president of Farmaindustria and CEO of the Ferrer Group
Trained in Chemistry at the University of Barcelona, his experience in the pharmaceutical sector has focused on three large companies: 25 years with the BASF Group, where he held several positions in the areas of general management, marketing and sales, human resources, and production; later he served as general manager of Lacer; and then joined the Catalan Ferrer Group in 1999. He has defined himself as a manager devoted to driving growth in the companies where he works.
Last October, Jordi Ramentol took over for Jesús Acebillo (Novartis) as president of the Spanish pharmaceutical employers’ association. In the few months he has headed up Farmaindustria, he has taken on an important role in presenting the sectorial plan for the development of the Spanish pharmaceutical industry.
Unlike other sectorial plans, this initiative isn’t laid out as an aid program, but as a platform for industry participation. Instrumentally, the plan will include a platform to structure relations between the public administrations and the industry, configured around a high-level group of representatives from the four ministries involved (Health, Social Policy and Equality; Industry, Tourism and Trade; Science and Innovation; and Economy and Finance), coordinated by the Minister of Health and several worktables structured around the medication life-cycle, from research and development through market access and use in clinical practice.
One of the challenges you posed when taking over the presidency of Farmaindustria was to move the Spanish Government’s sectorial plan forward. It was initially expected for December, but was just presented on 31 March 2011. Was the process more difficult than was expected?
No, but an issue as complex as this sectorial plan requires time. And, in the end, we were able to finally present our plan on 31 March. It is an initiative to create a strategic platform to develop the Spanish pharmaceutical industry resulting from the pressing need to rebuild a more favorable and predictable framework and environment, to create a stable regulatory space that allows companies to regain confidence in the future and recover the path of investment. It must also establish a framework for public-private collaboration, which can serve as a benchmark and paradigm for future generations.
What are the main work-lines laid out in the plan?
There are four: driving biopharmaceutical research and clinical trials, which have proved to be important opportunities for our country; more sustainable economic regulations for the sector with public accounts, following the best regulatory practices recently passed in the Sustainable Economy Act; equal access to medications for all patients, and rational use of these drugs; and, finally, competitiveness and innovation.
You are currently CEO of a Catalan multinational firm and president of the national employers’ association. Do you think that application of this plan will have different effects of Catalonia than on the rest of the State, given the specific characteristics of the sector here?
The pharmaceutical industry is a huge stakeholder in the Catalan economy, representing 7.7% of the gross value added, 6.7% of all Catalan exports, 33% of all industrial R&D expenditure and providing direct employment for 20,000 workers. We trust that the sectorial plan will lay the foundation for this sector to continue contributing to Catalan society in the long term, under a wide-reaching framework of a sustainable healthcare system.
What niche markets do you see as most promising for the near future? How are we positioned to face them and how will they be affected by the sectorial plan, which aims to foster increased foreign expansion?
Despite the huge effort over the past years to increase investment in research and development, our country still invests less in R&D than more advanced countries. The level of science found in R&D teams from the healthcare field, both in private and public organizations, is among the best in the world. In terms of scientific publications, we hold a significant place in the global scene. Nevertheless, we have always found it extremely difficult to produce patents. If we accept the premise that research means turning capital into knowledge and that innovating means transforming this knowledge into wealth, our top priority should be to drive innovation through intensive public-private collaboration, which leads to the creation of patents, products and services that can be marketed around the world. To do this we need a suitable public-private framework, a stable environment and the certainty we trust this plan can provide.
As a parting message, and in light of the crisis and current employment difficulties, what professional opportunities can the sector offer, given its commitment to fostering qualified employment?
Medications are a preferred good for society, given their contribution to improving life expectancy and quality of life for all people, as well as increasing productivity by decreasing absenteeism. All this shows the strategic importance of this industry as a sector for the future and its potential to help transform the Spanish economy by ensuring sustained growth. We could say that the pharmaceutical sector is one industrial sector that any country would like to implement in their territory.