'We need to think in open systems'

As CEO of Philips, Roy Jakobs, Business Administration alumnus, constantly finds himself in an environment full of inspiration and innovation. He makes an impact in healthcare by focusing on social responsibility, sustainability and ease of use of technology: "No one can do this alone. We need to think in 'open systems' when it comes to healthcare."

Portret Roy Jacobs


Roy Jakobs

Current position

CEO of Philips

Previous education

Business Administration

Healthcare is an area I am passionate about: it is one of the big challenges for the future.

What did you want to be as a child?

"Pretty soon I knew I wanted to do something with commerce or business. When I was about 11 years old, I was already at the market selling stuff. I was into saving, and how to handle money well. I found the business world incredibly interesting. That I wanted to become a business scholar was a logical step."

Why did you choose to study business administration?

"Before I chose my studies, I went to Rotterdam, Enschede, Eindhoven and Groningen. The focus on socio-technics in Nijmegen really appealed to me. I also found the breadth of the course in business administration interesting: the political aspects, but also how to deal with the space around you and the environment. Although a company has an economic interest, I find it very important to investigate what social contribution you can have. I still act from that starting point now at Philips."

Does the study make you look at things through a different lens?

"You get the right depth, but the diversity of people, interests and backgrounds is an important dimension as well. I love diversity and actively seek it out: for example, I take an interest in all kinds of cultures. That keeps you up to date. You have to stay relevant, keep up to date and stay in touch with what's going on. That is the core of business administration for me. By aligning different people and components, we can achieve a good goal together. I took that integral approach very much from my studies, and still apply it."

If you want to work as a company towards a more sustainable future, of course you have to look at yourself first.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

"I really enjoy innovating for healthcare providers: looking together at how we can do things better and using technology to do that. Healthcare is an area I am passionate about: it is one of the big challenges for the future. We have seen during COVID how important it is that healthcare is well organized. The demand for care is increasing and it is becoming more difficult to continue to meet it. To reduce that bottleneck, you need technology. Being able to play a role in that as a company is of social importance. Furthermore, it's not just about technology, but also about the adoption of new ways of working. That brings you back to 'socio' and 'technology'; if we bring those two facets together, we can make a lot of progress in the world. We do that together, of course."

How do you do that?

"Everyone finds technology interesting, but at the end of the day it's about the doctor and nurse who can easily work with that technology. How can we help them in their work? Also for the patient: when you go under the scanner, it's not really a pleasant experience. But how can we make that experience better, more enjoyable? How can we make the time as short as possible under that scan? I think that's relevant, to do that from a holistic perspective."

How is Philips helping to make the world more sustainable?

"If you want to work as a company towards a more sustainable future, of course you have to look at yourself first. We are active in it, we are now climate neutral and avid supporters of refurbishing equipment. We focus our design on that as well. Healthcare itself is currently not yet sustainable: for example, many materials are only used once. I am now entering into that dialogue with the industry: how can we play a role together in making healthcare more sustainable? What is my guiding vision? 'More responsible, more sustainable and more convenient'.

So it's about a social responsibility that you have to provide access to affordable care for everyone, making care more sustainable, and ease of use for the caregivers who have to operate the equipment. That includes collaborating with other companies so that our products can "talk" to each other. An open ecosystem in the industry, is necessary."

Do you have any advice for today's students?

"Make it your business to have a wide range of experiences. A society is a complex whole. You never operate alone. The better you understand where those agendas of others fit together and what they stand for: the more impact you can make."

Over the next five years, faculty should focus on....

"The question of how can we open up the system of companies so that products connect. And also: how can you prevent closure of the system? I think thinking in open systems can be a management philosophy. That approach creates the most impact."

Text: Kelly Janssen