Innovation in Europe: saving our moonshot missions

A moonshot may be defined as a highly ambitious project, loaded with risk, and undertaken without any guarantee of success. In biopharma, most of our research could be labelled a moonshot mission. We seek to push the limits of science to identify medicines that were previously unthinkable. But only 1-2 of every 10,000 molecules discovered in a laboratory will become an actual medicine! 1

Europe: Danger ahead

Now, we have a problem. Intellectual property (IP) incentives in the EU are being analysed, and they may be weakened.

In other words, moonshot missions are under threat in biopharma. Why? Because strong and predictable IP protection is critical for an environment where innovation can thrive. With strong and predictable IP protection, companies are willing to risk.

Without a stable IP system powering innovation, moonshots will less likely launch from Europe. 

IP incentives power innovation

Do we want to take this risk? Our industry produces medicines that save lives. And the contribution of IP-intensive industries to the European economy in general - including the likes of tech and automotive, in addition to biopharma - is immense: we are responsible for 38% of all employment, 90% of EU trade with 3rd countries, and 42% of our total GDP in the EU.2

Only with the right innovation eco-system, can we achieve the European Commission’s target to invest 3% of European GDP in R&D by 2020.

But is innovation truly dependent on IP? Yes. There is a clear and proven correlation between R&D expenditure and IP protections globally.3


Plus, this is happening at a challenging time. The United States is raising more capital for medical R&D than the EU, while globalisation has turned countries like China and South Korea into emerging R&D powerhouses.4 If we wish to retain the best talent, brightest ideas, and biggest resources, why add another challenge to the mix?

Our commitment

 Lilly Europe

Biopharma has proven its commitment to the EU. Indeed, we invest more heavily in R&D than any other IP-intensive industry in Europe as a percentage of net sales.5 At Lilly, we invest 25% of revenues back into R&D.

And we have been present in Europe since 1934, employing thousands of people, conducting tremendous R&D, running thousands of clinical trials, and engaging thousands of local vendors. Our European roots are deep, and we really want to stay and grow here.

But maintaining current IP incentives is essential. Predictable and strong IP is the lifeblood of our industry as it means we can attempt the moonshots. Please don't put them at risk.


[1] EFPIA: The Pharmaceutical Industry in Figures Key Data 2017 
[2] EUIPOI. ‘Intellectual Property Rights-intensive industries and economic performance in the EU’ (2016)
[3] US Chamber International IP Index and ‘The roots of innovation’ 2017 OECD database
[4] OECD and Eurostat statistics for R&D intensity as share of GDP (2004-2013)
[5] European Commission. ‘The 2016 EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard’ (2016)