Opening up Big Pharma R&D: understanding the obstacles to greater openness and collaboration between pharmaceutical industry scientists and those outside these organisations- PhD Scholarship (2017)

Fully-funded PhD position available to start in September 2017

Project description:

Most pharmaceutical innovation relies on a relatively small tier of very large, long established pharmaceutical companies to finance and develop new medicines. Given the breadth of capabilities needed to develop new medicines, long time scales involved, high risks of failure, and huge associated costs, these Big Pharma are uniquely placed to take the lead in bringing new medicines to market. However, the R&D landscape is changing quickly, with a rapid expansion of promising research taking place outside the laboratories of the established companies, and many new ways of organising R&D in emerging companies, non-governmental organisations and the public sector. Big Pharma companies see a need to work more collaboratively in order to able to access new opportunities that arise elsewhere.

Opening up Big Pharma's R&D programmes to more collaborative ways of working is desirable to many inside and outside these companies. Yet this is also challenging to achieve for a number of reasons. For example, new ways of working are frequently shunned by those in organisations that perceive changes to the status quo as against their interests. Furthermore, traditional ways of managing of intellectual property and the culture of secrecy around potentially valuable R&D can lead to an aversion against working across organisational boundaries.

Crucially, commercial secrecy has also harmed patients and badly damaged perceptions of the pharmaceutical industry. Instances of undisclosed clinical trial data and product withdrawals are prominent signs that more transparency is needed in the sector.

Pharmaceutical companies have undertaken a range of initiatives over recent years to reorient their strategies towards both 'open innovation' and data transparency. While structural change such as the establishment of new links across organisations can be rapid, the cultural change needed to make the most of these open ways of working requires more time to yield positive results. This PhD project will seek to gain a deeper understanding of the obstacles to greater openness and collaboration between pharmaceutical industry scientists and those outside these organisations, and will study the effectiveness of initiatives that are proposed to help to bring commercial benefits alongside transparency, trust and greater confidence in the industry.

The successful candidate will develop the final research questions, theoretical framework and methodological approach for this project. The project is likely to involve a series of in-depth case studies of recent initiatives to support open and transparent ways of working in pharmaceutical R&D, including those within GlaxoSmithKline. The project is likely to draw upon ideas from the literature on innovation studies and organisational change. The project will be supervised jointly by the Department of Business and Management and the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex, and will benefit from the support of an industrial supervisor, facilitating access to senior GlaxoSmithKline staff.

The four-year award includes a tax free stipend starting at £14,296 p/a, plus a home/EU fee waiver starting at £4,195 per year. Overseas students are welcome to apply, but will have to pay the balance between UK and Internatioanl Fees.

Type of award

Postgraduate research


A fee waiver of £4165 per year plus a tax free stipend of £14,296 per year


A Master's degree in a related field of research is normally required. The studentship is available to UK/EU citizens. For non-native English speakers, an IELTS certificate taken within the last two years showing 6.5 overall with at least 6.0 in each of the four sections, is required.

Exceptionally, a successful applicant without a suitable Master's degree may be supported to obtain an MSc in Strategic Management of Innovation within the first year of the award. (In this case Master's fees will be waived and candidates should apply for a 1+3 combined MSc+ PhD course at SPRU - the Science Policy Research Unit ).


4 August 2017 23:59 (GMT)

How to apply

Applicants should apply for a PhD in Technology and Innovation Management. There is no separate application form for the studentship; applicants should note their interest in the finance section of the application forms.

Contact us

Further information:

On the application process, including requests for research outline guidelines:

Academic enquiries: Dr Michael Hopkin (


Deadline for applications: 4 August 2017


At level(s):
PG (research)

Application deadline:
4 August 2017 23:59 (GMT)
the deadline has now expired