RSA 2008: Lilly puts research project out to internet tender

Pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly is putting a research project on the internet for tender in an effort to become a networked company.

Pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly is putting a research project on the internet for tender in an effort to become a networked company.

This emerged at the launch of the Jericho Forum's new Collaboration Oriented Architectures framework at RSA on Thursday.

Speaking at the event, Adrian Seccombe, CISO of Eli Lilly and a Jericho Forum board member said the move was part of the firm's attempt to work more collaboratively with suppliers, customers and patients.

"The chairman of Eli Lilly has said he wants (the company) to change from being a fully integrated pharmaceutical company to a fully integrated pharmaceutical network," Seccombe said.

Lilly advertised research topics on the net, and interested scientists went to a Lilly website to pitch for funds to find an answer, he said.

"Imagine - a pharma company giving away the intellectual crown jewels like that," he said. "But it opens up the company to hundreds and thousands more researchers than we could get to know directly, and it's proved very effective."

Seccombe said this was an example of how business pressures to lower cost but gain access to expertise were pushing companies to use internet-based applications. This was happening in many industries.

He said the resulting need to share data was breaking down security barriers between companies and business partners. But many were worried about how much they could trust the networked environment. This was the scenario that the forum's COA addressed, he said.

Paul Simmonds, CISO of UK chemicals maker ICI and a Jericho board member, said the COA was a framework of people, process and technology issues that companies needed to address anyway because of the changing business climate.

Chief among the issues arising was the trust that gave business partners confidence in the web-enabled transactions that companies are building, he said.

Seccombe said the internet as a marketplace would be still-born unless companies could use it with confidence. Growing technical and social complexity was making it impossible for companies to continue to trust traditional ways of securing transactions, he said.

Online business in the US will grow 17% to top £100bn this year, said a US National Retail Federation report released this week. But this was attracting naive users, hackers, regulators and criminals, as well as state and industrial spies, he said. Unless there was trust, the full potential of the web would not be realised, and business costs would soar, Seccombe said.

"We need to move from an economic model based on the stand-alone enterprise to a collaborative model based on guilds, where competence is the driving force," he said.

Seccombe and Simmonds said the move in this direction was already apparent, as the Lilly example showed. More and more companies were using the internet to give effect to new partnerships, joint ventures, outsourced and adhoc freelance relationships with suppliers to lower costs of ownership and/or access to essential expertise, they said.

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