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Innovating for a better world: Celebrating 20 years of Philips Research in China

China is one of the global markets that is quickly adopting digital health technologies and iterating approaches to innovations in AI, IoT, 5G, cloud, and more. Since 2000, Philips Research China (PRCN) has been at the forefront of these developments in the country, and played an important role in the transformation of Philips into a healthcare leader globally. Philips and PRCN celebrated its proud 20-year history on 24 September, while marking the exciting future still to come. Two women, Yongqin Zeng and Yudi Dai, share some of their experiences and proud moments with us from their work at Philips Research China. 

 

“When I was a young child, I dreamed of being a doctor just like the six others in my family. But when my parents strongly advised me to study electronics like my father had done, I chose for a different journey—to help people and make a difference in the healthcare industry.” Yongqin Zeng joined Philips Research China (PRCN) in 2000, after receiving her PhD at the Imperial College in London. During her career at Philips, that has now spanned 20 years, she has witnessed first-hand and played a role in PRCN’s evolution. It has transformed from being a very research-focused organization into one that listens to and solves real market needs by developing innovative solutions that improve peoples’ lives. 

I have been very impressed and proud of the company’s ability to challenge and evolve itself, looking to the horizon of the next 10 years, rather than only the next three like many companies.

When a dream comes to life

 

“I’ve been very impressed and proud of the company’s ability to challenge and evolve itself, looking to the horizon of the next 10 years, rather than only the next three like many companies,” says Yongqin. One of Yongqin’s most exciting career moves in PRCN was in 2014 when Henk van Houten (Chief Technology Officer and Head of Research) asked her if she wanted to move on from her role where she established and led the LED lighting research department to head healthcare research. She explains: “At that time, healthcare was transforming into a digital industry, requiring the very expertise on system and solution innovation that I had built up working in other industries – Digital TV, wireless communications, and LED Lighting systems and solutions.” 

Yongqin Zeng

Yongqin Zeng, an Innovation Lead in Philips Ventures

 

“I never fully let go of that dream to be a doctor, which is why I jumped at the opportunity to work in healthcare.” One of Yongqin’s proudest contributions was in the field of chronic disease management. Together with a hospital partner, she and her team created and piloted a clinical and data-driven mobile app and backend platform that could easily connect doctors and resources to their patients and other stakeholders. “Chronic disease management was a clear pain point in the market. And we quickly learned that if you wanted to serve the needs of people living with chronic disease, you needed to make the care a continuous journey that begins before they even leave the hospital. That is how you can really help them,” explains Yongqin, currently an Innovation Lead in Philips Ventures. “I felt really proud when the cardiac chronic disease management’s commercial pilot launched with a leading Chinese hospital back in 2017.”

I never fully let go of that dream to be a doctor, which is why I jumped at the opportunity to work in healthcare.

Powerful ideas for a healthier world

 

Nineteen years after Yongqin’s first day came Ms. Yudi Dai, who joined PRCN in 2019 following her Master’s degree studies at the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health. “The past seven years of my public health education experience made me realize that many people in the world still suffer from disease, poverty and hunger. There is a quote on the Harvard School of Public Health building that says: ‘powerful ideas for a healthier world’. I felt triggered to find a way to make a difference and found it at Philips,” says Yudi.

I come from a county in the mountainous area of western China. Compared to patients in economically developed areas, they need more powerful ideas to change the current situation. I hope that our work can help them one day.

 

Nowadays, Yudi and her colleagues are carrying on the work that Yongqin and her team started with—the chronic disease management solution. Yudi explains: “We are collaborating with hospitals to further understand the needs from physicians and patients, expanding the solution to multiple diseases, and helping to iterate the business model in the Internet+ healthcare era. I am really proud to see that the chronic disease management solution is now being offered to customers, helping them on their healthcare journey.” 

Yudi Dai

Yudi Dai, Scientist epidemiology and population health in Research

 

As a bonus, the team gets to extend the impact of their work even further as experts from the national Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have invited the team to help standardize chronic disease management systems across China. “I feel so grateful to build on the impressive work of my predecessors and to see this coming to life. I come from a county in the mountainous area of western China, where many people suffer from chronic diseases. Compared to patients in economically developed areas, they need more powerful ideas in order to change the current situation, such as through a chronic disease management solution or tele-monitoring. I hope that our work can help them one day,” adds Yudi. 

 

Working with data, understanding and translating it into meaningful insights that can positively impact healthcare is what drives Yudi in her work. But that is not the only thing that excites her. She is also deeply inspired by the female colleagues around her who have helped her to grow both personally and professionally. “They encourage me to be comfortable in my own skin, yet bold.”

I truly believe in the power of innovations like this to change people’s lives and I feel incredibly proud to contribute my part.

People wearing Philips fresh air mask

 

PRCN’s innovations don’t end at digital healthcare applications and platforms. Noteworthy solutions over the 20 years of its existence can be found in the areas of 3G/4G/5G mobile communications, LED lighting, connected homes, natural language processing, big data mining, AI imaging, as well as in air. For instance, the recent Philips Fresh Air Mask hit the Chinese market with great success. The mask, powered by a small motor, featuring an N95 filter and washable cover, originated as a response to air pollution in China and offers consumers superior breathing in a stylish design. Yudi is one of the mask’s wearers. “I truly believe in the power of innovations like this to change people’s lives and I feel incredibly proud to contribute my part.”

 

PRCN marked its 20-year anniversary on 24 September. For more stories, keep an eye out for an interview between Henk van Houten (Philips Chief Technology Officer and Head of Research) and Jyh-Ching Yaur (Head of Philips Research China). In their discussion, they will highlight some of PRCN’s notable achievements over the past 20 years and also look into the future to share insights into meaningful innovations for China and beyond in areas such as 5G, telehealth, AI and platforms.

Fact and figures about Philips Research China

  • Employees with many diverse nationalities
  • Over 55% of the employees in Connected Care & Professional Health, and Precision Diagnosis & Image Guided Therapy have a PhD degree
  • PRCN is based in Shanghai and established in 2000
  • ISO certified in 2013
  • More info: research.philips.com/Shanghai


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