General Electric is to prepare a fresh sales and marketing blitz designed to capitalise on its belief that solving the world’s healthcare needs will be a “mega-trend” in the global economy for decades to come.
The initiative, which could be launched in the next few weeks, is to be modelled on GE’s “Ecomagination” project, the conglomerate’s landmark effort to boost revenue while raising awareness of environmentally friendly products.
GE’s healthcare push comes as governments are scrambling to find financially viable solutions to the problems of ageing populations, increased medical costs and the spread of diseases.
The healthcare drive is part of the strategy launched by Jeffrey Immelt, chief executive, to identify mega-trends, such as green issues and water scarcity, that give a diversified global company like GE an edge over rivals.
While Ecomagination was met with some scepticism after its 2005 roll-out, GE has noted the programme helped drive $17bn in revenue last year from the sale of products ranging from efficient jet engines to wind turbines. It has also helped make sure GE’s array of businesses do not neglect ideas that could spur future growth; GE is nearing its goal of devoting $1.5bn a year in research towards clean-energy technology.
The initiative is also intended to revive the fortunes of GE’s own $17bn-a-year healthcare division, which provides medical services to hospitals and governments and manufactures imaging and diagnostics equipment.
The unit, which Mr Immelt ran before succeeding Jack Welch as chief executive in 2001, has been dogged by regulatory and operational issues in recent years.
Based in the UK, GE Healthcare became the conglomerate’s first division to maintain a headquarters outside the US. The business earned $2.9bn last year, down 6.7 per cent from 2007. GE named John Dineen as healthcare chief executive last July to spearhead its turnround.
While details of the healthcare initiative have yet to emerge, company executives say it would involve numerous parts of the sprawling conglomerate, ranging from its industrial divisions to the media unit, NBC Universal.
They added that, like Ecomagination, the drive would involve setting revenue targets for GE’s health-related products and services, as well as lobbying efforts to persuade governments and companies to focus on these issues.