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7 June 2016Africa

BIO 2016: Understanding innovation is key to success

For something to be innovative it must “add value” and companies must ensure they understand the term in order to succeed, the 2016 BIO International Convention has heard.

A session called “The Newest Bright Shiny Thing - the challenge of true innovation” kicked off with moderator Bruce Jenett, senior counsel at law firm DLA Piper, who provided a definition of innovation from the dictionary, “Innovation means to be innovative”.

“This is not very helpful”, said Jenett. But he added that “when looking at the synonyms, we get words like ‘change’ and ‘revolution’ and suddenly the word innovation makes more sense”.

The panellists, speaking on the first day of the convention currently taking place in San Francisco, then gave their own definitions of innovation, with most agreeing that to be innovative a subject had to add value.

The discussion featured six panelists: William Charnetski, chief health innovation strategist at the Ontario Ministry of Health; Marianne De Backer, vice president at Johnson & Johnson Innovation; Arvind Gupta, founder of IndieBio; Regis Kelly, executive director at QB3; John Lewicki, executive vice president for research and development at OncoMed Pharmaceuticals, and John Melo, president of Amyris.

It was argued that with the huge capital needs in the life sciences industry, regulatory barriers, high rate of product development failure, and the delay with getting products into the market, companies will be increasingly disadvantaged if they do not understand the true meaning of innovation.

“Johnson and Johnson wouldn’t exist if it didn’t continue to renew itself,” said De Backer.

Gupta took the discussion further and explained how his company IndieBio helps realise innovation. IndieBio is a startup accelerator for synthetic biology based in Ireland and San Francisco.

“Start-ups can win. Often, smaller companies get intimidated by the bigger ones. But in reality, in smaller companies, there is the freedom to focus,” he said.

But Melo disagreed and said that “innovation can happen everywhere with the right conditions”.

Melo added that scientists should dedicate their time innovating, leaving the rest up to robots.

“Focus the scientists on thinking and focus the work on robots,” he said.

The panelists also discussed innovation outside US, where countries such as Denmark, the UK and Belgium were discussed.

De Backer said there is a bigger threshold to become an entrepreneur in Europe because of the social economic situation, “as people are very dependant and rely heavily on the government”.

The 2016 BIO International Convention runs from June 6-9.

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