and the different initiatives led by key Luxembourg-based organisations such as Lhoft, Host and the Ministry of the Economy, we are able to offer start-ups a wide range of opportunities and make their experience unforgettable.
Worldwide there is a shortage of ICT professionals, what will students learn at ICT Spring?
At the beginning, we created the Morpheus Cup to find the best talents across Europe for companies active in finance, IT, health, engineering, etc. The first edition took place in 2015 with the support of the European Commission and it has evolved from year to year. Now, we have an emphasis on the shortage of ICT talents so we offer students a very enriching day composed of conferences (how to build a start-up, what VCs are looking for, how to develop an app), and the chance to pitch an innovative idea in front of an international jury. Students will also have to take up some challenges on the stands. This will help them to develop their professional network, understand what is at stake in the working world, and meet with potential employers. We also invite European students to design the future on 22 May.
Fintech will again be on the agenda, together with space technology. What will be covered?
We used to say that ICT Spring is the place where fintech, digital and science converge, and this year will be no exception. In the Fintech Summit, several main topics will be addressed, including the new banking generation, game-changer in payments, the exploration of the best fintech hubs across Europe, sustainable finance, blockchain for non-tech and crypto funds. The Space Forum will focus on leveraging data from space and offers a programme on GovSatCom for defence and security applications, open access to space with a view from Europe and China, innovation & entrepreneurship in space, including services to benefit agriculture, transportation & IoT, and big data and the business of space data.
AI and robotic technology transformation of finance are constantly in the media. What new ideas will ICT Spring discuss?
As I said previously, AI is one of the main themes of the event this year as Luxembourg is rightly known as a financial centre of excellence. AI for financial services will be at the heart of several discussions. Different speakers were solicited for their expertise and, for instance, a top-notch speaker from Microsoft is coming from China to explain how robotic technologies can benefit digital transformation in the financial industry. We have a session the second day entitled “AI for financial services” which will be led by Deloitte and, later, Jean Rognetta from Forbes and Clara Durodié from Cognitive Finance Group will talk in-depth on this topic. There will be a special session for fund professionals as part of the Funds Event. AI is becoming a central issue for many organisations and, while Luc Julia (Samsung Electronics) will demystify the word “AI” on the first day, other speakers will share concrete user cases as well as their recommendations for applying the principles of machine learning, deep learning or robotic process automation in their work. There are bound to be fresh ideas, but you will have to attend the conferences to find out what they are.
What networks have developed from previous ICT Spring events, and which connections do you predict will be happening this year?
In 2019, we celebrate the 10th anniversary of this global tech conference, and so many good things have happened since its launch. As usual, the event will welcome new exhibitors and new start-ups which illustrate Luxembourg’s outreach and influence in many key sectors. It will spread the word about the advantages of establishing your business here and the major connections that can be made. We have already seen several companies set up their headquarters in Luxembourg following their great experience at this event.
The international flavour of the conference vastly supports the meeting of new minds and the possibility for companies to find new clients or sign new contracts. As an example, one of the directors of Nvidia came to a previous ICT Spring. Now, Nvidia works with the government to develop strategic partnerships. Another significant example was when Lhoft’s CEO first connected with Luxembourg four years ago at this event.
Our goal remains the same: to reinforce and strengthen the position of Luxembourg in different sectors, including ICT, finance and space, and develop its presence worldwide.
We are proud to see how the event has evolved over the past years and we would not have been able to develop it without the support of an entire community. We do not consider this event as solely a Farvest one, but a combination of outstanding local initiatives, and involvement and enthusiasm of our advisory board’s members, as well as the general will to put Luxembourg firmly on the ICT map.
This article was first published in the ICT Spring Paperjam supplement published in May 2019.