Pharma Execs Confess Innovation Is Lacking

Pharma Execs Confess Innovation Is Lacking

July 13th, 2011 // 12:34 pm @


When the going gets tough, do the tough know now to innovate? Apparently not. At least that’s what a bunch of pharma execs confess in a new survey that finds only 54 percent – including those who admit to having poor or ineffective innovation strategies – consider innovation to be a leading priority. And only 49 percent rank their overall innovation strategy as just moderately effective, at best.

More specifically, improving innovation was cited as the single most important priority that will define success by 16 percent, while 38 mentioned this is a one of a handful of top priorities. Interestingly, 26 percent reported that change is important, but really just one priority among many others. And 11 percent say change would be good, but it is not a priority. And 7 percent say ‘why change?’

Meanwhile, just 47 percent report their R&D model is capable of meeting corporate needs and only 42 percent say their strategy is more than moderately successful at replenishing the pipeline. These sobering results reflect comments from 282 senior execs, including 58 percent from the c-suite, by the Economist Intelligence Unit and was done at the behest of Quintiles, the clinical research organization.

“In any other industry you can measure using metrics, but you can’t really do that in this industry,” Peter Hongaard Andersen, exec vp for research at Lundbeck, tells the questionnaires. Instead, potential improvements need to be assessed against non-tangible criteria, such as measuring the quality of efforts before knowing if a pay off exists. “That is why we are all struggling to get this right.”

But what are the impediments to improving innovation? Not surprisingly 47 percent cited cost as a leading barrier, followed by 38 percent who pointed to the time involved in product development and 33 percent who fault regulatory restrictions. However, cultural attachment to existing ways and a lack of talent were cited by 24 percent. And difficult corporate structures were mentioned by 21 percent.

“Right now the industry is very much driven by fear rather than by ambition,” Paion ceo Wolfgang Soehngen tells the questionnaires. He acknowledges that there are legitimate issues that make innovation difficult to achieve. But, he adds, these are “partially fact, partially an excuse.”

The survey found that drugmakers and biotechs are experimenting with a number of possible improvements, but none of these strategies is becoming widely popular within their organizations. In fact, Nine different ideas have each been adopted at more than 20 percent of the companies, but the most popular were only taken on by one-third of the respondents

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