Friday, 14 February 2014

Post-Competitive collaboration: a new concept for the era of big data and real world data?

By Joanna Chataway & Joyce Tait

We are now familiar with the idea of pre-competitive collaboration amongst firms. The idea is that there are areas of basic science, research and technology where firms, in many cases together with public sector researchers, benefit from investing jointly and sharing the outputs of work. The research is early stage and it would be wasteful for public and private sectors to carry out discrete research programmes, duplicating effort and not sharing results. There is much debate about how pre-competitive research should best be carried out in different areas of science and technology, but the concept is firmly rooted in current R&D practice and policy.

The advent of big data and the use of 'real world data' (RWD) may also give rise to what we are beginning to think of as 'post-competitive' collaboration. A number of recent studies and observations suggest that constraints on collection and effective use of big and real world data lie in funding and in organising collection and access to data. This, perhaps, points to the possibility of increasing collaboration between companies in establishing partnerships, collaborations and norms to enable collection of and access to RWD across European countries. This kind of collaboration can be thought of as post-competitive in the sense that it is a point in the value chain that is beyond release of individual products into the market place and health systems, and is about how these products are used and experienced by consumers and patients. The focus is on a range of factors that impact on use, including tracing and understanding behavioural and economic patterns. These patterns could be useful to companies in multiple ways, and different firms may use the data in distinct ways in much the same way as basic pre-competitive research feeds into product development and improvement.

However, it would, perhaps, be naïve to expect a significant degree of non-competitive behaviour at the market end of a value chain, unless that market is only weakly competitive. If data are strongly competitive, measures would need to be taken so as to avoid the integrity of the data being jeopardised, as companies amplify negative or positive data to support their competitive position. The terrain clearly needs more thought and research, but the concept of post-competitive collaboration is helpful in opening up possibilities for future initiatives and policy interventions.

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