In the business of winning

The experience of entering the CPhI Innovation Awards in 2010 and winning the Gold Award has brought benefits to Thermo Scientific and the company believes many more firms should subject their innovations to the scrutiny of the judging process.

Dr Sarah Houlton talks to Duane Sword at Thermo Scientific – Gold Innovation Award winner from last year’s CPhI show in Paris – about the experience of entering and the benefits it has brought

Why did you enter the CPhI awards last year?

We believe that Thermo Scientific TruScan analyser is an important advance in raw materials security, and we hoped the judges might agree. We are really proud to have brought it to the market; it is already starting to have an impact on the market, so we thought it might be deserving of recognition. I have been to CPhI several times in the past – the show really focuses on the market that we serve, and the awards command respect within the community.

What did the entry process involve?

The first step was a written submission. This had to be no more than 200 words, which was a challenge! After we made the submission, we were really pleased to make it on to the list of finalists. Next we had to make a presentation to a panel at the show which was another challenge – in 20 minutes we had to get across what makes the device so innovative, how it improves efficiency, and how it can increase both productivity and profits.

Were you surprised to have won?

Absolutely thrilled! When the winner was announced at the awards ceremony during the show in Paris, I was not expecting to go on stage to accept the award! I sat and listened to some of the other presentations. There were many other good entries, with some incredible technology that enables best practice in important areas of pharmaceutical manufacturing, packaging and track & trace. It was humbling to be in the company of some very big organisations with exceptional levels of investment. We certainly did not think we were a shoo-in for the prize.

The winning technology - the handheld spectroscopic analyser Truscan

So how does the TruScan work?

It is a handheld spectroscopic analyser that confirms raw materials are what they claim to be. The idea was to provide an analyser that could be used by anyone (including people who are not chemists), but still provide technical analytical results. Regulatory bodies around the world are heightening quality measures and increasing the levels of scrutiny of raw material inspection. If a company is being told to go from 10% sampling to 100% sampling, that is a big game-changer, and it normally means extensive extra cost to employ more legacy methods of laboratory testing.

We turned the process upside-down, so when the material arrives at the factory or warehouse on a truck, whether it’s liquid or solid, the forklift truck driver can unload it, scan the barcode on the drum’s label to identify what the material claims to be, and simply press the analyser onto the packaging to confirm the material’s identity.

Utilising Raman spectroscopy, the analyser compares the spectrum of the contents with the spectrum of the compound stored inside the analyser’s library. There is no need to touch the material, so there is no contamination, no risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals, and the identification is confirmed in a matter of seconds.

What’s the market uptake been like so far?

We introduced the TruScan analyser in 2007, and it was a hard sell at first. The pharma industry does not embrace change and new technology that easily. After a lot of proof-of-concept trials we started to gain acceptance by 2009, and by 2010 the instrument had really gained momentum. Now, more than 300 GMP manufacturing sites have implemented our analysers, many of which have more than one device. Earlier this year, we introduced the second generation instrument, the TruScanRM, which is half the size, half the weight and operates 5-10 times faster. This second generation tool is the direct result of listening to customers, and investing in developing the new features that they have asked for.

Duane Sword, Thermo Fisher Scientific

What has winning the award meant for your business?

The direct result at the show was an influx of visitors to our stand at the show; many of these visitors have since become customers. We are still, in many respects, a well-kept secret, but winning the award has definitely increased our profile. Since then, we have also participated in some of the regional CPhI events, including India and China, and we are registered for the re-arranged event in Japan, too. It has really helped us develop business relationships and opportunities.

Would you recommend companies to enter the awards?

Absolutely! Whether you win or not, you are guaranteed to learn from the experience. Trying to keep things crisp and meaningful is hard to do when you are allowed only 200 words, and even more so for the 20 minute presentation!

However, the process itself ends up having a maturing effect on the marketing and product management teams. If you are lucky enough to be one of the finalists then it is a great recognition of what you have been able to bring to the marketplace. That said, being a winner is fantastic and it was quite an honour.

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