Working Together to Unlock Innovation

Working Together to Unlock Innovation

Along my journey of filing more than 1,000 life sciences patents – and bringing some of those innovations profitably to market – I’ve discovered a few key ways that pharma can innovate. An incumbent can trust an entrepreneur to constantly develop bold new ideas, while the innovator can trust big market leaders to give their vision funding, scale, and even longevity. While innovators do not necessarily have to master everything, they usually have a broad range of knowledge and know people with the expertise required should they not have it themselves – or, at the very least, have networks in place to help find someone who does. Such a broad-based way of dealing with problems also gives entrepreneurs an awareness of the pieces they need to complete their “jigsaw puzzle.” For example, someone without entrepreneurial flair may not be particularly cognisant of the value of social media for awareness-raising and sales generation purposes when launching a new product. On the other hand, an entrepreneur will undoubtedly understand the power of such networks – and they will know that they need to hire an expert if they do not possess the right skills. In this win-win scenario, prioritizing the treatment of poor health causes – rather than symptoms of disease – would result in healthier people, less stress on healthcare systems, and more sustainable profits for pharma companies.

To some established companies, this shift in approach may sound threatening and radical, but it’s gathering interest in certain entrepreneurial corners, which could lead to major disruptive innovations in healthcare. The innovator zooms both in and out – oscillating between the two to find the answer. Having sold businesses to large incumbents and having spent time in those public companies, I’ve witnessed first hand how groupthink can – and does – harm innovation. Fear also plays a huge role in holding innovation back in public companies. Creativity can come from anywhere, so embedding innovation into company culture at every level is mission-critical. My business partner, David, strongly recommends that public company CEOs should hire entrepreneurs to make the value of creativity pervasive. Supporting these mavericks – and allowing them to take (managed) risks – can help bridge the innovation gap between disruptive startups and incumbents.  For me, entrepreneurs succeed or fail on solving problems worth solving, whereas big pharma companies succeed broadly by protecting their downside. By investing in startup R&D budgets rather than just buying the company and by bringing entrepreneurs into their own businesses to foster a culture of creativity, CEOs have the power to shape a world more capable of innovation – perhaps even a world that strives to create wellness rather than cure sickness.

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