In brief

In brief

  • Survey of 100 biopharma business and IT executives across seven countries to capture insights into the adoption and use of emerging technologies.
  • Five emerging technology trends reveal that life sciences leaders must redefine how we work, live and interact to build a better future.
  • COVID-19 showed what is possible when tech is driven by a renewed sense of purpose and commitment to patients, customers and the general population.
  • 92% of biopharma execs agree that their organization’s business and technology strategies are becoming inseparable—even indistinguishable.

The when, where and how of care is changing. Rising costs of New Science and patient care, and the increase in demand for more holistic care models and experiences, have the industry challenging itself to do the impossible: Produce and deliver more effective, affordable, personalized treatments and solutions—all while adapting to new ways of working at an accelerated pace.

Our 2021 technology vision survey revealed that leaders don’t wait for the “new normal,” they build it themselves. Big changes today require bold, innovative leadership that prioritizes tech. It’s not just about fixing the business but upending convention and creating a new vision for the future.


of biopharma executives believe capturing tomorrow’s market will require their organization to define it.

Embracing a new mindset to shape a better future

The disruptions and demands caused by the pandemic set a high bar for life sciences companies—with many meeting or exceeding expectations. Companies had to reevaluate how to keep their operations and workforce inspired while staying committed to delivering products and solutions to patients and companies around the world. Even with extreme levels of instability, the past year shattered industry norms and showed the art of the possible, when technology is driven by a renewed sense of purpose, focus and commitment to patients, customers and the general population.


of biopharma executives said their organization is operating with a renewed sense of purpose this year.

With New Science driving post-pandemic market leadership in biopharma, and MedTech companies thinking more strategically about connected technology platforms, these shifts will require new talent, processes and technical capabilities to improve treatments and outcomes.

Success will demand more than integrated business and technology strategies—it will require sustainable operations from the top-down that account for the needs of patients at every step of their treatment journey.

To deliver on the promise of better patient and customer outcomes, a digital-first approach must be nurtured by the entire C-suite and manifested across R&D, supply chain, patient services and industry support functions at a pace never seen before.

Our five technology trends for 2021

  • Stack Strategically: With the ever-accelerating pace of change in the life sciences industry, companies will compete on architecture based on an integrated business, technology and digital strategy.
  • Mirrored World: Growing investments in data, AI, and digital twin technologies are giving rise to new ways of discovering, manufacturing and distributing vital therapies to humanity.
  • I, Technologist: Creating digital natives is about making individuals comfortable with technology. Leaders must now activate creativity by accentuating and amplifying human ingenuity through technology.
  • Anywhere, Everywhere: It’s time to maximize virtual technology benefits by understanding the appropriate application of new hybrid operating models throughout your value chain.
  • From Me to We: Arguably more than any other industry, life sciences experienced a COVID-19-driven scramble to reimagine partnerships—with multiparty systems gaining newfound attention.

Trend 1: Stack Strategically

A new era of competition has arrived in life sciences—one where companies compete on their technology architecture. This means companies need to reinvent their internal technology landscape to compete and win in external ones. The internal reinvention of the technology stack strategically aligned to the business will not only drive efficiencies in internal operations, but also the ability to create boundaryless ecosystems that facilitate the new business models required for success.

Much of the industry is seeing constraints with legacy technology, data and organizational silos. Although these served their short-term needs, they aren’t easily adapted to today’s new business realities, and fail at being future-ready. A microservices revolution will enable organizations to design applications as reusable components, giving enterprises the flexibility they so desperately need.


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Ninety-six percent of biopharma execs believe that their organization’s ability to generate business value will increasingly be based on the limitations and opportunities of their tech architecture.

Trend 2: Mirrored World

Digital twins have been around for a while, but in life sciences, COVID-19 provided the moment of truth. The process of developing and distributing the vaccines designed to combat the pandemic has effectively been years in the making, as digital twin technology provided the platform for productivity to explode when it really counted the most. On the medical device side, digital twins can help researchers and product development teams to model complex scenarios, such as surgical simulations and clinical device interactions.

Increased adoption, combined with the addition of AI and analytics, encouraged life sciences leaders to scale their individual digital twin projects into networks of intelligent twins—living models of entire factories, product lifecycles and end-to-end supply chains. These models create continuous threads of data that will soon be essential to every enterprise’s digital strategy, allowing companies to innovate, reduce costs and contain risks at deployment.


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Ninety-seven percent of biopharma executives said digital twins are becoming essential to their organization’s ability to collaborate in strategic ecosystem partnerships.

