Pier 17 is IE University School of Human Science and Technology’s cutting-edge AI Incubator Program.

We spoke to Carlos Marquerie, the driving force behind the program and the director of the Bachelor in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, about its approach and ambitions.

What is Pier 17 mission?

Pier 17 is an Advanced Technology AI Incubation Program within the Bachelor in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence. It’s designed to assist students in developing their first AI prototype and to connect them with corporations and investors. It breaks down into three constituent parts.

Firstly, there’s the Tech Prototyping Lab, a physical space to prototype ideas. Then there’s the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) Program Certification, and finally the First Global Mirror Incubator. This is where corporations can present their technologies, and AI startups around the world can demonstrate their use of technology and collaborate with our students.

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What benefits does Pier 17 afford students taking the bachelor program?

There are many benefits, but it starts as a place where they can apply the knowledge learned throughout the program in a practical way. As they develop their prototypes, students have the opportunity to connect with companies as potential sponsors or investors who could finance their idea. The program also serves as an opportunity to bring forward students’ fourth-year Capstone projects, which we call Moonshots, to their first academic year. This allows them to develop a more extensive technological project.

Another practical benefit is the chance to attain TRL certification from an external professional, further showcasing the maturity of their technological advances. TRL certification entails a set of specific criteria that must be applied in conducting a formal technology readiness assessment, and more specifically “exit criteria.” These criteria are used to determine whether a new technology has satisfied the various aspects of maturation that define a TRL. It will only be certified once all the criteria are met, and never before. The TRL methodology is followed by NASA and the European Commission. Lastly, Pier 17 gives students an opportunity to connect their Moonshot to an internship in a real company´s laboratory.

How is the prototype incubator program structured, and what type of TRL levels does it cover?

In the first year we look at TRL 1: a “back of an envelope” idea. This will be a feasible idea, to be developed over the course of the program, with a clear definition of physics, mathematics and algorithmic approaches. The second year addresses TRL 2: advancing the concept of the Moonshot and proving its technical approaches. Students will present their projects to potential corporate sponsors. Year three, and TRL 3, takes them into laboratories within those companies, including analytical and lab studies to validate predictions. In the fourth and final year, TRL 4 sees the integration of the basic components in a Minimum Viable Product. It also marks the formal introduction of their Moonshot to investors and other corporations.

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How does this program help students in their professional future?

Pier 17 allows our students to get their AI startups off the ground in a more credible way. It takes them through the process step by step, with mentoring from their professors. Then there’s the valuable connections students make in arranging their future internships and getting corporate sponsorships. Students will also obtain a practical vision of how to apply the knowledge they’ve learned in class.

Anything you’d like to say to future students about this program?

I believe learning by making is crucial for Advanced Technological Programs, and Pier 17 is a unique opportunity to incubate your AI ideas and Moonshots in order to maximize their potential success and exit. A disruptive mindset will be a crucial skill, much in demand in the market in the coming years. I think understanding artificial intelligence by making confers clear advantages compared to other international programs.

Our thanks to Carlos Marquerie for explaining Pier 17. We look forward to seeing the innovative AI solutions that will be born out of the program in the future. Click here to discover more about IE University’s Bachelor in Computer Sciences and Artificial Intelligence.