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Cloud Collaboration as a Catalyst for Industry Transformation

Christopher Waller

VP, Chief Scientist, EPAM
  • Life Sciences

Coopetition as a Business Model for the Future

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” There has to be some corollary to this ancient saying that blurs the line between competition and collaboration in business. Maybe something like, “If you want your business to survive for the long haul, go alone on the core competencies and product or service offering, but partner with other businesses on the activities that don’t differentiate yourself in the market.”

Can pharma and life sciences learn from planes, trains and automobiles (and finance, and travel and leisure, and hi-tech industries)? These industries have all gone through digital transformations and have, as a result, realized new ways of doing old business and opened up new revenue (and profit) models. Interestingly, collaborating with the competition – coopetition – is an established business model in these industries.

As a simple example, it is commonplace now for automobile manufacturers to share in the design and development costs of new platforms that underpin their cars, as we’ve seen with BMW and Toyota on the development of the new Z4 and Supra, respectively. While the cars share many parts as a cost-savings effort, they will still differentiate in the design of the exterior and interior finishes to compete for the hearts and wallets of consumers.

What about our industry? Coopetition is less commonplace, but still emerging – and necessary for survival – within the life sciences business ecosystem. More on this in a moment, but first…

The Evolution of the ‘Everything as a Service’ Culture

“The cloud doesn’t fix everything.” This was a statement made to me during a client call a few weeks ago while I was espousing the virtues of moving from their legacy on-premise deployment to a more agile, scalable and fault-tolerate cloud deployment. “True, buy why wouldn’t you make the switch if it’s less expensive and equips you for a future where the industry is supported by an API-based ecosystem?”

SaaS, IaaS, PaaS, DaaS – all of these services are enabled through intelligent design and the deployment of technology solutions. The disintegration of siloed legacy solution technology stacks into layered platforms has dramatically altered the technology landscape, and, in life sciences specifically, early experiments with internet-enabled biological assay marketplaces such as AssayDepot have now matured. Chemistry as a service, clinical trials as a service and more are popping up, altering the business landscape.

In this environment, the distinction between what is happening now and the rise of a ‘virtual company,’ where the various R&D services are orchestrated by a controlling party through contracts and strategic alliances, is the just-in-time nature of the ‘everything as a service’ culture. There are no messy long-term contracts or binding relationships to worry about – just cash paid for the advertised benefits, less hassle and fewer headaches. Sign me up!

The Cloud as a Catalyst for Coopetitive Innovation

Just as we see in the emergence of the ‘everything as a service’ culture, the concept of coopetition becomes almost a no-brainer once you consider the obvious advantages like cost savings and increased innovation. As a result, a similar disintegration of legacy competitive business processes is occurring.

The life sciences industry is on the precipice of a dramatic change driven by an increased focus on digitalization. The connected digital research labs with data freely flowing into cloud data stores through IoT-enabled devices, the evolving needs around enhanced cybersecurity, the desire to make the most of the data we collect, and the necessity to embrace the cloud culture are common topics of discussion among the citizens of the life sciences community.

Among these topics, the cloud stands to have the most profound impact on our industry. The cloud enables more than economical and unlimited data and computing resources. The cloud provides a collaboration space and a marketplace for the co-creation, sharing and selling of data, experimental protocols and ideas. Strikingly, it’s been estimated that across the life sciences industry, cloud adoption and utilization is currently below 10%.

Imagine a world where, once fully adopted, the life sciences industry adopts a more coopetition-based culture enabled through the provision of just-in-time services brokered through a cloud-enabled marketplace. Imagine…

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