Since its foundation 100 years ago, Philips Research has been at the forefront of fundamental scientific research. But, with market focus being more and more important across almost all corporate R&D organizations, is this still the case? If some of the pioneering work being done by scientists across Research is anything to judge by, the answer is a resounding “yes”.
It’s different at the cutting edge
In today’s market-focused corporate R&D organizations, the boundary between fundamental scientific research and applied research is becoming increasing blurred – particularly when it comes to some of the most exciting areas of research. “Here at Philips, our way of working is very dynamic,” says Philips Research’s Chief Science Officer Emile Aarts. “This means that you can apply both the ‘fundamental’ and the ‘applied’ labels to many of the projects that we’re working on because they are both very flexible terms.” Philips Research’s work on sleep, for instance, is an excellent example of this more dynamic approach. “This is a very important area for Philips – but there’s currently very little fundamental knowledge available. That’s why we’re involved in investigating the key issues at a more fundamental level together with our university and research institute partners. The only difference is that we want this research to lead to marketable products and solutions.”
Open Innovation in new areas
Despite the flexible nature of the “fundamental” and “applied” labels, it is still possible to detect a decline in some areas of more fundamental research at Philips in recent years. “This has mainly occurred in fields that don’t support the execution of our company’s Health and Well-being strategy,” says Aarts. As he explains, this refocusing exercise has gone hand-in-hand with an expansion of more fundamental research activities in a number of new fields, such as deep-brain stimulation and multi-modal imaging for healthcare applications. “In these fields we’re considered to be an extremely important research partner – especially by colleagues working in universities.” In the future, Philips Research will continue to develop its reputation in a number of exciting fundamental domains – “green lighting” and skincare are just two examples – albeit with a more applied focus. “Hopefully, this research will enable us to build on our strong heritage of improving the quality of people’s lives.”