Centers of Excellence and R&D Productivity Crisis in the Pharmaceutical Industry: Case study of AstraZeneca

Barbora Füzesiová

Student thesis: Master thesis


With an increasing importance of innovation as a strategic tool, globalization of R&D and technological advances, the companies are forced to focus more on their innovation capabilities and many times look for the ideas outside of their company’s boundaries. Over the years, there has been an increase of interest in the idea of “openness”, as companies are realizing that in order to stay ahead of a competition, they cannot innovate in isolation. This has been particularly true for pharmaceutical companies. Rising R&D costs, decreasing R&D productivity and patent expiration have made the old R&D model – blockbuster model – ineffective. Such developments have pushed some companies towards exploring the open innovation concept and towards an adoption of open innovation models. These models offer several benefits that can help tackle the challenges that the pharmaceutical industry faces nowadays. AstraZeneca is one of the companies successfully implementing this approach in their operations and thus, this paper aims to observe the pharmaceutical landscape, to explore the open innovation models as well as how they can address these challenges. In particular, the concept of a center of excellence is studied in more depth as well as the advantages and disadvantages it offers are discussed. Finally, the main focus of the thesis is AstraZeneca as a case company. Their patent portfolio – patent applications more specifically, is being analyzed to look for any changes over the years. The results are then discussed in the context of changing environment, R&D productivity crisis in particular leading to the answer to the main research question as to how the establishment of centers of excellence could potentially serve as a solution to R&D productivity crisis.

EducationsMSc in Management of Innovation and Business Development, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages56
SupervisorsKeld Laursen