Where Have All The Experts Gone? Long Time Passing...When Will They Ever Learn?

“Think Globally, Act Locally”! What better description of Big Pharma? With scattered facilities, operations, alliances and partnerships,throughout the world, globalisation is no news in pharmaland. Whilst going global proved to be extremely profit- rewarding to the industry, time has come to show the dark side of globalisation and the challenges ahead.

In the last decades, international migration of talented people, in the developed and developing world, caused a “jobless growth” coupled with a severe gap between education and the labor market.

“Think Global, Act Sectoral” is the new word to overcome an immense talent shortage. Governments all over the world are grappling with the question of how to increase competitiveness in a globalised world, and improve the quality of skills for innovation.

Issues to Address: Aging Population; “Baby Boomers; Consultant-Work; Next Generation; Pharma Business Model; Collaborative Networks; Technology Spillover; “Spin –Off” Companies; Clusters.

Aging Population

The developed world aging population and the demographic trends (low fertility rates) do not assure maintenance of working-age population levels.

The migration of highly skilled people – “brain-drain and brain-gain” – is a phenomenon with serious implications for the rising and falling fortunes of countries facing significant “brain migration.”

Stemming the tide of out-migrations, as well as the development of programs to attract and retain highly skilled people, has become a concern of governments world-wide.

Governments support innovation by bringing highly skilled people into networks of institutions, in which, both private and public sectors invest in R&D Clusters or networked centers, providing education and training, to maintain the country’s competitive edge.

Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers are on the verge of retirement and there are not enough graduates to backfill the positions. They will take with them their soft skills and practical wisdom leaving a legacy of "knowledge vacuum".

Positions requiring skilled labor, like manufacturing, are almost “endangered species”; manufacturers have been accelerating their efforts at automating plants and laying-off skilled workers that are currently necessary.

The “War for Talent”, especially for people to fill knowledge-worker positions, has gone global, as countries like China, India and the BRIC countries are facing the same problem, to the point where Taiwan has established an office in Silicon Valley specifically to encourage expat high-tech workers to return home.


Retired Baby Boomers are working together in many consortia of retired C-level executives providing consultancy services to the industry; “NuuKo” is one example of these consortia.

The majority of consultants operate on a virtual basis; the paradigm of work changes, when companies contract virtual work provided by freelancers or consultants, and managers need different techniques to cope with e-business.

Organisations will need to introduce much more flexible working practices to accommodate part-time workers, older workers, people with child care duties, and likewise workers.

Next generation

Tomorrow’s employees prefer to be hired into an organisation that provides better opportunities to realise their potential, than being groomed for a new role; they expect more – and different – benefits from those that are typically on offer today. If they are not satisfied, they will leave because money is not the decision-key. This means creating cultures that stimulate learning, with knowledge management systems, mentors and coaching; e- learning will become a major contributor to training.

The corporate perceptions of the workforce will suffer a revolution, as the scarcity of talent corresponding to an increased power of the most able individuals, represent a shift on social mores; employers will see themselves treating employees, not as hired hands, but as customers who can take their skills elsewhere.

The workforce will be extremely complex and diverse; organisations will have to consider a multi-faceted approach for acquiring, developing and retaining talented-labour.

Pharma Business Model

Big Pharma understands that any sourcing and talent management plan will need a comprehensive approach, suited to the challenge.

Pharma’s fully integrated business model enabled profit-to-one for many years, but this model is now outdated and will not work by 2020, because by then, no pharmaceutical company will be able to enjoy exclusive profits. In 2020, most medicines will be paid for, based on the results they deliver.

By 2020, collaboration will be a “sine qua non” requirement for pharmaceutical companies to develop effective new medicines, and address the demands of payers, increasingly well equipped to measure what they are getting for their money.

The pharma industry adopted a “super- net” business model structure, where a number of specialist organisations cluster together for strength and flexibility.

Collaborative Networks

The industry moved towards an open collaboration network strategy with a wide range of partners from different sectors; BioPartnering with discovery companies, like Biotech, and the growth in outsourcing to CROs/CMOs are just a few examples.

The next model will be “collaborative networks”; several companies are already using collaboration in R&D, and it is easy to envisage other networks covering everything from R&D through to sales and marketing.

Lilly, for instance, transformed itself from a traditional fully integrated pharmaceutical company into a fully integrated pharmaceutical network, to draw on a wide range of resources beyond its own walls.

Several non-pharmaceutical companies have already joined the club, like Vodafone’s partnership with Spanish Telemedicine Provider “Medicronic Salud” and Device Manufacturer “Aerotel Medical Systems”, to offer a wireless home monitoring service.

Technology Spillover and Clusters

Pharma companies with a highly productive R&D structure, based on well-developed assimilation capacities, are very efficient in maximising that productivity, using tools such as Technology Spillover, “Spin –Off” companies and Clusters.

“Spin-Off” companies are an important means to generate Clusters of typically high value goods and services; whilst Clusters can be developed on a national or international basis, there is a tendency for companies, to cluster together in selected locations like countries such as U.S.A., Germany, U.K. and Belgium, e.g.

“Spin –Off Companies”

Size is good, but the recent trend in Pharma M&A, gave birth to huge companies, which need to restructure their R&D divisions into smaller organisations.

“Spin –Off” companies are useful:

  • When R&D yields a new product that does not fit into the company’s portfolio ofpotential products;
  • After a “demerger”, (acquired companies are separated in order to create a more streamlined parent organisation);

The consolidation of the pharmaceutical industry is vastly responsible for reducing the overall headcount; vertical disintegration led to major layoffs, counterweighed by outsourcing

Big Pharma reached out to Omega Point (1). Now it is time for Reversibility -”This world, which we inhabit (...) is a place where we do have a strategy”. (2) 

  1. French Jésuite Pierre Teilhard de Chardin 
  2. Baudrillard’s “One Great Thought “and Strategy