Starting to work together with someone you do not know is often associated with some risk-taking if this person is outside your regular circle of collaborators and is off the mainstream of usual partners. We often observe that pharma companies are much more open to collaboration with service providers in the Far East countries than in Eastern Europe. It is clear that there is a major trend to work with partners in China (and, to some extent, India) and the costs benefits appear obvious (or, perhaps better to say, used to be obvious). There is also an established market of many hundreds, if not thousands, of companies in Asia that offer a variety of services and starting a collaboration is not much different from going to a shop and picking up a product that looks like what you need.
To build a collaboration with a lab in Eastern (or Central) European countries requires a different approach. The first and the most critical step is to obtain initial experience that can help to reveal all the advantages of nearshoring (outsourcing to neighbours) and to convince internal decision makers to go for a larger project.
As an example of such a first step, we would like to refer to a project that we have supported. A major pharma company active in the fields of Immunology and Neuroscience was running internally a variety of drug discovery projects – each one of them requiring support of anatomy and histology groups. With all main research facilities of this company located in a Western European country, it turned out to be problematic to engage highly experienced and highly qualified internal research staff to do large volumes of routine work (essentially preparing the tissue for histological analysis). An additional challenge was the reluctance of upper management to increase headcount in R&D. And, not surprisingly, reducing histology support of the projects, another option to reduce the workload for the department, was fiercely resisted by project leaders. The histology department was clearly regarded as a success critical project bottleneck, when an interesting alternative presented itself.
Looking for solutions to eliminate this success-critical project bottleneck, we have identified a lab in Poland that employed people with highly developed histology skills, had at least 50% of their resources unused (due to limited funding) and a high motivation to work. Two people from this lab were sent to the pharma company’s research center for a one-month training program. Upon their return, this lab received basic tools necessary to conduct the work and the tissue samples to process. We have helped both sides to address all legal aspects and to negotiate the terms that were acceptable for both sides.
We refer to this collaboration as a success story because within a fairly short period of time this project started to grow beyond the originally intended focus on outsourcing of routine work. Once the pharma company managers got the first experience, there were other nearshoring projects of increasing complexity and diversity.