Thematic Debate: "Higher Education and Research: Challenges and Opportunities"
Co-operation in Science and Technology
Industrialists looking towards academia are confronted with a plurality of universities differing substantially in their organizational framework. When contacting them, it is advantageous to choose an individual approach. Vice versa, industry offers a very varied picture as well. Whereas, in the US metals and mining industry, 2% of sales were invested in R&D in 1998, the respective figure for the US pharmaceutical industry was 19%.
In spite of the fact that the top 10 global pharmaceutical companies invested between 1 and 2 billion US$ in their R&D function in 1996, output in the same year was only 0.66 new molecular entities (NMEs) first launched worldwide per company. A figure insufficient to allow these companies to hold their market share through internal growth. An independent study published by Anderson Consulting showed that 3-4 significant NMEs have to be launched on the world market in order to guarantee an annual growth of 10% for one of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies. Taking into account that the global pharmaceutical market is expanding by about 6% per annum, this would be just a little bit above maintenance level.
In order to close this gap, R&D funding within these top 10 companies will focus even more on the specific task of industry; i.e. translating new knowledge into products and services. The pharmaceutical industry is drawn towards increasing and improving interactions with universities and smaller companies engaged in the first steps of the afore-mentioned translatory process.
It goes without saying that in this context, heavy funding of non-product-oriented fundamental research at universities cannot be the task of the pharmaceutical industry. This has to be an integral segment of governmental activities.
Fundamental, or basic, research is characterized by the fact that it is driven by the passion to understand and that it has to remain flexible and open to chance discoveries. It creates new knowledge, the indispensible prerequisite for novel products; or put differently, without new knowledge there can be no novel products or services.
For top pharmaceutical industries, it is compulsory to amplify multifirm alliances and to substantially increase collaborations with academic centres.
The basis of collaboration has to be agreements, they are a must. The terms of the contracts have to be consistent with local competition laws. One of their main functions should be to safeguard intellectual property rights of inventors.
Lastly, collaborations between the creators of new knowledge in academia and the translators of it into products and/or services in industry can be made successful by well-practised management and ongoing communication, valuing the diversity of input and promising mutual benefits.
Prof. Albert E. Fischli