After graduation in Delft as a mechanical engineer, Gerard followed a course in ‘Electric lighting and transmission power’ at the University of Glasgow. At this university he was offered a position in the 1886-1887 Research Group under supervision of Sir William Thomson, who later became Lord Kelvin. After that, he gained his first experience in business, first in London at the Anglo-American Brush Electric Light Corporation and later in Berlin as an employee of the Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft (AEG).
Besides being highly educated, Gerard Philips had a hunger for entrepreneurship. Together with his father Frederik he developed a business plan that distinguished itself from other manufacturers. Gerard saw a competitive advantage by focusing on the optimal manufacturing technique for a single product: the carbon-filament lamp. For other companies, light bulbs were just a part of a larger range of electronic products. Not so for Gerard, he even purchased semi-finished products such as glass bulbs and lamp fittings from third parties.
His approach was highly successful. Within ten years after the founding of Philips on May 15, 1891, it was a formidable competitor for industrial giants such as Siemens & Halske, AEG and General Electric. Throughout his working life Gerard Philips continued his involvement with the quality of manufacturing processes. His adage was: ‘When the quality is there, the quantity comes naturally’.