Addressing the rise of non-communicable diseases in Africa

Research and innovation in Africa – Philips leading the way

Royal Philips has announced the establishment of the Africa Innovation Hub, which is to be based in Nairobi, Kenya. The Philips Africa Innovation Hub will work both on the creation of new inventions, as well as bringing these inventions to the market. The hub is intended to be a future center for developing innovations “in Africa-for Africa”, with particular effort directed toward the areas of healthcare, lighting and general healthy living.

JJ van Dongen, senior VP and CEO of Philips Africa describes the hub as an extension of Philip’s passion for technological development and innovation, and the desire to improve society through that development and innovation. Van Dongen has singled out Kenya in particular as a ”leader in the continent in science and entrepreneurship as well as a hub of collaboration on technology and innovation”, (making Nairobi), “the ideal location to establish Philips’ African research presence.

Van Dongen goes on to note specifically the intention to “tap into the city’s vibrant R&D eco-system and contribute to the process of co-creating new solutions, new business models and meaningful partnerships to provide innovations that make an impact.” The Philips Africa Innovation Hub is described by Philips officials as underlining the company’s commitment to investing in Africa.

The Philips Africa Innovation Hub

Community investment can be of considerable benefit to international companies seeking to establish or maintain close relations with the populaces (and governments) of investment destinations. Moreover, there are numerous risk mitigation and ancillary benefits to community engagement. The Philips Africa Innovation Hub will be located at the Philips East African Headquarters in Nairobi, where it is intended that African and international researchers will cooperate on various research initiatives.

Here, researchers will do application-focused scientific and user studies to address key challenges like improving access to lighting and affordable healthcare as well as developing innovations to meet the aspirational needs of the rising middle class in Africa. In addition, Philips is in discussions with local organizations and Universities on R&D collaborations to co-create meaningful solutions for Africa.

An underlying ethos of ‘open innovation’ is intended to help foster close collaboration with ongoing research and development initiatives in Kenya, and across the continent. Adan Mohammed, the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Industrialization and Enterprise Development has welcomed the establishment of the hub, and has noted that “their selection of Nairobi as the site to establish their African Innovation hub is a testament to the Kenyan government’s commitment to nurture the drive for research and innovation in the region.

Collaborating on technology and innovation in Kenya

Mohammed has pledged the support of the Kenyan Ministry of Industrialization and Enterprise Development for Philip’s  plans regarding the research and innovation hub: “We lend our full support to the investment being made by Philips and look forward to the outcomes of their Africa-specific research and projects that can contribute to transforming society, business and government across the continent.”

It’s expected that the Philips Innovation Hub will coordinate with, and complement efforts by existing frameworks for facilitating research and innovation. Of particular note in this regard, is the Eastern Africa Research and Innovation Management Association (EARIMA), which is a professional body for research management in the Eastern Africa region. EARIMA is a network of regional research and innovation management practitioners.

Together with the West African (WARIMA) Central Africa (CARIMA) and Southern African (SARIMA) Research and Innovation Management Associations, EARIMA is engaged in a continent-wide project to strengthen research and innovation management in across all regions.

Establishing Philips’ African research presence

This project, the Research and Innovation Management for Africa and the Caribbean (RIMI4AC) is funded by the European Union’s ACP Science and Technology programme seeks to strengthen the capacity of research institutions in the regions to sustainably and effectively manage research and innovation activities. Another related objective of the project is the improvement of dialogue between university-based researchers and policymakers.

The overall goal of the project is to inform (through scientific research and evidence), national and regional policies which ultimately feed into the sustainable development agendas of  the various governments across the regions. The EU Innovation and Research commission (which falls under the auspices of the European Commission) has placed innovation at the heart of the EU’s strategy to create growth and jobs.

EU countries are encouraged to invest in research and development, through both public sector investment and private-sector investment. Philip’s engagement in research and innovation in East Africa is evidence of similar thinking being applied by a private-sector entity, to the benefit of the region, and Africa as a whole.

For more information, see: ‘Philips to establish research and innovation hub in Africa‘, CIOL Bureau, 23 March 2014. Available at:

David Okwara

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