Innovation trends in Pharma and Medtech | PDD

Innovation trends in Pharma and Medtech


on October 28 2015

Earlier this week, I attended an event at Imperial College on Innovation in Medtech. The event was well attended by academics and a diverse group of industry representatives from pharma and medical device companies, start-ups, consultancies and investors.

As part of the proceedings, Imperial College’s VP of Development and Innovation, Professor David Gann, shared his thoughts on New Patterns of Innovation. In his talk, he reviewed six attributes defining innovation today:

1. Evolution of the primary innovators over time: Entrepreneurs (19th century);  corporate R&D labs (20th century);  distributed innovators(Ref 1) (21st century).

2. Services: Value is increasingly generated through new services rather than products alone.

3. Design: Design is now broadly accepted by the mainstream as a key innovation enabler.

4. Innovation Technology: The rise of tools, especially computing tools, has enabled and accelerated innovation.

5. Collaboration: More than ever, innovation is achieved by a team of people. See also point 1 on distributed innovators.

6. Business Model Innovation: New products and service solutions may require new business models to be commercially successful.

Most of these points have been actively discussed by leaders in Pharma and Medtech over the past 3-4 years, but our experience is that the level of maturity in embracing some of the above trends still varies widely across companies and regions.

The ongoing effort towards creating an “artificial pancreas” exemplifies many of the innovation trends: design is used extensively to generate products and digital interfaces, apps deliver useful services to patients, and collaboration between manufacturers of glucose meters such as Dexcom and manufacturers of insulin pumps such as Medtronic and Animas has become the norm. Image credit:

As an innovation partner to both established companies and start-ups, PDD is a member of many distributed teams at any one time, providing the skills and expertise needed to accelerate our clients’ growth programmes. We certainly don’t have all the answers but are humble enough to accept this and we continuously challenge ourselves to find better and cheaper ways to help our clients bring new solutions (and the right solutions!) to market.

In fact, we have almost daily debates about the trends listed above and the best ways to help our clients adopt and leverage them for success. To illustrate this point, here’s a short list of questions we debated recently in our London studio:

– Isn’t “Service Design” just “Good Design”?
– Can you focus too much on Human-Centred Design (HCD)?
– How can business model innovation best be blended into the overall innovation process?
– What are the best ways to bring new tech from global labs to our clients?

Naturally, cost pressures are a major driver of innovation in healthcare and are here to stay. Most industry professionals I speak to have accepted that cost pressures are the new normal, but many express disappointment because the lack of funding inevitably stops some useful innovations from reaching the market.

Personally, I take a more positive view of the cost pressures. Here are my two reasons why:

1) The cost pressures have become a great leveller of innovation efforts. While in absolute terms the budgets available for healthcare across countries still vary enormously, the fact that the major thrust of healthcare innovation is now on achieving more with less means innovators across the world―be they in post-industrial nations or newly emerging nations―are now approaching problems with a similar mind-set. In a way, we are all “in the same boat” which will lead to more collaboration and better, more frugal solutions.

2) Put simply, innovating without constraints is boring and does not lead to the best outcomes. It is when tough constraints are imposed that teams have to think outside the box and will stretch themselves to come up with breakthrough solutions.

Healthcare continues to be a fantastic space to be in, with abundant opportunities for emerging or established players to create disruptive solutions. I’d argue that while cost pressures, regulatory constraints or the lack of clarity about reimbursement can all be frustrating, it is important to stay optimistic, build a strong team with the right partners, and then just get on with it.


Ref 1: Prof Gann emphasized that he prefers the term “distributed innovation” to “open innovation”, as the latter can lead some to believe Intellectual Property flows around too freely.