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Survey Report

Global Life Sciences Risk Outlook 2023

December 15, 2022

WTW surveyed 600+ senior decision makers in leading life science companies globally to understand how the industry is managing emerging risks, challenges and opportunities. We also look at the key life science trends to watch in 2023.
Casualty|Climate|Credit, Political Risk and Terrorism|Cyber Risk Management|Medioambiental|Mergers and Acquisitions|Property
Geopolitical Risk|Mergers and Acquisitions

Opportunity and uncertainty in a time of rapid change

The global pandemic was a watershed for the life science industry.

Businesses were forced not just to embrace new technologies and working methods, but to rethink existing operating models in order to deliver innovation at speed.

This has left a deep impact, accelerating changes that will shape the sector for years to come – from new clinical trial models and regulatory approval processes to digitalization and automation of processes.

Though hugely promising, these rapid advances can be difficult to adapt to in the short term.

They also raise ethical and legal questions around issues such as data privacy and health equity.

How is the industry adapting?

To find out what the industry is thinking about these trends, and a range of other opportunities, risks and challenges, we asked more than 600 industry leaders and decision-makers for their views.

Our respondents come from many different global regions and from a cross-section of businesses representing the life science ecosystem widely.

Key findings

Firms are focusing on collaborations and M&A over new products

Firms are focusing on collaborations and M&A over new products

The rapid development of vaccines and drugs to combat COVID-19 demonstrated what could be achieved when scientists, businesses and regulators work together to achieve common goals. This experience seems to have changed attitudes in the industry.

Our survey suggests that businesses are prioritising industry collaborations over other strategic priorities, while taking a cautious approach to new product development and stock market listings in a time of continuing uncertainty.

Rapid change brings huge opportunity and uncertainty

Rapid change brings huge opportunity and uncertainty

The life science sector is in a period of transformation. Digitalisation, new technologies, new clinical trial models and medical advances, such as gene and cell therapies, not only promise to revolutionise healthcare but also the way the industry works.

50+ said wearable tech, automation and AI were opportunities for their businesses over the next three years

We found that businesses are both excited by the potential of these changes and anxious about the disruption they can create and the potential risks.

50% or more said wearable tech, automation and artificial intelligence were opportunities for their businesses over the next three years.

Data privacy and informed consent is the top risk to success

Data privacy and informed consent is the top risk to success

As the sector becomes more dependent on data to inform strategy and drive innovation, firms are also more conscious not only of the opportunities but also the risks this brings.

With the rise of digital healthcare, life science companies are coming under increasing scrutiny from regulators, courts and the public for how they use patient data and how they obtain their consent.

Health and race equity is rising up the agenda

Health and race equity is rising up the agenda

Calls for equity in health treatment and outcomes, and access to medicines, are growing louder around the world.

Calls for equity in health treatment and outcomes, and access to medicines, are growing louder around the world.”

Peter Braet | Network Country Manager Belgium

Respondents to our survey saw both the benefits this could bring and also the potential risks if the industry does not make enough progress in these areas.

  • 50% named health and race equity among the top three emerging themes that will have a positive impact over the next three to five years.
  • 42% put issues related to health and race equity and access to medicines among their top three ESG social risks.
The industry is embracing new clinical trials but not without birthing pains

The industry is embracing new clinical trials but not without birthing pains

New clinical trial models, including the use of adaptive, hybrid and decentralized trials, offer huge potential to speed up the trial process and widen participation.

However, the path to implementation may not be smooth for all adopters.

Many respondents said these new trials were a major loss factor – though some of this may reflect the disruption caused to all trials during the pandemic.

We also found some doubt about the effectiveness of risk management processes around clinical trials, which may be related to the rapid pace of change.

COVID-19 left a deep legacy but caused fewer losses than expected

COVID-19 left a deep legacy but caused fewer losses than expected

Despite disruption, businesses suffered fewer risk-related losses over this period than they had expected.

The pandemic accelerated changes and adaptations, from virtual ways of working and trialling to the use of AI and machine learning and speed of processes and regulation, which should being efficiencies and growth in future years.

Some firms struggle to manage intellectual property risks

Some firms struggle to manage intellectual property risks

Intellectual property is the lifeblood of most life science businesses. Yet it emerged as the risk area with the lowest standardised approach to risk management in our survey.

69% agreed that insurance for intellectual property risks was mission critical or necessary.

While larger companies will have sophisticated internal systems for managing these risks, some mid-market firms may struggle to understand and quantify them.

69% agreed that insurance for intellectual property risks was mission critical or necessary.

Climate-related weather risks are not well covered

Climate-related weather risks are not well covered

As the impact of climate change bites, extreme weather damage is seen as a top risk.

But many businesses appear not to have cover for the business interruption costs of a weather event, while a substantial minority have no cover for extreme weather risks in their supply chain.

Geopolitics is the biggest roadblock to addressing risks

Geopolitics is the biggest roadblock to addressing risks

With the conflict in Ukraine and instability in other global regions impacting supply chains, it’s not surprising that political risk tops the list of factors that could get in the way of effective risk management.

53% said geopolitical risk was the biggest challenge in addressing risk over the next three to five years.

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For more information, please contact

Peter Braet
Network Country Manager Belgium

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