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The value of corporates working with startups: Lessons and opportunities in developing high-tech businesses with the HighTechXL startup accelerator

This year the interaction of Philips with startups went into true acceleration mode. Earlier in the year we announced the partnership with HighTechXL in the Eindhoven Startup alliance which boosts the startup eco-system in the region. But two events in the past couple of months stand out in particular. Two months ago at XL Day I watched proudly as several alumni and new high-tech startups of the HighTechXL program took the stage in Eindhoven to pitch their business cases to investors, industry experts and innovation leaders.

And then last week we welcomed the 10 finalists of the Philips Innovation Challenge at the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven, organized in collaboration with HighTechXL and Get in the Ring. 


XL Day was the culmination of a tree monthly acceleration program led by the startup accelerator HighTechXL. Here, a community of high-tech corporates including Philips Research is connected to young hardware entrepreneurs. This year we were glad to see the fast progress of two of the Medtech companies in the program. The close vicinity and direct contact between the startups and Philips shows how well this interaction now works in practice. Earlier this year, we had already finished a similar program with HightechXL, but then focusing on Philips teams driving internal innovations like a startups. And with great results. At XL Day I was delighted to report in an interview on stage how the previous program has truly accelerated the business impact of our innovation program.

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Then in October we reached out to startups with impact on transforming healthcare through the Philips Innovation Challenge. Not sure what to expect, we were overwhelmed by the reactions. More than 90 startups reacted from all over the world, including the US and Canada, but also Taiwan and South Korea. We had such a hard time selecting the top 10 for the final pitch in the ring that we adapted and decided to invite the top 20 and add a full day mentor program. During the day, startup founders met with experts from Philips and HighTechXL in focused mentor sessions to explore the startup plans and potential collaboration opportunities. It all ended in a great final ‘in the ring’, with at the end a fantastic winner: CureMetrix.
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Looking at our experiences from these events and the feedback from the participating startups, we can identify some key aspects of why such involvement of a large corporate in an accelerator program is beneficial for startups. The first element is the deep expertise of the large company, obviously on technology but on many other aspects how to create and run businesses in the specific industry. Making this accessible in a flexible mentor format already prior to formal agreements is extremely valuable and fits well with the nature of startups businesses. Other assets valuable for a startup can be access to the network of relevant contacts in the eco system or a (digital) platform like the HealthSuite Digital Platform, to enable efficient scaling. Obviously in the digital age, startups expressed interest in having access to underlying data, something that obviously needs careful consideration in healthcare.
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The value for corporates closely involved to work with startups in an acceleration program

First of all and most importantly, as a corporate you get closer to the action and the prospect to meet with the most disruptive startups in the field. This of course creates opportunities to engage with at an early stage which can potentially lead to promising partnership opportunities. The mentioned events provided ample opportunities for this, and I am sure we will see a number of collaborations originating from them. 


In addition, another tangible advantage is to learn first-hand from the startup way of working to create business success out of breakthrough innovations. At Philips Research, we are already reaping the benefits of our collaboration with startups in HighTechXL, and adopting a startup way of working in an accelerator program for our internal innovation teams. 


If you are interested to read about the most crucial elements in a startup acceleration program, read on:

- Working alongside other startups leads to faster and better insights: Usually, startups scale-up alone - that's to say, without other startups. But we found that developing several teams at the same time uncovered valuable insights that we could share across teams. We found the continuous iterations meant we could develop not just the technical innovation but the entire business case in just 12 weeks CureMetrix.  

- External mentors tell it like it is: Sometimes you need an outsider to tell you where you're going wrong, how to fix a problem, or even when to give up and move on. During this project, entrepreneurs had access to a group of mentors collectively called the Eindhoven Startup Alliance, whose members include leaders at ASML, Ernst & Young and Philips. Together, we helped many teams become investor-friendly startups primed to secure valuable funding. I think the hard truth can save valuable time and money, and moving on to bigger and better things. 

- A dynamic hub is a must: Ideally, you need a dedicated entrepreneurial environment where the high-tech industry can meet and innovate under one roof. HighTechXL has created such a hub on the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven, where it shares the smartest km2 in The Netherlands with more than 140 companies and institutes, and some 10,000 researchers, developers and entrepreneurs.


Join us!

As part of HighTechXL and the Eindhoven Startup Alliance, I'm also very excited to share that we're continuously on the lookout for new high-tech startups to take part in the next program. At Philips Research, we're particularly interested in hearing from entrepreneurs in healthcare technology from around the world. The startups for the upcoming program starting on November 28 have already been selected but the HighTechXL team is already engaging with teams for the following one, so don’t hesitate to get in contact via

Benno Tieke

Director of Business Creation at Philips Research


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