BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

BBC Homepage
BBC Radio
BBC Radio 4 - 92 to 94 FM and 198 Long WaveListen to Digital Radio, Digital TV and OnlineListen on Digital Radio, Digital TV and Online

Radio 4 Tickets
Radio 4 Help

Contact Us

Go to the Listen Again page
In Business
Thursday 8.30-9.00pm,
Sunday 9.30-10.00pm (rpt)
Programme details 
28 August 2008
Listen to this programme in full
Peter Day
Biotech Battle

Britain’s world class pharmaceutical industry fears it is failing to keep pace with the latest development in medicines : biotechnology. So industry leaders held an elaborate business war game in London to find out how to catch up. Peter Day reports on the how the game was played ... and the lessons they learnt.
About this programme by Peter Day

Business as a battleground is one of the most tiresome of metaphors. Executives as Road Warriors, CEOs as mighty leaders, vanquishing the competition, the War in the High Street..all of these and more distract business people from a humbler and more practical task of making goods and services that benefit customers.

That said, war gaming is an interesting approach to thinking about business strategy. (“You mean plans, don’t you?” asked the late Lord Weinstock of the late GEC plaintively when I had asked too many questions containing the word strategy.)

Military types have played war games for more than a century, first in sandpits with ranks of model soldiers and then on computer screens with millions of variables. Some US army war games go on for months and costs millions.

Companies dally with war gaming from time to time..trying to peer into the future.

The games are of course as good as the planning that goes into them. But even though they condense months or years of real world action into only one or two days, the organisers say that the teams get so deeply involved in the game that it soon becomes a very serious business indeed.

And if it’s organised right, the war game will certainly introduce out-of-the-wide-blue-yonder events which serve to remind participating executives of the famous perception uttered by Andy Grove of Intel that Only the Paranoid Survive.

Survival may be the point of the war game In Business was lucky enough to eavesdrop on in July; it’s the subject of this week’s programme starting the new autumn series.

British universities and hospitals have long played a big part in advancing medicine with new discoveries, and the pharmaceutical industry here remains a significant global player with great big international companies despite the relative smallness of the domestic market for medical drugs.

But the big pharma model for drug discovery appears to be faltering all over the world. Attention is switching to the nimble young start ups taking new biotechnology approaches to find innovatory new drugs which the big companies don’t seem to be able to grasp.

In the USA, several dozen biopharm businesses have already grown to be considerable corporations. It has not happened in Britain; the industry blames British investors who are frightened off pharmaceuticals by the high risk involved in financing a development stage that may last almost 10 years and can end in regulatory failure after years of promise.

So in July, two teams representing a British biopharm startup and an American one played out ten years of drug development in two days to see what lessons could be learned from the differences between them.

So –if you listen carefully--this is one of those radio programmes with two distinct themes.

You’ll hear all about designing and playing a business war game ... and also get some insights (we hope) into the big problems facing a medical industry we ought to take care of.

Steve Chisnall
Chief Operating Officer – Simulstrat

Professor Michael Clarke,
Director Royal United Services Institute

Dr Gill Samuels CBE,
Chair, Biosciences Futures Forum

Bruce Carter,
Chief Executive ZymoGenetics

Paul Cuddon,
Research Analyst, KBC Peel Hunt

Eliot Forster,
Chief Executive, Solace Pharmeceuticals

Jeremy Curnock Cook,
BioScience Managers

Useful link:

Bioscience Futures Forum war game
About In Business

We try to make ear-grabbing programmes about the whole world of work, public and private, from vast corporations to modest volunteers.

In Business is all about change. New ways of work and new technologies are challenging most of the assumptions by which organisations have been run for the last 100 years. We try to report on ideas coming over the horizon, just before they start being talked about. We hope it is an exhilarating ride.
    The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites
    Listen Live
    Audio Help
    [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    In Business

    Listen Again

    Related programmes

    About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy