As we welcome a new year focused on new aspirations while navigating the ever-evolving uncertainty of COVID, I am struck by the speed, breadth, and constancy of change we have all experienced over the last two years. Though it is yet to be seen which of these shifts are temporary adaptations, and which will be permanent evolutions, it is undeniable that change agility has become a critical survival skill for all innovation organizations and their leaders across the globe. As I reflect on the changes impacting CAS and our customers, there are certainly challenges; however, I also see tremendous opportunity catalyzed by these changes to reimagine and optimize how we go about the work of scientific innovation together.
Connections fuel progress
In an article for The Washington Post, Carlos Lozada notes the paradox of the coronavirus pandemic is that it encourages isolation, even as it requires cooperation. Though his assertion was intended to address the geopolitical realities of the pandemic, it is also true in the realm of scientific innovation. One of the most enduring learnings from the pandemic has been the value of internal and external collaboration to expedite innovation success.
Information sharing is one of most fundamental aspects of collaboration within the scientific community. When we say, “CAS connects the world’s science,” it reflects our focus on maximizing access to and utility of scientific information for innovators around the globe. Empowering researchers to learn from and build upon the work of others accelerates the discoveries that benefit us all. Given the proven impact of collaboration, how can we further encourage and enable these global connections?
Several recent initiatives at CAS are focused on enhancing access to high-quality scientific data and insights for stakeholders across the innovation journey. In 2021, we launched a significant expansion of CAS Common Chemistry, an open resource for accessing data about high-interest chemical substances. Our science team also published more than 20 open access peer-reviewed journal articles, whitepapers, and blogs providing insights on the latest developments in high-impact areas of innovation including COVID-19 therapeutics, lipid nanoparticles, RAS inhibitors, and the application of machine learning to chemistry. Given the incredible response to these publications, we will expand this initiative in 2022 to cover more topics and explore new formats for sharing these valuable insights with the goal of connecting efforts in emerging areas to accelerate progress.
CAS also recently introduced new enterprise solutions models with the launch of the CAS SciFinder Discovery PlatformTM and STN IP Protection SuiteTM. These solutions provide significantly greater value to innovation-focused organizations by offering under a single umbrella the scientific information resources that are needed by different stakeholders and functions throughout the discovery and development process. This approach ensures consistent organization-wide access to high-quality information with solutions tailored to specific use cases, while also improving connectedness to the broader scientific community.
Digital transformation speeds ahead
Many writers have referred to this pandemic as “The Great Accelerator,” implying that many of the social, political, and business changes we have experienced during this time were not newly caused by the pandemic, but are an expedited realization of changes that were already underway. When considering the digital transformation of the scientific research ecosystem, that sentiment certainly rings true. Though the application of digital technology across R&D workflows is not new, the pandemic has clearly served as a catalyst to accelerate its progress. A study on digital transformation by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) quantified this trend, finding that 80% of companies have sought to accelerate their digital transformation efforts during the pandemic.
Speed and success don’t necessarily go together though, especially when considering complex foundational change within established organizations. In fact, only 30% of those same organizations self-assessed the success of their transformations as meeting key objectives. It is concerning, but not entirely surprising, to see that this perceived success rate has not improved much in the last few years despite significant focus and investment. If we step back and consider the tremendous potential of these technologies to make a step change in the speed of scientific progress, it is clear we must redouble our efforts. But what is needed to turn the tide on digital transformation for R&D organizations and their stakeholders?
Agility is the fundamental requirement
One of the most difficult aspects of managing digital transformation, especially during the pandemic, is accounting for the constantly changing landscape. Technology is continuously evolving, and so are business needs. This means that every project is likely to be somewhat out of date as soon as it is complete, potentially contributing to the perceived lack of success. As the pandemic adds further uncertainty to future business requirements, the key question is: “How can greater agility be built into our digital approaches from the beginning?”
One critical aspect of ensuring flexibility in the digital world is building a well-structured, high-quality data foundation. Digital applications start with data. Clean data housed within a consistent structure enables far greater flexibility and efficiency for all the activities and applications those data assets will need to support in the future. A robust foundation empowers organizations to change technology applications, share information with diverse collaborators, and integrate new data sources far quicker and at lower costs. I believe this is the single most critical element requiring more attention to improve the success rates of digital transformation in R&D.
To meet this need, CAS has built a global team of specialists dedicated to providing custom solutions and consulting for scientific data infrastructure and management. This team is engaged with R&D organizations around the globe on diverse projects such as crafting custom data architectures to fit organizations’ unique requirements, leveraging the diverse expertise of CAS scientists to curate custom training sets for machine learning, setting up custom APIs to feed quality data into digital workflows, and developing an AI-based patent similarity solution to expedite patent examination. Even with the high level of activity in this area, it is clear we are just scratching the surface of the potential for these collaborative efforts to overcome key blockers and increase the ROI of digital initiatives in R&D. In the coming year, we will continue to invest in expanding our custom services capabilities, increasing capacity to meet this growing need and ensure that CAS unique expertise is readily available to our partners when needed.
Partnership creates value beyond platforms
True agility in the digital age requires far more than just the best technology. Strong relationships with trusted partners invested in your success position you more effectively to adjust when needed and plan for whatever comes next. Investing in relationships with expert partners who, in addition to providing excellent technology solutions, have the assets and specialized expertise to go beyond the platform with customized solutions, human capital, and sound advice maximizes your flexibility to respond to new challenges and opportunities that emerge as a result of business or market changes.
The high interest in our new CAS Search GuardSM service, which is part of the STN IP Protection Suite, demonstrates the value organizations find in this type of flexibility during these uncertain times. By augmenting enterprise-wide access to our portfolio of intellectual property (IP) search and analysis tools with the capabilities of our expert team of IP searchers, this solution provides organizations additional flexibility and a safety net in the current dynamic labor market. Enabling our customers to flexibly leverage our expertise and human capital in this way on an outsourcing basis when required to address short-term gaps in capacity or capabilities ensures high-quality IP searches can always be completed to inform key decisions and keep projects on schedule.
Achieving a connected innovation ecosystem
I certainly hope that this is the year we can put the pandemic behind us; however, new challenges will always arise. As COVID has reminded us, efficient innovation is a critical requirement of human survival. Though none of us knows what tomorrow might bring, I have great confidence in the global scientific community’s capacity to find solutions to each new challenge if we build and strengthen the connections that will carry us forward together.
At CAS, we are innovating, evolving, and investing every day toward achieving the vision of a connected innovation ecosystem that maximizes the speed of progress by empowering every innovator to seamlessly integrate scientific data from around the globe, and their own labs, with the latest technology to achieve breakthroughs and bring solutions to market faster. To that end, we remain focused on expanding our content collection, enhancing our solutions platforms, and making our specialized expertise more directly accessible to address unique needs and overcome challenges. I am confident that CAS’s evolution over the past few years, and the investments we continue to make each year, put us in a better position than we have ever been to support the information needs of the global scientific community in whatever form they may take now and in the future.
As you embark upon a new year filled with new challenges and opportunities, on behalf of the entire CAS team I offer our best wishes and our commitment to supporting your success in any way we can. Whether it is for a simple account question or a complex analysis or data infrastructure challenge, we are here to help.