Article contributed by: Tristan Salomon, founder and CEO of Axom, and expert in Machine Learning, Big Data and AI.
Any business needs to possess top-level technological advances not just to stand out from, but at least to keep up with the competition. This is especially true for pharmaceutical companies. The current pandemic situation has tested them on the ability to launch new solutions under time pressure. Before end-2020 most civil people probably never heard of such pharmaceutical giants as Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, or AstraZeneca. This is definitely not the case anymore. And that’s all thanks to their ability to innovate by developing the COVID-19 vaccines which the global community so desperately needed.
But this is only a drop in the ocean. There are hundreds of pharmaceutical enterprises worldwide with the research capacity of providing such innovative solutions. However, these are often the gaps in corporate innovation processes that hinder their development.
CORPORATES + STARTUPS = ?
Nowadays established companies and brands are working more and more with startups to increase their competitiveness. PwC, McKinsey, and KPMG are stressing on how fruitful the collaboration of corporations with startups can be. Provided that they share the same goals, both entities may benefit significantly from such work. It can change the established perspective, give access to talent and resources for both organisations which they otherwise wouldn’t have, as well as also provide the chance to learn some other ways of working.
For most pharmaceutical companies this could mean an opportunity to introduce change. It is true that rigid regulations make it difficult for them to launch a new product. The company often needs to build an entire innovation department from scratch with the people of relevant skills which often takes them from 3 to 5 years. Of course, with some other priorities on hand, corporations often do not get to do this.
Finding a right startup would mean that depending on the company’s needs, a corporation could benefit in many ways. This could be, for example, in testing and learning about new technological solutions, accelerating innovation cycles and ensuring better asset management. Even more than that, the company may improve its brand recognition in the market, enter new ones and therefore, remain competitive.
Usually those are exactly technology startups that might introduce a solution helpful in drug manufacturing. So how to ensure a proper win-win collaboration between a pharmaceutical corporation and a tech startup?
1. UNDERSTANDING WHAT A STARTUP IS
Startups are special institutions. They follow an innovative approach, learn quickly, pursue their idea and have a small but multifunctional team. However, this is all possible thanks to the reasons which might scare some heavy-bureaucracy companies away. Startups are like babies in the business world. Just like any new-born being, they lack power and experience. In this case it means resources, power in scaling up, legacy and structure. Corporates need to take this into account and not expect the impossible from such young companies. Startups can be only a few years old while corporations can date back to previous centuries.
2. SETTING THE RIGHT GOALS
Does a corporation want to launch a product like a new vaccine? Or perhaps to digitize their quality inspections? The possibilities are endless, and the main thing is to understand what the corporate priorities are at the moment and concentrate on those. It is better to narrow down the circle and focus on those opportunities which are more realistic to achieve.
3. DEFINING THE FRAMEWORK
The firm may wish to directly purchase the ready-made solution offered by the startup or perhaps, launch a pilot project to see how it works. It is also possible that they close a partnership agreement where they all work together on the common aim. In this case it is important to consider the specifics of management, strategy and traditions of the corporation. They may be willing to have a short-term rather than long-term project or to share only specific information with a startup. It is better to set the scale early.
4. CHOOSING THE RIGHT STARTUP
Currently the startup world is experiencing a “baby-boom”. It might take some effort to research the most suitable team. To ensure that the startup provides the high-quality solution exactly for pharmaceuticals, it is recommended to search for the companies with references from the enterprises operating in the pharmaceutical industry. Also, it is good to take a look at companies’ recent press releases as well as their website and Linkedin profile. Furthermore, the startup networks of the region where the corporation is active may connect it with the right company.
5. CREATING BENEFITS FOR BOTH SIDES
Corporates should try to simplify the entry process for startups. For example, having less rigid KPI’s may already be of great help considering that startups are only starting developing their solutions and therefore, have literally not had time to get it to the most advanced phase. Having a clear process is also important as well as ensuring stable communication. The latter can be achieved by having a single point of contact, for instance.
6. INNOVATING TOGETHER
Numerous corporations of different industries are already proving that successful collaboration with startups is possible. Accenture, for example, works with startups to grasp the latest technologies and business methodologies with which they could give the most valuable advice to its clients. The programme “Metro accelerator” was launched by Metro to cooperate with the most prominent startups in the food industry and hospitality sector. Pharmaceutical companies should, therefore, also make the best out of what is offered and innovate together with agile startups.
EASY WAY TO MEET YOUR STARTUP: TRADE FAIR
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, trade fairs are still taking place this year both in offline and hybrid format. Such an event gives companies a good chance to find new partners. They can have an introductory talk with the team and see the demonstration of the solution right away. Considering that usually hundreds of companies take part at trade fairs, there is a lot of options to choose from.
Links to some of the pharmaceutical industry fairs which are taking place this spring: