Philip Morris transformation through innovation


Philip Morris transformation through innovation

Interview with Bin Li, CPO

Regional Post talked to Philip Morris International Chief Product Officer Bin Li, who was visiting Armenia within the framework of the Global Innovation Forum GIF22 on Life-Altering Technologies taking place on October 5-6 In Yerevan.

The 4th Global Innovation Forum (GIF22) is organized by the Foundation for Armenian Science and Technology (FAST) on “Life-Altering Technologies”. It is set to explore the impact of novel technologies on human life. The Forum is an international platform. It connects world-renowned experts, decision-makers, business leaders, researchers representing high-level institutions and businesses. The Forum is an opportunity to share knowledge, experiences and research results on the most recent advancements in science and technology.

Photo: Aristakesyan

Bin Li
Philip Morris International (PMI) Chief Product Officer 

Bin Li joined PMI in 2019 from HARMAN International in Shenzhen (China). Prior to that, Mr. Li had worked for Philips Consumer Electronics and HongEn. Mr. Li has a strong technical, product development and operations background and vast experience in product design and innovation developed within world-class consumer electronics companies. 

Interview: Tigran Zakaryan 


The first thing that comes to the mind when one hears “Philip Morris” is cigarettes. In fact, today we discovered Philip Morris is much more than a tobacco company. Can you please share why and how the company is transforming?

It’s true that we’ve built the world’s most successful cigarette company, with the world’s most popular and iconic brands. Now we’ve made the decision to go smoke-free. Thanks to the imagination and perseverance of thousands of people at PMI, we have developed smoke-free products that are better alternatives to cigarette smoking. We have a commitment to our employees and our shareholders, which we are fulfilling by pursuing this path to sustainable success. And we have a commitment to society, which expects us to act responsibly. And today PMI is an industry leader in scientific innovation.


What is the role of product function in transformation?

The most visible part of our transformation is that related to our product lines. Product function’s role in the transformation is to turn ourselves to a world-class novel product developer becoming a business that has a net positive impact on society and the environment.

For the innovation to become reality some very sophisticated techniques in various technical and scientific domains are involved: software algorithm, electronics control, mechanical engineering, chemical analysis, clinical studies. PMI has been reinventing itself into a science and technology company. Let me give you some numbers. We have almost 1000 R&D scientists, engineers and technicians working on alternative technology. We have invested more than USD 9 billion into the development and commercialization of the smoke-free products. There are over 450 scientific publications to share our methods and findings. 


Can you bring an example on how the technology is applied to your product transformation?  

One example is that the burning cigarettes emit smoke, which contain harmful chemicals. We have developed products which heat tobacco, without burning it. In the new products a sophisticated technology controls in a very accurate way the temperature of the heated tobacco, so that the exposure to harmful chemicals is largely reduced. 


Photo: Aristakesyan


How are you making sure your novel products are a better alternative to cigarettes?

That is a very good question. The simple answer to it is that we have to take the scientific approach. To claim it is a better product we need scientific substantiations behind it. We are using for instance international quality standards such as ISO standards, Good Laboratory practices, and Good clinical and epidemiology practices. We make our science transparent to the society, we publish our study results and we invite the research community to look at our data. 


This is exciting how much company invests in science and technology. Are there any other areas your science can be implemented?

You are right, now we are actively working to even expand our purpose and evolve into a broader lifestyle, consumer wellness, and healthcare company applying our expertise in oral delivery, inhalation science, and technologies. We introduced in 2021 a new aspiration to generate at least USD 1 billion in revenues from wellness and healthcare products by 2025.


You established an R&D Center here in Armenia. Can you tell us why?

Five years ago we as PMI also discovered this beautiful country with a rich scientific heritage, potential of technology development and a powerful global talent in science and technology. Due to the country’s proficiency in the scientific and technological areas, a decision was made to establish a PMI Science research and development center in Armenia.

We have seen great results. In the last five years we have invested more than 16 million US dollars in Armenia to develop science and also to support local education infrastructure. 

Photo: Aristakesyan


How are Armenian science and education sectors benefiting from PMI Science R&D Center activities?
Currently our R&D center in Armenia partners with a number of local research institutions and universities on joint projects. Our team is expanding dynamically and our researchers work in the primary directions such as data science, technologies and material science. 

The numbers are impressive! Within five years, PMI Science R&D Center Armenia has already provided more than 120 scholarships to students who study various discipline, such as “Data Science in Business”, “System engineering” and “Material science”. To PhD students we have provided 50 grants to carry their research projects in directions such as Artificial Intelligence, Industrial engineering, Power Management, Experimental Physics, Sensing technology. On top of that, 70 teams with researchers from different institutions received support on projects in Electronics Control Systems, Simulation and Modeling, Applied Mathematics and Applied Physics.