Better Factory was present at The Next Web Conference held in Zaandam (Netherlands) and online format on the 30th of September and 1st October, 2021. Rodolfo Groenewoud van Vliet, In4Art Business Director, led the keynote session: “Unexpected synergies: where art and industry meet”, which aimed to analyse how artists drive innovation in tech manufacturing by offering new perspectives and acting as catalysts for change. 

The session started with a journey through the history of artists and their contributions to science: from Leonardo Da Vinci to Peter Struycken, who in 1969 created the QR code. One of the firsts artists that used computers to create artwork. Thus, developing one of the most used codes ever. Beyond the voyage in time, the travel also highlighted different existing methods of experimentation. For instance, artistic “is about continuously finding new sources to create solutions”, as the speaker quoted.  

Summing it up, experimentation is also about finding possibilities and experiences, choosing, and visualizing new futures. That is why art is so important to industry; it gives us a glimpse into the upcoming world. “It is by logic that we prove, but by artistic intuition that we discover”, as said by Robert S. Root-Bernstein (2002).   

Artistic intuition can lead us through analysis and guidance. Groenewoud van Vliet emphasized this quote with the example of Joseph Cohen at the Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in New York, where he built a paintable diagnostic test for cancer patients based on carbon nanotubes: “We initially thought the art would shed a little light on our science, but this helped our lab to shine a light on cancer.” 

Artists have a huge role in visualising the potential future for humanity. Their contributions to climate change actions are essential; their role in imagining how to reboot and reuse industrial products and reduce waste is of utmost importance.  

Data was a key aspect to consider during the session. We live in the age of data, and that’s why artists can imagine thousands of ways in which we can exploit it: biomedicine, robotics, artificial intelligence, electronics and computing, HMI and biomimetics, energy, or social life. Artists are experimenting beyond the state-of-the-art.  

“Where artists experiment, futures are built”. Better Factory is the flagship initiative that invites manufacturing companies, artists, and technology suppliers to engage in a set of one-year collaborative experiments to redesign manufacturers’ product portfolios and create a more sustainable and green future for the European industry.