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Everyone is talking about innovation. The pharma industry is bursting at the seams with ideas. But often from passionate people who are frustrated at the lack of time or freedom they have to develop them. Market access is no exception. The prospect of identifying new ways to help the NHS ensure patients gain access to life changing products is an exciting and rewarding one.

The industry is full of examples of where it has worked. And when it has worked really well, the results have been transformative.

But innovation can sometimes struggle to leave the workshop. If you are enthusiastic about innovation but stuck on how to make it happen, these 5 top tips should help.

1. GIVE INNOVATION A PURPOSE

So what is it that can impact the success of our plans to innovate in market access?

Often they are too complex. Sometimes there is confusion over what exactly is trying to be achieved. Sometimes there is limited vision for change. So it becomes impossible to enthuse others and motivate support and action. It needs someone to define what success looks like, for the brand and for the NHS. It is easier for your colleagues, your team, and your cross-functional stakeholders to be bought in if they know the direction in which they are headed.

Innovation can however be simple, in fact it should be. And it doesn’t always have to be massively creative or radical. It is ultimately a new way of doing something. A disruption to the status quo. But in a way that generates new levels of success, or a new outcome.

If you are clear that innovation is the right approach, then you have to give it a purpose.

And it is therefore up to you to set the course, and make this clear and explicit to all around you.

2. EMBRACE COMPLIANCE

“It will never get through compliance!”

Very often people can give up before they’ve even started because they expect to get nowhere. I’ve seen, heard and watched this happen. Genuinely exciting opportunities to expedite patient access to treatment lost to the drawing room floor for fear of compliance shutting things down.

I’ve also seen, heard and watched the opposite. Exciting opportunities that have been successfully designed and implemented – because of compliance, not in spite of it.

The simple truth is that your detailed compliance policies, processes and systems are there to protect and support you. To reduce risk. To make things happen, not to stop them.

Collaborate with compliance from day one. Invite your medico-legal colleagues to be involved in the thinking and the decision-making at the very beginning. And then they can join you on the journey to shape and guide the development process.

A brief meeting or discussion before copy approval is not enough and it is way too late!

So embrace the compliance opportunity, and get on board early.

3. CO-CREATE

Ok, so we all know it would be madness, for any business in any industry, to attempt to bring to market an innovative new service or way of working, without input and insight from colleagues and customers. So this point is not one about the importance of doing so.

This is about a slight shift in mind-set. A change from ‘input and insight’ from colleagues and customers, to ‘co-creation’ with colleagues and customers. Don’t just ask for contributions at the beginning and at the end. Shape, build and steer your innovation with them from beginning until the end. And think carefully about who they should be. It is important that you listen to the challenges of your most sceptical colleagues and the objections of your most disagreeing customers. These must be taken seriously, addressed and overcome. But co-creation will only truly work if you surround yourself with passionate people. Those passionate enough to change the status quo are the ones that do. Surround yourself with people who are willing to stick their necks out, seek solutions, collaborate with Pharma and be the change they want to see.

4. DON’T GO IT ALONE

Market access teams and individuals often work across multiple diseases, products and/or indications. So time is precious. We know an innovation needn’t be complex (see Top Tip no. 1!), but it also needn’t be unnecessarily time-consuming. The key to effective implementation is accepting the fact that it doesn’t have to be you that does everything. You can still inject your passion and shape the direction of the project, but assigning the right project leader can be the keystone that unlocks the path to successful innovation.

What defines such a leader? The ability to listen, look out for and encourage cross-functional teams while also skillfully negotiating, communicating and delegating tasks.

Easier said than done? Yes of course, if innovation was easy everyone would be doing it. And then it would no longer be innovation, it would be the norm. Now there’s an exciting prospect.

5. MOVE FAST (DON’T BE LIKE KODAK)

Remember those Kodak moments? Probably not anymore. Kodak was once a global success story and a market leader. What happened? The environment kept changing, and so did technology. Kodak didn’t keep up. The issue here wasn’t that they failed to anticipate the digital opportunity as such, but that they failed to act decisively and quickly enough. Hello Apple.

Whilst our industry is very different, the premise is exactly the same. Especially given the pharmaceutical market is characterised by so much competition. The best laid plans, or the most innovative rather, remain plans, until they are turned into action. And action is meaningless unless it generate results. If you don’t act now, then someone else probably will. So then, what are you waiting for? Be decisive. Move fast.

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