James Barlow

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Professor James Barlow, co-chair of Mobilising Business, Acting on Future Health and Professor of Technology and Innovation Management at Imperial College Business School, explains what delegates and the wider Imperial College audience can expect from the Business School’s second annual conference.

How would you describe the impact of last year’s conference, ‘Mobilising Business, Acting on Climate Change’?

The 2016 conference was the first in the series, and it was very timely as it came right after the Paris Agreement on climate change. Probably the most significant impact for the Business School was the launch of Dr Charles Donovan’s Centre for Climate Finance & Investment, which was given a wonderful boost by some of the contacts that Charles made at the conference.

The conference was really a joint effort with the Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment, which did a huge amount of work in driving the agenda forward and suggesting speakers and delegates. This collaboration further strengthened that partnership and helped showcase the contribution that the Business School can make to help counter climate change.

What’s on the agenda for this year?

We chose to focus on healthcare because it’s obviously a huge challenge in the UK at the moment, with the problems the NHS is facing, but also globally – all health systems face intense pressures to reduce costs but at the same time improve the quality of healthcare and quality of our lives.

One thing we know is that, globally, the private sector is hugely involved in healthcare. Globally, we spend something like 8 trillion dollars a year on healthcare. Of that, over 2 trillion is spent on the inputs – drugs, medical devices, IT, built infrastructure. So, clearly those companies have a huge role in shaping how healthcare is delivered. But the real question is: how are they innovating to help meet the big challenges all health systems are facing? How can we deliver more and better healthcare affordably? How do we cope with the potential big shocks to the system, like superbugs and antimicrobial resistance?

As a business school, we’re naturally very interested in the role of business and the corporate sector in meeting these major challenges. So the idea of the conference is to bring together a group of representatives from different health industries to discuss how they’re going to respond. 

How can we deliver more and better healthcare affordably? How do we cope with the potential big shocks to the system, like superbugs and antimicrobial resistance?

The agenda will kick off in the morning with a keynote speech from Mark Britnell, Chairman and Partner of the Global Health Practice for KPMG. Mark is going to talk about his views on the big global health system challenges. Then we’ll look at some of those challenges in more detail, with Professor Rifat Atun, Professor of Global Health Systems at Harvard University; Professor Chas Bountra, Chief Scientist at SGC, Oxford University; and Jeremy Lauer from the World Health Organization.

Then we’ll examine what industry is doing in terms of innovation – looking at medtech and pharma in particular. We have a panel with people coming directly from the industry bringing different perspectives, including Kai Stoeber from Shionogi and Cyrille Petit from Smith & Nephew. We will look at how funding healthcare innovation is changing. We’ve got Kate Bingham from SV Life Sciences, bringing the venture capitalist perspective; Kasim Kutay, a healthcare banking veteran in charge of a life science investment vehicle valued at more than EUR 47 billion; and Michele Colocci, the global co-head of healthcare investment banking at Morgan Stanley.

In the afternoon it’s partly about leadership and implementation – who’s going to lead the delivery of new healthcare models in the future – and partly about new players. We’re very pleased to have representatives from Nestle and IBM, two new players in the healthcare space, both outlining what their companies are doing in the future.

Who is attending the conference?

It’s an invitation-only audience like last year, because we’re keen to get the right people in the room. We have around 100 senior level delegates and they’re drawn from different parts of the health sector – a few with policy backgrounds, but by and large from industry – largely pharma, medtech, finance. They’re well-placed to contribute to the discussion, but also take some of the lessons back to their own companies and hopefully apply them in the future.

Why is Imperial College Business School uniquely placed to run this conference?

Imperial College Business School is interesting because, unlike other business schools, it sits within a university that is essentially dominated by science, technology, engineering and health and medicine. The Business School is like the glue between those different faculties, so we have a very good overview of innovation, technology management, and the business of science – how we ‘do science’ better, and how we improve the flow of science into innovative products that are then taken up in the wider world. We’re very well placed because we understand what these issues are, not just from a policy and demand perspective, but also from the supply side as well – from the industries that are responsible for developing and providing the inputs into healthcare in the future.

The Business School has a very good overview of innovation, technology management, and the business of science – how we ‘do science’ better.

What can you share about the break out session?

It will be an opportunity for the delegates to reflect on what has been said so far and whether there are other important health challenges which need to be tackled, and begin to explore how to address them. Before the break out session, Rebecca Fogg from the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation will talk about why we need to be more disruptive in our thinking, rather than slavishly copying old innovation models. So delegates will have that in their minds before the session. Like last year, we’ll be collecting the key points from the discussions, which will summarised and fed back to the audience.

How can the wider Imperial College audience participate in the conference?

It will be live streamed, so you can follow it that way, and you can join in on Twitter using the hashtag #MobiliseBusiness. A recording of the conference will also be made available afterwards, and you can also look out for blog posts on some of the key topics addressed.

Mobilising Business, Acting on Future Health will be chaired by Professor Barlow and Dr Laure de Preux, Assistant Professor at Imperial College Business School.

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