Company profile

Philips Research for health and well-being

Philips Research is a global organization that helps Philips introduce meaningful innovations that improve people’s lives. They provide options in the area of health and well-being for both developed and emerging markets.

Innovation Challenge

Philips wanted to find the best way of detecting cancer in human bodies

A great number of industries struggle with the scarcity of the rare-earth elements, which has made prices high and supplies uncertain in a market where demand has generally been increasing.

The Innovation Challenge was concerned with the replacement of a rare-earth based material used in PET (Positron Emission Tomograph) scanners that serve the purpose of detecting cancer in human bodies. Due to Chinese pricing strategies, the rare-earth based phosphors ((Lu,Y)2SiO5:Ce) six-folder in price each year. One PET contained over 30.000 crystals based on this rare-earth phosphor so one PET today costs close to €3 million. Philips Research invested more than €100 million over a 10 year period to find a material that would replace the rare-earth based phosphors. No replacement was found and the Global Head of Research & Alliances, Dr. John Bell, contacted iKnow-Who to raise a collaborative university competition.


Potential rare-earth material replacement

Apart from carrying out an invaluable amount of research in the area, the winning team discovered a material with the potential to replace the rare-earth material. An amorphous polycrystalline ceramic semiconductor material was co-created by the winning team.High luminescence for optimal image resolution could be obtained without cooling the new nanopolymer crystals, which significantly lowers the energy consumption of the new generation PET (and PT) scanners – while also making them noiseless.

The patent (WO2014/207144 A1) was granted by the European Patent Office les than 30 months after kicking off the collaborative university competition.

A project was started in January 2012. Eight months after the official kick- off in January 2012, Dr. John Bell, presented in a 2-minute-video how the solution had been co-created: Innovation in mind 2012


Immediate implementation of the innovation secured rapid commercialization.

Using at least one team with no prior experience in the area of nuclear research – and connecting this to a more conventional university research team with 30 years of experience in the field – triggered the co-creation of a fundamentally new material that Philips never would have considered.

The biggest enemy against the winning solution was the most senior scientist within Philips Research. Based on more that 20 years of research in the field, he was convinced that any material with the intended use in the PET would need to have high density. The nano-ceramic had much lower density than any material used so far, which is why the Chief Science Officer tried to stop this solution at each review. At the final review, we used excessive wining and dining to make sure that the CSO would get extensive time with the nano-ceramic team so as to begin to understand their perspective.

Bringing members from the winning team into the research lab in Eindhoven for three months to support immediate implementation of the innovation secured rapid commercialization.