Upsizing for Innovation: Why “Bigger is Better” for Partners of the new GSK-Pfizer Joint Venture

Robert Sarrazin
VP Search & Evaluation and Direct Investments

The idea of companies coming together in a merger is not surprising. Mergers take place often, but “getting bigger” isn’t the goal. Companies combine to be more efficient and competitive, and what MAY be surprising is that bigger can mean more open to new ideas and approaches. The larger the organization, the greater the need for constant development of novel ideas – and that requires fruitful partnerships with innovative entrepreneurs.

When GSK and Pfizer closed a multibillion-dollar merger this August, our consumer healthcare businesses combined to become the world’s largest over-the-counter enterprise. Our potential to better serve consumers and help to improve their health is vast and exciting, but how does a merger impact processes upstream, long before new solutions reach consumers?

We understand that startups seeking a partner may find the size and scale of a big company to be daunting. But, opening a conversation soon reveals that a working relationship with a larger partner can create strong, possibly unexpected advantages that smaller companies will simply not be able to offer. Here’s my take on the top three benefits in working with larger, innovation-driven organizations:

  • Scale and (yes) agility: Increased scale can actually accelerate innovation. A newly expanded global footprint and portfolio (for GSK/Pfizer, that includes household names like Advil, Centrum, Chapstick, Tums and Sensodyne) means having the reach, infrastructure and experience to rapidly and efficiently bring products to market. That makes it a win for innovation partners who want access to opportunities on the global market.
  • Access to deep consumer insight: Building partnerships is by no means the endgame – it’s a starting point that allows us to morph into a better, more flexible company that’s on the cutting edge of consumer focus. One deep experience in gathering and analyzing consumer data gives companies like ours insights that can augment innovator capabilities and substantially grow and guide shared opportunities. At GSK/Pfizer, we must collaborate with external innovators to meet our strategic targets, and we actively seek partners with a healthy consumer obsession for the mutual benefit of our companies and the consumers we serve.
  • The right resources and processes for success: Bigger doesn’t mean clunkier. Size can confer depth of resources, and internal processes that allow quick and thorough assessment of opportunities. The traction a bigger partner can bring to a start-up through marketing, development, advertising, production and other specialty resources means that smaller partners quickly acquire expanded capacities and a better ability to follow through without wasting time – fundamentally changing the way both partners execute on projects.

Now more than ever, large healthcare companies like GSK are being disrupted by smaller more nimble players, and unbranded products can be as good as branded ones. That’s another reason we have sought out external innovators to complement our own internal processes and are building a strong pipeline with a significant portion of externally sourced innovations.

In today’s increasingly competitive landscape, companies must drive successful innovation with more than just strong brands. Winning consumer-driven technologies, products and services require a strong, holistic partnership between innovators and larger partners. Through collaboration, startups can access expertise in developing and bringing products to market and feel confident that the partner’s scale and power will put their life-improving products into the hands of consumers. Larger partners bring their capabilities, energy and inspiration to the table. It is the mutual benefit and respect for what each can offer the other that will enable us to forge new paths toward brands that work better for the consumer.

Let’s put our minds together

Let’s get started. Join our community and discover how we can accelerate your ideas together