metabolic diseases

Playing the innovation game

Besides good timing and even better luck, it’s hard to pinpoint what it takes to be an innovator. Innovators tend to be creative, exceptionally persistent, and prepared to take calculated risks.

In a global organisation like GSK, innovation happens constantly. More than 11,000 people work in R&D in our search for new medicines, vaccines and consumer healthcare products. We are developing some amazing innovations, from the world’s first vaccine candidate for the prevention of malaria to a pipeline of potential next generation immuno-oncology therapies to fight cancer.

These have been achieved by a commitment to an innovation culture and groundbreaking science from the very top of our organization.

To achieve this culture, we embed innovation into everything we do. A great example is our vaccines business, where we’ve introduced some creative initiatives to foster new ways of innovative thinking.

yellow tubes
Rack of numbered yellow tubes containing samples

The Innovation Game is one of these - designed to seek out the inspiration and entrepreneurism that lies with our employees. Anyone from across our vaccines organisation can submit ideas to the game online.  All employees are able to see the ideas and offer themselves up as experts to help develop business plans. Virtual investors are sought and the ideas are then graded based on the virtual investment that they receive.

The climax of the game is the pitch process, where ideas that have been selected by the investors are presented to the GSK Vaccines Innovation Board. Successful ideas are then implemented by their inventors who take a lead in their development with GSK support.

An example of one successful project is a nutritional supplement to help improve the efficacy of vaccines in the developing world. 

In 2015 GSK’s Innovation Game expanded to include an academic collaborator, the National University of Singapore and in 2017 we plan to invite more external partners to join the competition.

Another initiative is the Technology Marathon, which identifies innovations that may improve working lives through technology. These ideas are reviewed by the GSK community whose feedback results in a natural ranking. The top ten successful ideas are then given one month to develop a business case and prototypes.

Coaching on the start-up process and access to internal and external experts is provided. At the final selection three successful candidates attend a week long workshop with venture capitalists and external partners, to decide which ideas will be co-developed.

Scientist pipettes a sample into a petri dish
Scientist pipettes a sample into a petri dish

Some exciting technologies have emerged from this approach. For example, GSK has invested in process improvements for one of its key adjuvants, ASO1 which is an important component of the malaria and Shingles candidate vaccine. This process improvement should lead to time and ultimately financial saving for the vaccine business, through higher production capacity.

And finally, GSK’s Vaccines Bio-Incubator provides scientists and innovators with a separate creative space. The idea is that by bringing these groups together they will develop ideas that connect pharmaceutical industry expertise and talent from other innovative technology businesses to develop exciting new ventures.

Together these ideas illustrate GSK’s deep commitment to inspiring and developing innovation within our Vaccines business ensuring constant improvement in the way that we work and perhaps contributing to one of our future vaccine candidates.