AI for Medical Imaging: MRI Scanners and the Roles of Philips and Siemens in China


This chapter provides a preliminary exploration of whether Europe's strength in medical artificial intelligence (AI) technology can be a tool for bolstering European strategic autonomy. It focuses in particular on AI for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Two European companies, Siemens and Philips, are among the market leaders in the production of MRI scanners, both globally and in China. China's dependence on European AI for MRI is limited and likely to decline. However, as the sizeable market shares of both companies indicate, there is a high demand for their MRI systems. Chinese access to European AI for MRI cannot be seen separately from the MRI scanners themselves, the companies that make them and their comprehensive MRI products, which include support services. Therefore, in practice European strength in AI for MRI in relation to China means that European companies are commercially highly competitive with their Chinese counterparts. It seems likely that Chinese actors will be increasingly able to match or possibly exceed European technological capabilities in key elements of MRI technology, such as imaging AI or magnets. There is, however, at least for now, a high degree of co-dependence. Siemens and Philips need China's large and growing market for MRI devices, and Philips in particular needs Chinese AI technology, while Chinese hospitals need the two companies' integrated MRI systems, and Philips' AI suppliers have a need for that company's MRI scanners. There is some scope for using the dependencies already in place to strengthen China's reliance on European technology. The European authorities could help to slow the decline in European market share in China by protecting European companies from the effects of Chinese state support for their Chinese competitors.

Chapter co-written with Carlo Fischione and Sanne van der Lugt in: Tim Rühlig ed, Reverse Dependency: Making ­Europe's ­Digital ­Technological Strengths ­Indispensable to ­China, Berlin: DGAP, 2024, p.102-111.