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Phillips, MIT Form Health Technology Collaboration

Henk van Houten and Karen Gleason

Henk van Houten, head of Philips Research, left, and MIT Associate Provost Karen Gleason at signing of research collaboration agreement (Dominick Reuter, Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

20 May 2015. Electronics manufacturer Royal Phillips and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are collaborating on research into health care technology and digital urban lighting systems. The 5-year, $25 million agreement also includes moving the company’s North American research and development center to Cambridge, Massachusetts near the MIT campus.

Phillips, headquartered in the Netherlands, designs and manufactures electronics systems for consumers, lighting, and health care, including solutions for cardiac and acute care, as well as health care in the home. The company says it plans devote 70 percent of its funding with MIT to support joint research teams investigating cardiovascular disease management, cancer treatment and diagnosis, high-resolution medical imaging, and health care informatics.

“By moving to Cambridge and collaborating with MIT, its staff and its partners” says Philips’s research chief Henk van Houten in a company statement, “Philips can work with some of the best minds in the world on health care delivery, looking at ways to better prevent, manage or treat common diseases across the health continuum.”

One of the MIT researchers supported by Phillips under the agreement is Peter Szolovits, a computer science and engineering professor that works in the health technology field. Szolovits says Phillips is interested in working with MIT on improving its ultrasound and other non-invasive diagnostic technologies, as well as gaining insights from data stored in large health care databases, including individuals’ health records. “That, in turn,” says Szolovits in an MIT statement, “would allow MIT students and faculty to do follow-up studies on how well these things work in the real world.”

The collaboration includes as well studies on performance and functionality of urban lighting systems. Researchers are expected to investigate ways of turning home, office, and municipal lighting in urban areas into data collection tools to monitor air quality, track energy usage, and detect emergencies, such as fires or floods. Phillips says it plans to share its expertise in developing cloud-managed LED street lights in Los Angeles, as well as energy-efficient LED lighting on the new bridge to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River north of New York City.

Under the collaboration, Phillips agreed to move its North American research and development lab from Briarcliff Manor, New York near New York City to Cambridge, Massachusetts. The company and university say the research center will be located in Kendall Square, the site of many new biotechnology companies as well as the MIT campus. Earlier in May, Eli Lilly and Company unveiled plans to open a new research facility in Cambridge concentrating on drug delivery and medical devices.

Philipps’s research Web site says the Briarcliff Manor facility, established in 1942, conducts studies in the fields of health care and lighting, and employs some 125 employees. The company also has its regional health care sales and services unit, as well as intellectual property and standards offices at the Briarcliff Manor site, but did not indicate whether they would be moving as well to Cambridge.

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