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MIT Signs $25 Million Research Alliance with Private Partner

MIT has signed a five-year, $25 million deal with Dutch-company Royal Philips N.V. to support research initiatives in two of the company's primary areas, healthcare technology and digital lighting. In addition Philips will be moving its North American research headquarters from Briarcliff Manor, NY to Cambridge next to the MIT campus to facilitate closer collaboration among its researchers and MIT's faculty and PhD students. That will also put the company in among the area's startups and research labs. Both moves, Philips said, are part of a broader strategy for the company to accelerate innovation and business growth.

Kendall Square, a neighborhood of Cambridge in the midst of MIT buildings, is currently a hotbed of biotechnology activity. "Kendall Square produced more IPOs in biotech last year than all of Silicon Valley, and I am excited that Philips will be further enhancing this innovation ecosystem," noted Associate Provost Karen Gleason. The proximity of the company's new research headquarters to MIT, she said, "will allow us to address grand challenges together."

Philips expects that about 70 percent of its research funding will go into projects supporting health diagnostics and imaging; the remaining 30 percent will target lighting research.

The company has already committed to funding specific research projects. One recipient, Peter Szolovits, a professor of computer science and engineering and of health science and technology, has developed a computational model intended to automatically suggest cancer diagnoses by learning from thousands of data points from past pathology reports. He said Philips has shown interest in working with MIT researchers on systems for extracting useful medical information from large databases, improved ultrasound and other noninvasive diagnostics.

"One of the things I'm really looking forward to, since [Philips is] actually making stuff that gets used in hospitals around the world, is that they will develop some of these ideas," Szolovits said in a prepared statement. "That, in turn, would allow MIT students and faculty to do follow-up studies on 'how well these things work in the real world.'"

On the lighting side, the alliance between the institute and Philips will focus somewhat on how to collect and analyze data from lighting devices to manage energy usage in homes and cities. Those same data collection and transmission capabilities could be used to monitor additional environmental factors, such as pollution or traffic conditions.

MIT has many people "who are really great at data collection and analysis," said Alan Berger, a professor of urban design and landscape architecture. "The question is what do you do with it?" This new alliance, he added, should help get the fruits of MIT research into production as "something that can change how we think about the world."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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