Why is the Pistoia Alliance running a Startup Challenge?

The Pistoia Alliance’s core mission is to lower the barriers to innovation in life sciences R&D by means of pre-competitive collaboration. What this means in reality is that we seek to find ways to improve collaboration, accelerate research, ease the flow of information between scientists, and enhance any business process that has a significant impact on the R&D lifecycle. The goal is that our output enables innovative discoveries to be made more readily.

We are constantly searching for new ideas for projects which can deliver any of the above. Last year we established IP3 to crowd-source and manage these ideas through a more formal assessment and tracking process, but this is only one way of finding out what the major pressure points are for R&D scientists. As the Pistoia Alliance grows we need to ensure we remain up-to-date with the latest trends and demands from industry and so we need to tap into multiple sources of data to inform our decisions.

The startup community is an excellent indicator of future trends. Small businesses and their investors are a bellwether for the needs of industry, as their investment decisions are life-or-death for their companies and they must be sure that they are putting their efforts into the markets, products and services which are most likely to make a decent return. Generally speaking, if the startup community moves towards a particular area en masse, then it is because that area has significant commercial potential, and commercial potential generally translates into a definite need or gap in the market that the target market – in this case the life sciences industry – is struggling to address. Therefore the Pistoia Alliance should also be looking into what it can do to support that area with appropriate projects.

startup-242The Pistoia Alliance President’s Startup Challenge 2015 is an opportunity not only for us to inform our membership about the latest areas of innovation being actively explored by the startup community, but also to showcase the very best innovative technologies from startup companies around the world and give those companies an unparalleled opportunity to present their work to the wide selection of major life science research and technology companies that make up our membership. In addition, by offering the opportunity to win an extended period of mentorship from one of our members, as well as a modest cash prize, we aim to do our bit to contribute to the success of the best of the ideas entered.

It is important to note that the Pistoia Alliance is pre-competitive. Our outputs do not seek to enhance the position of any one organisation in isolation or help them to collaborate with each other on anything directly involving the creation of IP. Rather, we help them improve the processes that they use independently when carrying out their own internal IP-creating research. Therefore when we set up our projects it is not because we wish to create a product or service to compete against the open market, but because we spot a niche solution gap to fill, a standard to create, a common platform to develop, a community to build around shared knowledge, or a business process to improve.

The same principle applies to the Startup Challenge: we are not seeking to gain exclusive access to IP or to licence it on favourable terms, but we are aiming to encourage innovation and identify the gaps where the Pistoia Alliance can help everyone benefit through pre-competitive collaboration, startups included. (Twitter: @pistoiaalliance / #pistoia2015)

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