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McLaren alliance to turbocharge GSK research

Published on 16/09/11 at 01:01pm
GSK McLaren
GSK's Andrew Witty (left) and Ron Dennis, executive chairman of McLaren Group

GlaxoSmithKline has turned to the engineering expertise of Formula 1 racing team McLaren in an innovative alliance designed to transform its manufacturing, R&D and consumer health divisions.

The five-year agreement will see McLaren apply the expertise in engineering, analytics and modelling it uses to keep F1 cars speeding around the track to squeeze performance out of GSK's manufacturing plants, clinical testing programme and strategic oversight of its consumer health business.

It is an all-too-rare but welcome example of pharma's willingness to look outside its own industry and tap into the expertise of other industrial sectors, and the first time that McLaren has worked with a pharmaceutical company.

"Our intention is that GSK will harness McLaren’s world-beating Formula 1-bred technology, processes and operational dynamism, in order to enhance its performance across a wide variety of its divisions in a way that none of its competitors can match," said McLaren's chairman Ron Dennis.

The flagship of the new alliance is the creation of a £20 million ($32m) learning facility that will be used to develop UK engineering skills and processes as well as serve as a hub for researchers from GSK, McLaren and their business partners.

The manufacturing project will apply McLaren's modelling systems to improve the performance of GSK's production lines. The motor sport company has developed a system that models every component in its cars to make sure that every racing system is kept in top working order.

GSK hopes that by using a similar approach it will be able to reduce the number of breakdowns in its network of 2,000-plus production lines at 80 factories around the world, whilst cutting costs and improving customer service.

The R&D project will initially focus on improving the efficiency of the company's clinical research operations, by "speeding up trial design and allowing for real time patient monitoring and treatment adjustment", said GSK. To do so it will tap into McLaren's in-race monitoring systems, which check a car's performance as it goes around the track using wireless technologies.

Finally, McLaren will help GSK's consumer health division set up a 'Mission Control' centre - akin to the one used by racing teams as they assess the team's performance and issue driver directions. At GSK the control centre will be used to monitor competitor activity and customer needs, whilst streamlining processes such as inventory management, pricing and retailer stocking.

Phil Taylor

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