Philips, EDB arm to invest in digital health firms

Philips has experience dealing in products such as the eICU solution (left), where patients can be monitored remotely from a telehealth centre.
Philips has experience dealing in products such as the eICU solution (above), where patients can be monitored remotely from a telehealth centre.PHOTO: PHILIPS

Dutch electronics giant Philips will be investing in digital health start-ups with EDBI, the venture unit of the Economic Development Board.

They inked a memorandum of agreement on Jan 13.

It is the first of many alliances with large corporations to support open innovation, said the EDBI yesterday.

Apart from investment, the partners will use their extensive business networks in the region to help the start-ups break into the Asian market.

The partnership will focus on start-ups that have proven products and solutions in areas such as telehealth, telemonitoring and others in healthcare-based big data and analytics.

Interested companies can contact the EDBI or Philips, with the first group of start-ups to be announced in the next few months.

The amount the two organisations will invest was not disclosed.

EDBI chief executive Chu Swee Yeok said in a statement that the partnership will strengthen Singapore's position as as one of the leading digital health hubs in Asia.

Business opportunities in this sector will also emerge when the digital health companies base their Asian operations here, said Ms Chu.

Philips will provide the start-ups with business mentorship and guidance, said Mr Fabian Wong, its chief executive of Asean and Pacific.

The Dutch conglomerate will help the companies develop the necessary skill sets required to run a scalable and sustainable business, he added.

The fund size is expected to be substantial given that investments in this area are large.

In the United States, investments in digital health care start-ups hit US$4.5 billion (S$6.5 billion) last year, according to US venture capital firm Rock Health. These were for start-ups in sectors like telemedicine, wearables and biosensing, personal healthcare tools and tracking and care coordination.

It added that a quarter of the investments went into companies that needed funds for growth and business expansion.

Telemedicine start-ups attracted funding of US$236 million, including Doctor On Demand, which raised more than US$62 million last year. Founded in 2012, the start-up provides a quick way for patients to seek urgent medical care online or via the telephone from home.

Clarification note: An earlier version described the agreement between Philips and EDB as a fund, when it is actually a partnership.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2016, with the headline 'Philips, EDB arm to invest in digital health firms'. Print Edition | Subscribe