September / October 2022

Europe Conference Hackathon: Participants Combine Technical Knowledge & Entrepreneurial Mindsets

Robin Schiemer
Europe Conference Hackathon: Participants Combine Technical Knowledge & Entrepreneurial Mindsets

Four teams of Emerging Leaders (ELs) represented one of four different company manufacturer types in the Emerging Leader Hackathon at the ISPE 2022 Europe Conference. This article provides some participants’ views of the event.

The theme of the Hackathon was Pharma 4.0™: Digitalization Roadmap. Using different business models and production equipment, each team worked together over the weekend to solve a problem set forth to all teams. A panel of judges determined which team produced the best strategic solution. Based on a fact sheet provided by the organizers, the teams defined the status quo of their respective companies and then went into the first part of the challenge. Given a fictitious budget of €800,000, the teams were asked to make investment decisions in four specific areas: manufacturing execution systems, quality management systems, data analytics, and predictive maintenance. In the second part of the challenge, the teams prepared a company pitch for a group of investors (represented by the Hackathon judges) that built on their respective company profiles and investment decisions.

The Process

After an initial presentation series on the four focus topics, the teams were assembled by the organizers and went into a definition phase. The groups needed to quickly find answers to difficult questions. In the subsequent investment phase, decisions about acquiring new technology or equipment were accompanied by discussions within the teams and with the coaches who supported each team. Participant Natalie Schützler, Sanofi, described the process by saying, “We were being placed in this situation where none of the members of our group had learned about this particular topic before, but we knew we would have to make a decision within the next 10 minutes.” Despite the time constraints, she said, “we somehow managed to find a pretty neat solution.”

Figure 1
Figure 1: Participants and coaches from the ISPE D/A/CH A liate at the Emerging Leaders Hackathon in Madrid. From left to right: Christian Wölbeling, Melanie Austrup, Paul Heiden, Natalie Schützler, Roland Woelfl e, Robin Schiemer, Fabian Bamps, Michelangelo Canzoneri, Dany Shami, and Zen-Zen Yen.
Figure 2: Natalie Schützler during her team’s pitch to the judges.
Figure 2: Natalie Schützler during her team’s pitch to the judges.

After the investment phase, the profiling phase began. In this phase, the teams reassessed their company profiles and how their somewhat spontaneous investments could be turned into a longterm operation strategy. The goal was to prepare a convincing pitch for increased investments. However, this was not as straightforward as it may sound. The coaches, who are senior experts in the pharmaceutical industry, helped the teams with context to turn their ideas and questions into feasible solutions, working until early Sunday morning.

Team participants had to find answers to questions such as:

  • What does our production process look like?
  • Who are our stakeholders?
  • What are our objectives and where do we need to improve?
  • What are our bottlenecks?
  • What is the best way to increase our productivity while keeping costs low?
  • What is the long-term benefit of acquiring this technology?

After an intense 24 hours, including a networking dinner and drinks, all teams pitched their ideas to a panel of judges Sunday morning. The teams presented their strategies and were questioned by the judges regarding their expansion plans, financials, and technological progress.

Thanks to an almost-perfect pitch, an unerring company board, and a hilarious advertisement clip, the team of Feronia won over the judges with their biotechnological platform for allergy treatments.

Overall Impressions

The Madrid Hackathon was an incredibly fun and challenging experience. I can recommend that every recent graduate or Emerging Leader in the pharmaceutical industry join this exceptional event. If you like to go out of your comfort zone, discuss the challenges of tomorrow, and switch into the roles of a process engineer, management executive, and a business developer over 24 hours, this is definitely for you.

Here are some impressions from three fellow participants from the Emerging Leader community.

Roland Wölfie, Head of Automation and Robotics, pester pac automation GmbH, said, “The ISPE Emerging Leaders Hackathon in Madrid was the perfect event for motivated young talents who want to find out where their limits are. The special atmosphere and creative mood among the participants, who were all highly qualified, resulted in a great experience. My personal highlight of the competition was the moment when the team felt that the ideas of the individual group members created a bigger picture and we realized that it could really work. I would call that electrifying. Nobody had to comment on this moment; we just understood and were happy.”

If you are an Emerging Leader and looking forward to solving an exciting business case in combination with a cool networking event, you should not miss the next Hackathon!

Natalie Schützler, Change Leader, Sanofi, said, “I joined this year‘s Hackathon in Madrid because I wanted to take on an exciting challenge with a team of motivated young people and looking back, I can say that totally was the case. It was a great experience! Besides meeting Emerging Leaders from all over Europe, I also had many opportunities to chat with long-time ISPE members and experts from the pharmaceutical industry, which was so cool and interesting. So if you are an Emerging Leader and looking forward to solving an exciting business case in combination with a cool networking event, you should not miss the next Hackathon!„

Natalia Vtyurina, Senior Quality Assurance Officer at HALIX, said, “I joined the ISPE Hackathon ‚ 2022 in Madrid because it was a great opportunity to network with my peers from all over Europe by working closely together with them in the teams. The topics of the ISPE Hackathons are chosen based on the latest trends in the pharmaceutical industry. This is why participation at the Hackathons provides exceptional knowledge and gives an advantage to be the first one to learn all the challenges and success stories from the experts. This year, we worked on the business cases for Industry 4.0 digitalization roadmap, an extremely important topic that will become more and more popular for implementation in the next years and decades. The highlight for me was getting introduced to my team members with different backgrounds and very quickly becoming an efficient team supporting each other in reaching our goal by solving our business case in a very squeezed time frame of less than 24 hours. You must try it and you can learn so much about yourself!”

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