GroeiFabriek guests on BNR Podcast: Groundbreaking Business Models

Published on: 9 July 2024

How can a pension provider innovate? And is it even possible to innovate within the heavily regulated world of the pension sector? Roel Broen and Rob Tillmann from GroeiFabriek – the innovation hub of APG – discuss this in detail on the BNR podcast "Groundbreaking Business Models."


The day before the recording, we spoke with Rob Tillmann, an innovator at GroeiFabriek, about his preparation for the podcast, where he joins Roel Broen, Head of Strategic Innovations & Ventures. "Of course, we'll be talking about artificial intelligence," Tillmann says when asked about his expectations. "It's a hot topic right now. But in our approach to innovation, we never start with the question: how can we use AI? We always begin with identifying the problem that needs solving. And yes, often the solution involves AI."


In the BNR podcast, which you can listen to below, artificial intelligence indeed makes an appearance, along with a recent milestone: winning a Pension Pro Award in the Innovation category for Textbuddy, a translation solution developed by GroeiFabriek in collaboration with Pensin Fund Schoonmaak. Like with Textbuddy, Tillmann and his team started by defining the problem: bridging language barriers within the pension fund’s participant population.


This project highlights GroeiFabriek's approach to innovation in the pension sector. Collaboration is crucial. The innovation hub sets goals with other colleagues and emphasizes finding solutions together. The fact that GroeiFabriek is based in the Brightlands Smart Service Campus, rather than APG's headquarters, is no coincidence; the direct link to schools and universities fosters collaboration beyond APG.


Validation is a key element in GroeiFabriek's methodology. Tillmann explains, "During the validation process in innovation, we always look at viability. There must be room for mistakes—failure is part of innovation, and our biggest failures are also discussed in the podcast—but it must ultimately yield results. Moreover, we shouldn’t reinvent the wheel. Innovation in the pension sector also involves smart reuse of proven techniques. And it must be feasible within the legal frameworks of both the sector and APG."


Leading the Way
These frameworks bring Tillmann back to the application of AI. The possibilities, even for the pension sector, seem vast. However, he emphasizes, we can only use AI effectively if we have the right policies, system architecture, and security in place—a solid and safe foundation. "And that’s what we’re currently working on. The urgency is there because everyone sees the potential of generative AI. At APG, we want to lead in this area."


In the podcast, Broen adds, "Generative AI is a fascinating development. But we want to incorporate it within the context of solving specific problems. We’re experimenting with it now, but we’re not yet using it in production. Before we do, we need to ensure it's super safe. That’s what we’re working on."


Pushing Boundaries
The conversation with BNR covers various topics, such as how GroeiFabriek’s innovations always align with APG’s strategy and ambitions. It also touches on the mindset of GroeiFabriek’s team. Broen says, "The goal should be to make your innovation ten or twenty times better. To do that, you need to push boundaries without crossing legal and regulatory lines."


Curious about the entire episode? Listen to it here (in Dutch).