Inspired by a multinational

What we learned from Philips


© Greg Westfall

By Rozemarijn ter Horst

We are inspired by a multinational company, Philips, and we think their approach contains valuable lessons. So how can your organisation and ours learn from what Philips is doing?

Philips believes that innovation makes the world healthier and more sustainable. Easy to say for a company that makes high-tech devices costing millions a piece. However, their aim is to bring important innovations to developing countries. They realize that in order to do this, it is extremely important to ensure that the innovation fits its environment.  Which is something we at VIA Water  often remind ourselves of as well. Taking existing knowledge and adapting it to make it useful in a different setting is also innovation.

There are two examples of projects of Philips we want to share with you. The first is a device which is used to measure the health of a foetus during labour. In many countries, provision of electricity is not secured, and sometimes not at all available. Instead of just sending the equipment which would be used in the Netherlands, Philips partnered up with a local organisation to find out together what might be the best method to use in Kenya. Eventually, after assessing the needs and the resources available they carefully designed a device which can be charged by hand, to ensure that midwives can do their important job in any circumstance.

The second example is the aim of Philips to introduce a circular economy in their products to contribute to a sustainable environment. To ensure that the material will be available for re-use when it is not needed anymore or broken, Philips sells only the service, and not the material itself. To give an example: To Schiphol, the Dutch national airport, Philips sells light, not lamps. Schiphol buys the ´service to always have light´, and Philips assures light. It's a great example of creative thinking and new approaches to entrepreneurship.

Why do we talk of prenatal care and airports, when we are a water programme? The approaches Philips uses are innovative approaches which can be implemented at any level. You do not need to be a multinational. You do not need to have 1000 employees. You do need an open mind, and we trust you do. Do you have new approaches or ideas you would like to share with us? Check out what your teaser should look like and send it to