Trend 3: I, Technologist

It takes more than science to conquer care in the future. Making technology accessible to all, be it through low code platforms, natural language processing or robotics process automation, puts powerful capabilities in the hands of people across functions. Now the focus shifts toward building digital natives across the enterprise, connecting the disciplines across the organization, enabling data exchange across the ecosystem and activating creativity by accentuating and amplifying human ingenuity through technology.

Democratization of technology provides the opportunity to make humans more aware of, and comfortable with, the technology that’s out there. The challenge is to activate that creativity (tempered by appropriate controls) on an ongoing basis, and to upskill individuals so that they see themselves, and act as, technologists.


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Ninety percent of biopharma execs agree their organization must train their people to think like technologists—the highest of all industries surveyed.

Trend 4: Anywhere, Everywhere

With shifts in technology, data and innovation, there is a need for life sciences companies to rapidly adjust to new ways of working. The “bring your own environment” (BYOE) model will drive the industry’s technology agenda in terms of connectivity, collaboration and the tools and platforms that enable them.

While laboratory and plant work may require a controlled environment, there’s a range of other work that can be done remotely. Hybrid ways of working present obvious benefits for life sciences enterprise functions but require new levels of professional trust. Patient needs and experiences should also be at the core of these responses to market innovation and disruption. The balance between employee fulfilment and company goals is a fine one and requires a new social contract that creates and maintains an easy trust between leaders and teams, and the workforce as a whole.


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Ninety-two percent of biopharma executives believe the remote workforce opens up the market for difficult-to-find talent and expands the competition for talent among organizations. 

Trend 5: From Me to We

Three ways companies typically innovate are to build, buy or partner. In life sciences, the emphasis has moved from building and buying to partnerships. Partnerships enable a faster time-to-insight and -technology. Make no mistake, M&A activity and building the right skills internally are as important as ever. However, the greater partnership emphasis represents a strategic acceleration to gain access to skills and technology—to enable experimentation and business model innovation faster than ever before.

One major potential obstacle to consider is trust, because most contemporary innovation is data driven. Companies and consumers expect their data to be both secure and used in their best interests. How can data be shared to allow for innovation without compromising on data integrity and jeopardizing trust? The answer might, again, lie with technology itself.

Increased consumer demands with respect to a rich experience during their own care are predicated in large part on building effective digital ecosystem partnerships. While building and buying new capabilities are still important business practices, the life sciences mindset has shifted to far greater proportion of partnering, where trust, security and healthy equity remain key principles. It’s time to challenge orthodoxy and use multiparty systems to create order from the chaos.


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Ninety-eight percent of biopharma execs state that multiparty systems will enable their ecosystems to forge a more resilient and adaptable foundation to create new value with their organization’s partners.

Taking the lead

The leaders who excel will be decided not just on the success of their business plans, but on the ingenuity of their technology choices. To help turn these trends into action, we suggest the following:

Stack Strategically

Invest in a focused path to build a digital decoupled, future-ready architecture with cloud and microservices, aligned with business capabilities.

Mirrored World

Assess where you can drive the best value from digital twin capabilities. Move beyond experimentation to expand and embed into your core operations.

I, Technologist

Embark on a journey to foster digital natives to empower and upskill your workforce so that they see themselves, and act as, technologists.

Anywhere, Everywhere

Promote and adopt trust-based social contracts, reflective of your organization’s culture to specify when and how ‘work’ occurs and on what terms.

From Me to We

Build your ecosystems to plug and play, experiment and find new, innovative business models and solutions more quickly with the right patient value.

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In closing

A new future is on the horizon—one that’s different from what the world expected. As this future takes shape, there will be no room for life sciences enterprises that cling to the past. Life sciences companies must, sustainably and appropriately, maintain connected ways of working, digital fluency and ecosystem collaboration. People are ready for something new and it’s time for biopharma and medical technology companies to join them.

About the Authors

Shalu Chadha

Managing Director – Life Sciences Lead, Technology

Geoff Schmidt

Managing Director – Cloud First, Life Sciences

David Hole

Senior Managing Director – Life Sciences, Talent and Organization Lead

Anne Marie O'Halloran

Managing Director – Life Sciences, Global Supply Chain and Industry X

Frances Bruce

Accenture Ventures Principal, Life Sciences Lead

Tim Durst

Managing Director – Life Sciences, Global Medical Technology


New Science: A new economic reality for growth
Maximizing the value of cloud in life sciences
Facing disruption, MedTechs need to transform now

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