Photo by Edward Jenner from Pexels

Tthe pharma industry has ramped up its ability to innovate in the past couple of years. Many firms in the sector have retooled operations, rethought clinical trials and accelerated the ability to commercialize new drugs.

Clarivate’s Top 100 Global Innovators 2022 report, however, cited only two pharma companies. Clarivate also projects that the level of innovation of the pharma sector will fall relative to other notable industries from 2020 to 2025.

Part of the reason for that prediction is the trend of increased collaboration in the sector makes it more difficult for individual pharma companies to stand out from the pack, according to Ed White, chief analyst and VP of IP and innovation research at Clarivate.

The pharma research ecosystem is considerably more fragmented now than it was 10 to 20 years ago.

“It’s difficult for us to say the pharmaceutical innovation is going down,” White said. “I don’t think that that’s true.”

It is, however, difficult for the pharmaceutical industry’s fragmented R&D landscape to stand out from industries making aggressive use of artificial intelligence, connectivity and smart sensors. The automotive industry, for example, has been forced to rethink operations and vehicle design in recent years, thanks to electrification, autonomous driving and other trends.

“This year, the automotive sector has entered the top 100 in a big way,” White said.

Electronics and telecommunications firms from China and Taiwan have also surged in the rankings recently.

In addition, Clarivate’s most recent report doesn’t fully account for the effect of COVID-19, given its focus on innovative companies in the five-year window starting in 2016 and ending in 2020.

A novel pharma company like mRNA pioneer BioNTech doesn’t meet Clarivate’s qualification criteria, even though the COVID-19 vaccine it developed with Pfizer has emerged as a vital weapon against the pandemic.

To qualify for inclusion in the list, an organization must have innovations in Clarivate’s database. Of those, at least 100 must have been granted inside the five-year window.

Johnson & Johnson and Roche were the only two pharmaceutical companies to make the Top 100 Global Innovators 2022 list. Philips was included in the list for its medtech contributions.

“For J&J, it doesn’t surprise me at all that they strongly remain within the top 100 because of their much broader footprint of innovation directions,” White said.

One general trend White observed when thinking about the recent top 100 rankings is the strong standing of companies that make physical objects, including materials, devices, chips, cars, etc. There was less focus on “software and digitalization and that kind of thing, which I found quite interesting because it feels like a counter-trend,” White said.