Starlab NV/SA was a multidisciplinary, blue sky research institute established to serve as an incubator for long-term and basic research in the spirit of Bell Labs, MIT Media Lab, Xerox PARC, and Interval Research.
Its primary headquarters was based in Brussels, Belgium from 1996 to 2001. A second base of operations, Starlab Barcelona, was established in 2000 and remains in operation. A recent spinoff, Neuroelectrics, commercializes several innovations developed at the lab.
Starlab was intended as a “Noah's Ark,” a utopian environment for some of the world's most brilliant and creative scientists, researchers and engineers. Its research mottos included “Deep Future” and “a place where one hundred years means nothing.”
Multidisciplinary blue-sky research
At its peak, Starlab employed over 130 scientists from thirty-six nationalities. Starlab projects included art, artificial intelligence, biophysics, consciousness, emotics, intelligent clothing, materials science, protein folding, neuroscience, new media, nanoelectronics, quantum computation, quantum information, robotics, stem cell research, theoretical physics—e.g., the possibility of time travel—transarchitecture and wearable computing. These research lines were grouped under the acronym “BANG,” or Bits, Atoms, Neurons, Genes, later adopted by MIT Media Lab in 2002. The lab sponsored and collaborated with other labs and universities, organizing several international conferences and open research symposia.
Starlab's principal investors included venture capitalist Walter de Brouwer, founder and chief executive officer, MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte, and Pythagorus investment fund manager Johan Konings. Sam de Brouwer contributed to establish the lab, with European Union Presence II initiative coordinator Walter Van de Velde serving as chief scientific officer. Giulio Ruffini continues to serve as scientific officer for Starlab's Barcelona division. Academic and corporate partners received shared intellectual property rights to research and patents generated by the lab.
Closure and resurrection
Starlab's business model depended largely upon third-party investment to sustain its operations. When the dot-com bubble burst, the loss of a critical group of investors forced the lab to close its doors in 2001. The lab's assets were liquidated, and the former embassy building inhabited by the lab was purchased by the Brussels regional government.
The surviving research division in Barcelona, Starlab DF2, or "Deep Future 2," adopted a different business strategy, focusing on specialized, direct contracts with ESA under support of the Catalan and Spanish Governments. Founded by Manel Adell, Giulio Ruffini, and Ana Maiques, Starlab Barcelona maintains the interdisciplinary spirit of Starlab Brussels, but focuses on space and neuroscience technologies and applications. The lab has been awarded the Barcelona Innovation prize and other awards from ENDESA and BMW Innovation.
Much of the intellectual property generated by Starlab research projects was purchased by investors or continued at university and research centers worldwide. Philips purchased the intellectual property rights to intelligent clothing project i-wear, which won the Avantex 2000 Innovation Prize. Bioprocessors, a biotechnology spinoff, transitioned to Silicon Valley. An IPTV license continues to generate revenue under an anonymous purchaser. Pajamanation, a global marketplace for outsourcing microjobs, launched in fifty countries in 2006.
Starlab Barcelona currently focuses on applied research initiatives in space and neuroscience. Innovations to date include Earth Observation technology, Earth Observation services, Star2Earth, and Enobio, a wireless electrophysiology sensor constructed using carbon nanotube arrays.
Starlab was frequently cited by the international press. The lab has since become subject of a theatre play at the Edinburgh Festival, a Gartner case study, and has spawned alumni forums on Facebook and Yahoo!Groups.
Notable Starlab alumni include quantum technologist and NASA-trained commercial astronaut Christopher Altman; Starlab, Scanadu and doc.ai cofounders Walter and Sam de Brouwer; neuroscientist, anesthesiologist, and controversial quantum mind advocate Stuart Hameroff; AI researcher Hugo de Garis; cognitive robotics scientist Owen Holland; actor and playwright Jack Klaff; physicist Serguei Krasnikov, and biophysicist Jack Tuszyński.
- Starlab Discovery Channel Special
- Facebook Alumni Group
- Starlab publications
- Starlab Barcelona
- Starlab Archive
- Starlab on Wikipedia
- Starlab Archive
- Starlab Discovery Channel Special
- Remembering Starlab
- BBC News - SCI/TECH - Clothes that do the thinking
- Le Monde interactif: Starlab, la start-up belge qui se voulait plus grosse que le MIT
- Tech Culture
- EUROPEAN INNOVATION: Flying robots, time machines and 'intelligent' clothing are among the ideas that have emerged from Starlab, the Brussels-based 'blue sky' research centre
- Radio Netherlands
- Archiv - morgenweb
- Next millennium's research and technologies showcased at Starlab's inaugural conference
- Robotique, vie artificielle, réalité virtuelle: La revue mensuelle n°12, par Jean-Paul Baquiast et Christophe Jacquemin-Visites virtuelles Starlab
- New Scientist