Amsterdam-headquartered healthcare giant Royal Philips has been operating in Israel since 1948 and today employs more than 1,000 people at five locations across the country.
A combination of a “vibrant entrepreneurial environment” and “deep technical and clinical skills” makes Israel a key innovation hub for the company, according to Chief Innovation & Strategy Officer Jeroen Tas.
“People are willing to take risks and push the envelope. Everybody is telling each other what to do, but always in order to improve,” Tas told The Jerusalem Post at the MIXiii-Biomed 2019 conference in Tel Aviv.
“There is also a very good understanding of our biggest market – North America. Many of the start-ups, and people I meet understand how to do business there,” said Tas, who assumed his current role in February 2017 after six years holding senior positions at the company.
Founded in 1891, Philips is historically known for manufacturing lighting and electronic devices. But in 2016 the company shifted its primary focus toward healthcare innovation. Its Israel operation plays an important role in the company’s innovation in medical imaging, image-guided therapy solutions and healthcare IT.
“I personally always look for innovation that’s not pure technology – technology should be in the back. I really look at system innovation,” Tas said.
Last year alone, the company invested approximately €1.8 billion in its R&D operations. One in every two Philips R&D employees is focused on software and data science at its innovation hubs in Israel, the US, the Netherlands, India and China.
Much of Philips’ current R&D emphasis reflects its move from selling products to platformization.
“We’re building platforms for open innovation, not to do research together but to get technology into the healthcare pathways. The better we get at that, the more impact we will have. And it’s also better for innovators as they will have a path to monetization,” Tas said.
“That’s a completely different approach to innovation. If we move from product to platform, and these platforms are open and you can easily plug in innovation, then you have a good shot at really making a step change.”
In June 2018, Philips announced the acquisition of Caesarea-based EPD Solutions, a developer of image-guided procedures for heart rhythm disorders, in a deal worth $279m. upfront plus additional deferred, milestone-dependent payments.
Philips has also partnered with Teva to launch Ra’anana-based Sanara Ventures, an investment platform providing early-stage financing for Israeli healthcare start-ups.
“I lived in Hong Kong for a couple of years, and I learned to never underestimate what’s going on in China – due to the speed, determination and the willingness to do things at scale and at risk. I see that in Israel, too.”