Reimagining innovation ecosystems for the health care industry

New roads to the future of health

As businesses continue to become more digital and industry lines continue to blur, life sciences and health care enterprises are investing in ecosystems and partnerships to cement their position in the future of health, fueling growth and disruptive innovation within and across global ecosystems.

Ecosystems as catalysts for innovation

The state of health care is rapidly evolving toward a consumer-centric model where technologies play an increased role in how each consumers' unique preferences are understood; how their individual context is perceived; and how their care needs, protocols, and medicines should be designed to shift from a state of sick care to health care. This precise understanding presents the opportunity not only to improve care for immediate needs, but also to predict upcoming needs and underlying capacity by leveraging both longitudinal and real-time data, delivering higher-quality, more personalized experiences.

Perhaps no industries better understand how to create and fulfill consumer-centric experiences than retail and technology. It’s no surprise that both established players like Amazon and greenfield startups are driving a paradigmatic shift at the intersection of innovation and health, leveraging their core competencies to offer more accessible and affordable care, largely enabled through technology. While the transformative power of technology has undoubtedly benefited consumers, it has caused disruption for incumbent health care and life sciences enterprises.

In order to respond to these disruptors, remain nimble, and drive transformation in their business models, traditional health care and life sciences enterprises are moving to reinvigorate their “innovation ecosystems.” Best exemplified in Silicon Valley in the 1990s, an innovation ecosystem is a community where a critical mass of available capital, startups, differentiated talent, enabling institutions, and favorable government policies converge and fuel vigorous cooperation and competition.

These ecosystems are where the magic happens: Ideas develop rapidly, startups readily source talent and funding, hypotheses are swiftly prototyped in real-world settings, and enterprises continuously bring new innovations to market—all measurably faster together and within the ecosystem than outside of the ecosystem or on their own. Not only do these vibrant ecosystems increase local productivity and growth, but they also drive disruptive innovation globally.

Benefits of innovation ecosystems

Enterprises that invest in developing a presence within an innovation ecosystem are well-positioned to access resources unique to the ecosystem and conduct mutually beneficial activities, such as sharing industry expertise to guide solution development. What it means to develop a presence will vary based on the characteristics of the ecosystem and ambition of the enterprise, but it is commonly achieved through developing a physical innovation and/or R&D center, funding and incubating startups, sponsoring events, and creating relationships with local ecosystem players.

There is particular benefit in working with earlier-stage ecosystems where talent, real estate, and other scarce resources are more accessible and energized by the idea of partnering with more established outside players. Once an enterprise has established a presence in the ecosystem, it enables a wide spectrum of activities and the realization of key benefits.

It’s a common misconception that having an office or physical building in the location is equivalent to having a presence in the ecosystem. In truth, the benefits that an enterprise will yield from an ecosystem directly correlate to the time and energy invested. To truly take advantage of an ecosystem and realize the above benefits, enterprises need to embed themselves in the community and become a resource to participants through a give-and-take relationship.

How to maximize value from an innovation ecosystem

Determining your innovation ecosystem strategy, acting on it, and demonstrating its success is much easier said than done. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, leaders can leverage these steps to expand their innovation ecosystem and realize sustainable competitive advantages for their enterprises.

Cementing your position in the future of health

These are turbulent and disruptive times for the health care and life sciences industries. Orthogonal competitors are bringing massive scale from outside to bear on this newly accessible and growing market, one from which they have been historically excluded. Advances in interoperability and consumer-centricity are breaking down the moats diligently built around most health care businesses, and government is increasingly playing the roles of stakeholder and change agent in protecting and supporting citizens, all while the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the priorities and trajectories of many enterprises.

Localized and global virtual ecosystems are increasingly being built to catalyze enterprise transformation and modernization, recognizing that working well beyond the walls of the enterprise is a strategic imperative. What is missing is a clear ecosystem strategy, platform, and architecture. Enterprises need to grow new muscles around collaboration, partnering, and speed to market. And this needs to happen now in order to secure a spot in the future of health.

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