An Open Innovation Approach Applied to the Pharmaceutical Industry

An Open Innovation Approach Applied to the Pharmaceutical Industry

Federico Piutti, Innovation Manager, Bormioli Pharma

Federico Piutti, Innovation Manager, Bormioli Pharma

Bormioli Pharma is a global pharmaceutical packaging manufacturer marketing glass and plastic vials, containers, and closures in over 100 countries around the world. Featuring9 plants in Italy, France, and Germany, and over 1,300 employees, the company started an innovation program in early 2019 named Bormioli Pharma Invents, based on an Open Innovation approach.

The Open Innovation approach is a breakthrough for the pharma packaging industry, which has traditionally been bound to internal R&D departments and processes that are neither easily accessible nor open to communication with external stakeholders.

Open Innovation was first theorized by Henry Chesbrough in 2004. He described the innovation models of cutting-edge companies in the 80s and the 90s and identified a common path: "Open Innovation." Instead of setting up an exclusive internal process for knowledge development, Chesbrough understood that companies found developing a distributed ecosystem to be more efficient, where know-how can be identified and developed in collaboration with internal and external players, using the internal know-how to generate additional value through new business models.

"We identified four opportunities for growth in our industry, four strategic pillars that we repute to be the main drivers of change in the pharmaceutical primary packaging market: usability, traceability, connectivity, sustainability"

The advantages are: a significant cost reduction coming from inbound open innovation, reducing development costs, and generating a new revenue stream from spin-offs and licenses. All of these savings significantly change the Innovation ROI.

In 2019, Bormioli Pharma turned theory into practice. First, we identified four opportunities for growth in our industry, four strategic pillars that we repute to be the main drivers of change in the pharmaceutical primary packaging market. These are: usability, connectivity, traceability, and sustainability.

We developed an Open Innovation System around these pillars, which combines internal R&D assets with external contributors, fostering collaboration projects and identifying common ways to generate value.

Collaboration is the core of our open innovation ecosystem. In our network value chain, we involve players, such as end-users, clients, and partners, but also start-ups, Research Centers and Universities, relying on specific Innovation Hubs or accelerators to stay at the forefront of innovation.

This requires a radical change of mindset within the company. To do this, we have diffused an innovation culture within the company, actively involving all of our employees - regardless of their position -in communication activities and specific training courses, as well as inspiring corporate "evangelists" to be the voice of innovation, spreading it throughout the company. We strongly believe in this inclusive approach, as anyone can have a good idea worth developing.

Yet, no good idea can encourage change if it is not met with action. We must make it happen. That's what our innovation model aims to do, speeding up the process from market analysis to prototypes and industrialization.

Firstly, we start with an investigation phase based on real human needs. Then, we identify all of the possible innovative solutions that can address these needs through a Design Thinking approach, which also allows us to prioritize the most promising innovative solutions. The definition of a partner, the wrapping up of a concept, and the first prototype design are the next steps.

A mock-up is then developed and continuously tested and analyzed in order to refine it and make it more adherent to the final product, through what we call a "Fast Factory" approach, inspired by the Lean Startup methodology. Finally, the prototype is run through a validation circle, with multiple tests by clients and end-users to fine-tune response and better tackle consumers' needs before going through a proof-of-concept phase and, finally, industrialization.

This is our innovation flow that has allowed us to showcase several concepts and products so far – all well-received by the industry –reducing time-to-market and multiplying the R&D efforts of the company through the support of external stakeholders. That's why we define our Open Innovation approach as a real enabler in our growth strategy.

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