Roche’s (virtual) supplier day focuses on innovation and speed of delivery

Niko Nurmi

Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche hosted its annual supplier day virtually this year, focussing its collaboration efforts on accelerating the speed of innovation.

“Spending on travel and logistics is down due to COVID-19, what areas are you looking to invest in more?”

Our clinical trials have been disrupted this year; how can we avoid this happening in the future?”

“What can you do to improve your onboarding process for smaller suppliers?”

These are just some of the questions Roche executives answered in their yearly supplier day. The event, which was originally planned for March with a selection of strategic suppliers attending, was broadcast in the beginning of September to 800 people around the world from an empty auditorium in Basel, Switzerland.

With the pandemic still disrupting how global business is done, it would not have been unheard of for an event such as this to be cancelled. For the pharma company however, the supplier day was deemed too important not to go ahead.

Participants had the chance to hear more about Roche’s ambitions for the upcoming 10 years, including pledges to reduce their total environmental impact by half, delivering twice as many medical advances at half the cost to society, and doubling patient access to novel, high medical value diagnostic solutions.

Sharing strategic priorities, financial performance and market outlook during the day are invaluable ways to create more alignment and supplier commitment – they help Roche become a partner of choice with key innovators.

The fact that the COVID-19 remains a global health crisis only adds to the importance of supplier collaboration. The pandemic has given Roche a head-start in reaching some of their 2030 goals, as new solutions are being delivered to patients in record time. But CPO Marielle Beyer was keen to emphasise that while Roche currently moves at the speed of light, the key question is how to maintain the same sense of urgency in the future.

Alan Hippe, Chief Financial and Information Officer at Roche answering questions with Chief Procurement Officer Marielle Beyer

Start-up solutions to benefit the whole ecosystem

Event invites were not only sent to Roche’s most strategic partners, but also to a hand-selected group of start-ups. 16 start-ups were given four minutes to pitch their solutions and demonstrate their value. Not only did we learn how AI can help connect patients and physicians to clinical trials, or how a digital solution can be used to buy and sell raw materials in the pharma industry, but also that getting all that needs to be said in just four minutes is easier said than done.

Roche was not alone in listening to the pitches. The company knows break-through innovation is not always going to be exclusive to them, which is why procurement is focussed on working with the right suppliers as part of an ecosystem. If a Roche supplier becomes better in their field after seeing a pitch during the supplier day, then that in itself is a win for Roche, and ultimately for the patient.

Just like face-to-face, or better?

The supplier day agenda also included presentations by strategic suppliers in their areas of speciality, a discussion panel on collaborating to deliver solutions faster, workshops on key topics (such as sustainable procurement), and global supplier awards. The level of investment in the execution made the virtual event a success.

Just like in-person events, virtual events require a great deal of coordination and preparation in order to ensure speakers are aware of when they are going up and participants know when to ask questions, and that the day runs on schedule. Technology adds a layer of complexity of course, but Roche’s decision to invest in a purpose-built virtual platform paid off and the event ran smoothly. In fact, holding the event virtually enabled Roche to reach more people than it would have had it been held in-person.

We are committed to partnering and innovating together with our supply base to bring solutions to patients faster. Delivering this event during this time demonstrates our commitment,” said Miriam Hartmann, Global Supplier Management Lead at Roche.

Virtual events are here to stay, and Roche’s experience shows that supplier days continue to deliver value and supplier commitment. So much commitment in fact, that some participants opted to give up on sleep so they could give their presentations at 2:00 am local time…

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