I often find myself knee-deep in biotech industry reports, newsletters, industry journals, news, social media and analysis. Every communication piece and organization takes a slightly different angle on summing up the current state and future viability of our industry, but I find a common thread in each.
All parties tend to agree that biotech innovation is key to future economic growth and sustainable living both in established and emerging countries around the globe. In their 2010 annual report on the state of the European biotech industry, EuropaBio puts it this way;
“No other industrial sector sits as comfortably as biotech at the intersection of enhancement of quality of life, knowledge, innovation, productivity and environmental protection. From new healthcare products that can address unmet medical needs and fight epidemics and rare diseases to industrial processes that use renewable feedstocks instead of crude oil, to drought-resistant crops that allow farmers in Africa to feed more people under ever-harsher climatic conditions, biotechnology can and will pay economic, social and environmental dividends.”
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end here. Although the opportunities are promising there is opposition and it looks fierce.
The report goes on to explain that in response to troubled economic times, the industry’s challenge will be to innovate and grow at a time when the demand to cut costs is overwhelming. How do you cut back and grow at the same time?
Hurry up and slow down! This is the situation our industry finds itself in. The most innovative people in our industry are being laid off by the thousands and some of the most promising companies don’t have enough cash to carry them through the end of the year. Factor in a global economic recession and recent natural disasters and if you allow it, all of the “bad news” can begin to back you into a corner.
Worth Fighting For?
When we as individuals and organizations get pressed beyond our normal level of comfort it forces us to acknowledge the threat and give it a response. We commonly refer to our human reaction to these overwhelming situations as “fight or flight”. What will it be for you? I say we fight! No, don’t fight each other — leave that to the politicians. Let’s fight for a sustainable economy, the health of our respective organizations, the livelihood of our families, friends and neighbors. If nothing else, fight for the sake of living rather than surrendering to worry, fear and blame.
One of my favorite quotes is from the movie Jurassic Park. In the movie Jeff Goldblum plays the quirky role of Dr. Ian Malcolm, a mathematician and chaos theorist. Dr. Malcolm is questioning the park staff on whether or not the strategy and boundaries they have in place can control the reproduction of dinosaurs on the island:
“You’re implying that a group composed entirely of female animals will breed?”
Dr. Ian Malcolm:
“No. I’m simply saying that life, uh, finds a way.”
What I love about this dialogue is Dr. Malcolm’s nonchalant approach and nerve to questions the norm. It takes a bit of reckless hope to stand in the face of what seems to be immovable. Less than 500 years ago many believed the earth to be flat. Only 50 years ago the World Wide Web was only a concept on paper. Over the past 5 years the scientific community has made breakthroughs that were thought impossible only a short time ago. I don’t need to convince you that our industry is founded upon the radical assumption that things may not be as they seem.
A global financial crisis, broken business paradigms, enormous risk and rising costs seem to be a barrier for breeding new life. Innovation is under assault but hope is not lost. Assault is the impetus for innovation. Threat is motivation for change. If you look behind the mask of fierce opposition you can find incredible opportunity dressed in clever disguise.
Here are some real world inspirational examples and ideas from the Harvard Business Review blog:
At a meeting recently, I asked two PhD molecular biologists about the last time they used a Southern blot. After nearly a minute of unrestrained laughter, they asked “Who on earth still does that?” “Maybe for a very, very specific use,” conjectured one of the scientists. When I asked the scientist who taught me the […]
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