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Dr. Alícia Granados

Ambassador to the BioRegion of Catalonia

Dr. Granados was named Ambassador to the BioRegion in December. She is a researcher and businesswoman with a long career in positions of responsibility in the public sector related to assessment of medical technology and public health policy. Her commitment to ethics, which is demanding and integrates social responsibility of companies and organizations, played an important role in her selection to receive this recognition.

Biocat created the title of Ambassador to the BioRegion of Catalonia in 2009 to recognize an important figure from the scientific, financial, political or social arena that has stood out for their efforts to drive biotechnology in Catalonia and to support the Catalan BioRegion on a national and international level. At the latest Biocat Forum –where the Catalan sector meets annually- Dr. Granados was awarded this recognition by the President of the Government of Catalonia and President of the Biocat Board of Trustees. With her exemplary career in both the public and private sectors, the new Ambassador to the BioRegion brings key issues to the table concerning the future of the Catalan biocluster.

What are the challenges the Catalan healthcare system will face in the future?

The biggest challenge is the near future: what we have to do and how we should prioritize our actions to make the future look as much as possible like the one we want. The system must be based on quality, efficiency and solidarity. However we must make a firm decision as to the maximum quality we want or can afford as a country. Another challenge is how to adapt the current healthcare system to the new needs and social, economic and knowledge changes that have come about. Surely it will not be possible with the same organizational tools, the same funding schemes, the same type of leaders and the same values we have employed in the past. We need innovation in both organization and regulation that will allow for increased flexibility, new alliances, mergers when necessary, more social responsibility and, definitively, increased assessment.

In the past you have mentioned that we need to make legislative changes and to incorporate incentives. Why?

Because of the speed at which changes are taking place, as I was saying before, no organization, public or private, can believe that it is possible to manage the organization over the coming ten years in the same way it was run up to now. On the other hand, incentives, both positive and negative, are essential to encouraging people to adapt to changes, and to making sure that these steps are taken in the right direction.

In your experience, what opportunities are available to Catalan biotechnology, biomedicine and medical technology in this changing environment?

Given the high level of global competitiveness, the most important opportunities will come out of effective cooperation between different groups, between the private and public sectors and between countries. The government must foster this cooperation by implementing the necessary incentives, both direct and indirect.

Should this sector look towards emerging countries in order to grow further?

This sector, like others, must look everywhere, even to emerging countries. Nowadays, we must develop relationships not only in our Autonomous Community or country, but around the planet.

What should we do to make sure research carried out in universities reaches our companies?

In my opinion... the government should explicitly prioritize the production and transfer of knowledge in their budgets and encourage new fiscal schemes to favor relationships between university and enterprise. It should also incorporate monitoring of whether results are achieved as a result of these relationships in order to adapt aspects that need to be changed. Flexibility in changing that which needs to be redirected must be one of the key values in this approach.

Universities must put more effort into driving a culture of cooperation with the private sector internally and implementing, monitoring and assessing transfer programs, as well as reviewing future strategies by the results obtained. 

The private sector must improve its innovation culture not only regarding technology but also in its decision-making processes concerning research and development, exploring new business models and applying more proactive market-access policies.

Some local scientists have said that we have too many programs to request funding; that each new government establishes new programs. Would it be more effective if they were streamlined?

I think they’re right. I also think that we need more specialization, to concentrate our resources in the most competitive clusters and to establish more stable long-term strategies. It isn't viable for each legislature to change the government’s strategic approach, as this impedes consolidation. This R&D&i system is highly vulnerable.

One of the changes you propose is increasingly strict social responsibility. Isn't this still rather far off for SMEs? 

Yes. Unfortunately in our area social responsibility as a tool for ethical and responsible management isn't yet a day-to-day reality for SMEs. We must therefore insist that a commitment to social responsibility can be part of a competitiveness plan, not just an altruistic gesture that requires an outlay of money but doesn’t follow a true company policy.

At the beginning of November, the Enterprise 2020 initiative to build the responsible enterprise of the future was presented in Brussels. How would you summarize this concept for pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical technology companies?

To sum up, I would say that we must manage research and enterprise according to the most demanding standards of ethics and responsibility. Each business sector has its own particularities. For example, in pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical technology companies this means carrying out research and marketing new drugs or biotech products that cover real un-met clinical needs and not playing games with the patient needs. This includes transparency in study results and publishing all clinical trials despite the outcome, as well as facilitating access to technology and drugs in the most vulnerable countries and societies, particularly those that are essential to treating diseases that threaten the lives of large segments of the population. This sector must also control its environmental footprint and, finally, it must be sensitive to and respond to the needs of its workers regarding equal opportunities and diversity.

As the newly appointed Ambassador to the BioRegion, how do you see our biocluster in terms of research and innovation?

I am optimistic, moderately so but optimistic because there is a lot of talent and vocation for research in Catalonia and unprecedented efforts have been made to support research groups, centers, institutes and hospitals. However, the R&D&i system is still highly vulnerable; it faces persistent threats and is overly dependant on the administrations. Overall, we haven’t yet made the leap from knowledge to innovation, from innovation to market and from market to economic growth. We are part of what is known as the European paradox, meaning that Europe hasn’t been able to find the road to market... I believe that cooperation between the private and public sectors and specialization will be key. On the other hand, the healthcare system, as the main client for these potential innovations, has also reached a point where it must review its priorities, treatment models, and financing and assessment system. It needs to make an effort to identify the elements that are obsolete in order to stop investing in this out-dated technology and make room for true innovations coming out of molecular and genetic research, systems biology, tissue engineering, stratified medicine and research into ageing modulators. 

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