Stronger together: seizing digital health opportunities

How will business leaders embrace the unprecedented opportunities created by digital health?

Our research shows they are exploring a range of options. Many are thinking about how to enhance internal capabilities – whether by attracting staff with the right digital expertise or changing company policies or cultures. Ultimately, however, most believe they will need to look externally for answers.

Collaborations are the preferred approach, with 83% describing partnerships, JVs and alliances as important in the year ahead. A high proportion of respondents also say M&A activity and minority investments will be vital components of their digital health strategies over the next 12 months.

How important will the following be to your organisation to unlock digital health opportunities in the next 12 months?

Collaborations (partnerships, JVs, alliances)
83% said important or very important
78% said important or very important
Changing company culture or policies
59% said important or very important

Major incumbents have already moved to grasp the opportunity: GSK and Verily Life Sciences have joined forces to develop bioelectronic medicines; AstraZeneca is collaborating with Cancer Research UK to accelerate the discovery of new cancer medicines; and Google and Johnson & Johnson are working together to create the next generation of surgical robots.

This is just the start of a new era of healthcare and digital technology convergence. Collaboration, investment and other M&A activity will only accelerate as organisations race to become the disruptors, not the disrupted.

There are also clear signs that collaboration structures are becoming more complex. In our study, 71% of organisations say they will increase investment in multi-party deals over the next three years, and a further 64% will scan for cross-sector opportunities. In contrast, bilateral collaborations, despite remaining valuable, have started to fall out of favour.

Collaborations that blend a wide range of skills, insights and expertise can offer some of the most interesting results. However, increased complexity often brings increased risk. Multi-party arrangements create a knot of contractual, intellectual property (IP), regulatory, competition, governance and cultural issues that must be carefully unpicked. The more parties that are involved, the more difficult it is to resolve matters, and the higher the barriers to success.

It is critical that these challenges are overcome. Successful collaboration is now a key driver of competitive edge. Those that fail to forge the right relationships will become increasingly marginalised in a fast-moving, digitally led landscape.

Western Europe is at the forefront of complex collaboration deals
Western Europe is set to become a hotbed of activity for complex digital health collaborations. Overall, 83% of respondents across the region say they will increase investment in cross-sector collaborations over the next three years. This trend is particularly evident in the Netherlands (94%), France (91%) and Germany (84%). Organisations are also looking to spend more on cross-border collaborations. Overall, 74% of Western European respondents are looking to increase investment in this area over the next three years.
Christophe Fichet, a Partner at Simmons & Simmons in France.

Increased cross-sector and cross-border working will lead to significant opportunities, but it also brings new challenges and risks. Organisations will need the right strategies and internal processes if they are to deal with the matrix of regulations and cultures across borders. Those that are able to overcome these challenges will emerge as clear winners in the digital age.


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