‘Our mission is to improve the lives of people through innovation:’ Hans de Jong

What is the role of Philips in Brainport? We placed this question to the president of Philips Nederland, Hans de Jong, one of the Top 200 most influential Dutchmen among other Brainporters, as per the Volkskrant.

At the end of the interview, Hans quotes Frits Philips: ‘ Anyone who wishes to be an entrepreneur without social obligation is doomed for failure. As an entrepreneur, we should allow ourselves to be guided by economic motive-profit- as well as social motive.’

He completely supports this philosophy and he illustrates this with numerous concrete social, local & sustainable examples. ‘For example, the Philips aim of becoming CO2 neutral (worldwide) by 2020; to be able to take medical equipment for recycling or renovation, and recycled plastics in consumer products. In the long term, a sustainable business will become a defining pillar of your success, because of the benefits it brings for the society and the ability to boost economic growth. These are very long-term processes that must be integrated into your business strategy. That is not only our social responsibility but also necessary for the survival of the company.’

OUR MISSION IS TO IMPROVE THE LIVES OF PEOPLE THROUGH INNOVATION ‘By 2025 we want to improve something in the lives of three billion people a year. In 2018 we are at 2.24 billion. Yes, it’s a different starting point, but the fact that we find this important also reflects back to our employees.’

The office of Hans – still on the Boschdijk – offers a stunning view of the city, that witness the construction cranes that shall lead to a different skyline in the coming years. He thinks about it in the following way: “We always wavered a bit, we were a city within a city. Now we are beginning to grow. People will most definitely have reserves on this change of character. Eindhoven has the responsibility in the region but the scale and funding are not enough, so it is creaking everywhere. I follow that with genuine interest. Throughout politics, you see the horizon is shrinking. There are challenges in care, mobility and energy of the calibre of Delta Plan, on which you have to work consistently for ten to twenty years.”

Hans is not dissatisfied with the visibility of Brainport “Brainport is vital for Philips and vice versa. It is the result of huge investments in innovation; that’s where the value comes from. Philips and ASML are by far the largest investors in the Netherlands. Philips invests 1.76 billion euros in R&D worldwide, of which more than 700 million euros are spent in the Netherlands and the lion’s share is spent here in the region. Research is human work, so that is where most of it goes. We are also seeing more and more partnerships.”

IN THE LAST YEAR, FOR EXAMPLE, WE HAVE STARTED THE EINDHOVEN MEDTECH INNOVATION CENTER. Three hospitals (Catharina, MMC and Kempenhaeghe – ed.), TU / e and Philips are working together to accelerate innovation in the social theme of health care. It is going faster and better than we had hoped for. As Brainport, we were first working on internationalization and supporting talent and startups. Now we can say more explicitly that Brainport contributes to major social themes worldwide. We are making a huge contribution worldwide to the sustainability goals of the United Nations.’

HE ALSO TOUCHES UPON THE CHAIN COOPERATION: “THE THREE BIG ONES-  ASML, PHILIPS AND DAF – CONSIST THE ULTIMATE MAKING CHAIN. “Hundreds of companies are behind that, which are becoming more valuable and self innovating. “That is why the move of Philips Benelux from the Boschdijk to the High Tech Campus Eindhoven is more than a real estate transaction.” He adds further: ” We have 8,500 people working in and around Eindhoven: Eindhoven is the largest of our four Innovation Hubs worldwide. There is no reason to believe that this will not continue. Philips sees the region as the breeding ground for new developments and ideas. As a large company, we are honest to ourselves; you can’t do everything yourself. That is why we focus on collaborations and startups. The Campus is a hotspot of energy and innovations in a global network. “


He also talks about the Philips culture. “There is a formal structure and you know how it works, you know people who can help you solve your problem and an attitude to help each other. This is deeply rooted in the DNA and is widespread in Brainport. We consider it so normal here that we are often not even aware of it. But it’s a huge force. ” And at the same time a challenge: “To get that Brainport story right on the stage, not just in The Hague, we must continue to work on that. You never represent only yourself, but always the mutual interest of the region, both ours and our suppliers’. Hence, among other things, the commitment of the joint Brainport Talent & Skills Agreement with more than two hundred companies, governments and knowledge institutions is made. If your starting point is to benefit yourself, you will not achieve your goal. If you think in terms of the shared interest, you surely will.’

Apart from the developing skyline how does Hans see Brainport in a few years? “I find predicting complicated, but hopefully we can continue with the above-average growth rates. If we succeed in growing high tech for social challenges, we are also purpose-driven; then we make a real social contribution. This is extremely important in our times. We also have every potential to achieve that. ”

He makes a substantial comment on this: “This must be felt broadly, by everyone in the region. That is challenging at times because you see that people do not always recognize it. In addition to the government, we as an industry have a role to play in this. Every job in the manufacturing industry creates 1.3 jobs in the service sector. Not everyone sees that. On average we are doing very well, but the average person does not exist; there is always a group that does not recognize it.’

YOU SEE A GROWING AWARENESS, ALSO IN BUSINESS SECTOR. THAT WE ALSO HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO SEE THAT EVERYONE GETS A CHANCE. ‘I think we should also explain better what is already happening, to inspire others to do something similar. Philips has a work experience program for people who are distant from the labour market to find a job. Annually 150 people in our company can gain a year of work experience. There are now more than 13,000 people in this program, which in the Netherlands is one of the most successful programs in following up work. Seventy-five per cent find work afterwards, partly within Philips but also outside. We are seriously investing money in this; 3.5 million euros per year. We are also affiliated with Impact040 where the government and the business community look at what they can do in the social domain.’

BUT YOU CAN SEE A GROWING NUMBER OF BUSINESSES. “We have a program in which employees are able to use a day for fulfilling social goals every year. That’s also our way to inspire people to do something for their fellow human beings and to go further. Doing business and taking social responsibility are complementary. But we can never forget our social role.”

Translated by Chaitali Sengupta

Original text in Dutch in FRITS magazine: Marie-Jose Dekkers

Fotos: Menno Boon

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