Dutch technology firm Royal Philips has announced the establishment of its first Africa research laboratory in Nairobi, highlighting Kenya’s growing status as the continent’s tech hub.
The facility will be tasked with developing and deploying application-focused scientific and user studies that will aid in improving access to lighting, affordable healthcare, as well as creating new inventions to meet needs of Africa's growing middle class.
The Philips Africa Innovation Hub will be located at the Philips East African headquarters in Nairobi, and will kick-off with ventures that are under development as well as those in pilot phase.
The Amsterdam-based firm says international researchers together with African talent will operate on the concept of “open innovation” and will work in close collaboration with the R&D ecosystem of Kenya and Africa.
Philips is in discussions with local organisations and universities on R&D collaborations to co-create meaningful solutions for Africa.
“With Kenya as a leader in the continent in science and entrepreneurship as well as a hub of collaboration on technology and innovation, Nairobi, is the ideal location to establish Philips’ African research presence. We want to tap into the city’s vibrant R&D ecosystem and contribute to the process of co-creating new solutions, new business models and meaningful partnerships to provide innovations that make an impact,” said JJ van Dongen, Senior Vice President and CEO Philips Africa.
The setting up of the research centre comes after US tech giant IBM opened an innovation hub in Nairobi to match IT innovators with investors who will help develop the ideas commercially.
Kenya’s position as Africa’s silicon savannah is further cemented given that Nairobi already plays host to innovation hubs such as iHub, Columbia Global Centre, Nokia Research Centre and the World Bank-funded Climate Innovation Centre.
The Industrialisation and Enterprise Development secretary Adan Mohammed while welcoming the establishment by Philips said the government will lend support to the investment.
“Philips is a globally recognised innovation powerhouse and 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,” Mr Mohammed said.
“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”.
The innovation hub is working on the development and clinical testing of an affordable Automated Respiratory Rate Monitor that aims to support the diagnosis of pneumonia among infants and children, using smart sensing technology on the body which is intended to be more accurate and reliable compared to manual processes being currently observed.
This device will be specially designed for use by community health workers and nurses in rural areas.
In Kenya, Philips is in discussions with the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) to further develop the project and co-create an effective solution tailored to circumstances in rural Africa.
The research facility is also working on a workflow innovation designed to reduce the number of avoidable maternal and child deaths by enabling remote area health centres to diagnose, triage, treat, stabilise and (prepare for) transport expectant mothers that come in for a check-up and treatment.
Philips has designed and is manufacturing a smokeless cook stove aimed at improving the lives of those who rely on wood or biomass for their daily cooking.
The firm says the cook stove can reduce smoke and carbon monoxide emissions by more than 90 per cent compared to an open fire, reducing the health risks of indoor cooking. The Africa innovation hub is expected to create new go-to-market models for these stoves.
The hub will also design and develop new consumer products using the combination of solar power and energy efficient LED technology.
The Philips Africa Innovation Hub in Kenya will be responsible for pan-African research and projects and will have operations across Africa, linked to the Philips regional offices across the continent.
Dr Maarten van Herpen will head the Nairobi centre and will work in close collaboration with the Philips research labs in Bangalore, Shanghai and Eindhoven.