Building bridges to industry with Paul Lucas
When I became Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Queen’s and began talking about the idea of building partnerships with industry, I realized that I was entering into a divided world. The pendulum, with respect to industry-academic relationships had swung far to the left; communications were not open, relationships were fractured. I knew that bringing that pendulum back to the centre had to be a goal of mine, and yet I knew I couldn’t do it alone.
Shortly after that insight, I heard of Paul Lucas’ retirement from his 17-year post as CEO of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and it didn’t take me long to realize that I’d have to seize this opportunity. I picked up the phone and asked him to come on board. He was, undoubtedly, the missing link for the industry strategy I’d been formulating. And, as a Queen’s ArtSci grad himself and all around Queen’s fanatic, I couldn’t have chosen a better champion for an influential project.
Luckily for me, Paul agreed to join us at Queen’s once again, and for the next two years he worked to help build an industry strategy for our Faculty. Together we proactively built relationships with senior executives of pharmaceutical and medical device companies and Paul gave us advice on how to think in terms of what we have to offer industry.
We, in Canada, need to work hard on increasing the research and development done in our country to fuel economic growth. Canada needs to do better. In 2009, Canada ranked only 18th out of 34 OECD countries in industrial R&D expenditures as a share of GDP, with labour productivity sagging at an average annual growth rate of less than 1% between 2000 and 2011. It would be my opinion that working with industry presents not only a great opportunity for Queen’s, but is a vital ingredient in the promotion of economic development.
Thanks to Paul’s work on our strategy, we have now visited the head offices of 23 pharmaceutical and medical device companies, and they have all accepted our invitation to come to Queen’s; so far 17 have come for day-long visits to campus. Through these visits we are looking to establish research projects and to develop long-term relationships that allow us to capitalize on what will invariably be spontaneous opportunities. He also helped to organize our first industry reception event in May 2014, which attracted over 50 representatives from our region who came to Queen’s to learn more about our faculty.
After two formative years, Paul is now fully retiring. I have spent a lot of time with him in our offices and on the road, developing and refining the goals for engaging industry in the research and innovations that Queen’s has to offer; I can say that he is truly a fantastic person.
Paul, I dedicate this blog to you. Thank you for all that you have done, and continue to do for the Faculty and for Queen’s. You have set a gold standard for us and we will work hard to build on the great foundation you have provided for us.
If any of you know Paul and would like to comment, or if you have thoughts about industry engagement in medical research, respond to the blog, or better yet…please drop by the Macklem House, my door is always open.
N.B. The author would like to thank Seth Chitayat, PhD, MBA for his assistance in preparing this blog.