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Two of the top reasons for the life sciences industry to settle to Europe is a well-developed and maintained infrastructure, and a highly educated workforce able to drive R&D and excellence in manufacturing. In a changing world with aging populations, rising healthcare cost, and expiring patents, these are good preconditions to stay competitive and come up with new drugs, medical devices and services that fulfill the upcoming needs of physicians and patients across the globe.

But is this enough? What priorities do life sciences companies in Europe focus on in order to be prepared for the future?

After a bit of research, the general trends and hot topics don’t seem to be that different than in other developed regions as well. Looking a bit deeper, fine differences of the life sciences industry in Europe and US can be found in the details.

One example: precision medicine

In the study "Healthcare Gets Personal" by Oxford Economics 120 professionals in health sciences were investigated earlier this year. 68% of the European respondents said that personalized medicine had an impact on their organization today, and 75% said it would in two years. From their American peers only 55% saw an impact of personalized medicine on their organization today, and 63% of the American health sciences professionals expected an impact in 2018 – again much less than in Europe. So, European health sciences organizations seem to have a stronger tendency to invest into precision medicine as one of the promising areas to gain innovative edge in the future.

As with any strategy, the approach of innovating in the area of precision medicine does not only carry opportunities, but also challenges and risk. The top three challenges to make precision medicine work in Europe are underdeveloped scientific framework (77%), talent shortages (70%), and cost of technology (60%). To give a comparison, in the US, most of the respondents also mentioned underdeveloped scientific framework (72%) and cost of technology (58%) as top challenges, but a majority actually finds that a lack of technology (72%) is a huge hurdle, which was a concern for only 57% of the respondents in Europe.

You could conclude that European life sciences companies are looking intensely for tools that can drive R&D efficiency, and probably also for tools that reduce cost in other areas as well, e.g. manufacturing, to be able to invest into high-end technology and talent development. This could actually be not that far-fetched. It at least matches the priorities our European life sciences customers, especially in Germany, which has the second largest life sciences industry in Europe after Switzerland, are expressing to us when discussing their IT strategies. Many of them want to explore opportunities associated with digital transformation, and need to find out how to deepen R&D networks, analyze Big Data in R&D in a smarter and faster way, and how the future of manufacturing looks like.

This is of course not a comprehensive analysis of the key priorities of the European life sciences industry, but rather a small snapshot reflecting my first individual observations. For example, I did not touch on the upcoming election on Brexit which may lead to completely different dynamics…

Join the conversation!

To explore a larger number life sciences trends in Germany and Switzerland with a group of industry experts and peers in depth, SAP will host a life sciences infoday on June, 28, 2016. Front-runners such as Merck KGaA, Biotest, Novartis Pharma, and Roche Diagnostics will share best practices in R&D and Manufacturing. To join the conversations, please don’t miss this event or follow us on twitter @Sap_Healthcare!