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Business as Usual: Bayer's Technology Prospecting Unit

Business as Usual

Join Business as Usual today to hear from Priscilla Beal of Technology Prospecting at Bayer.

In her current role on Bayer’s Technology Prospecting team, Priscilla catalyzes the innovation technology ecosystem, identifying emerging trends and technologies for Consumer Health, Crop Science and Pharmaceutical Health. In addition to helping deliver new business models, products, solutions and experiences to the patient/consumer/farmer, Priscilla is dedicated to collaboration and people development.

She joined Bayer in 2014. Prior to Bayer, she spent 10 years managing digital projects and strategies for F500 clients, where her focus was on customer centricity and delighting people with usable, engaging and beautiful digital experiences.

Get Pricilla's insights on emerging and potentially disruptive technologies that she is following to drive growth and innovation at Bayer.




So good afternoon everyone. This is Audrey Russo president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council. Welcome to business as usual. And it is Thursday, right? We're on our hundred and 35th episode of business as usual. And right now it doesn't seem like we're there's any slowdown in sight. And we're headed into our third season, which is sort of crazy. Jonathan kersting is with us here. And he's vice president of all things, media and marketing, and he will manage the chat and jump in. And before we get started, I want to give a shout out to Huntington bank, they've been our partners right from the onset. They have been helping small businesses, large businesses, always but particularly amped up their efforts during COVID. And they continue to be a partner and really deeply care about the community. So thank you to Huntington bank. I also want to tell everyone that we have muted your mic. So that's on purpose. And we have a chat. We have a chat room in there. So ask some questions. Jonathan's gonna be paying attention to the chat. And, you know, let's have some fun. I think the interesting thing is that we have Priscilla here today, she's Priscilla Beale, she is from the buyer. I always say it wrong. So I phase Mina tomato, New York, and it was always bear aspirin. So anyway, that's, that's I know, that's erroneous. So my apologies. But I'm thrilled to have Patricia on I've known Patricia for a few years. And I know that you're going to be in for a treat, just just listening to her. She is a good spirit, she really cares about not only her work, but she really cares about helping lifting other people. And that's true to her word. So I'm thrilled for her to just have a chat with her. So Priscilla, you are. Come on. And you're we're gonna talk about you for a minute. Who's Priscilla, the woman, the professional? What's been your journey? And how are you holding up? Before we get into conversations about buyer?

Yeah, no, I Well, I'm actually holding up great. You know, COVID. For a working mother, I have three kids 15 nine, and one that turns eight this month. And for my role because it has been been with buyer for six years now my role has been almost 100% externally facing. So I travel anywhere from five to 10 days a month, in non pandemic circumstances. So I would say, you know, I'm a very privileged to work for an organization that has allowed the majority of its workforce to continue to work from home full pay full benefits during this entire time. And I know, you know, we're really privileged to have that opportunity. But for me, personally, it's been amazing. Because I've been at home every day with my children. I'm not traveling, and so being able to actually enjoy much more of the personal moments with them, less nagging about homework or getting updates from how their day went, because I've been traveling and more just getting to spend quality time with them and my husband. So that's, um, that's definitely been nice. So holding up? Well, I would say to the first part of your question, I actually came into this role in innovation in this sort of very circuitous route. My background, actually, my master's is in art history, believe it or not, and I came into it through basically a temp position at NASA, of all places. So I had moved to DC after getting my graduate degree, too. You can't throw a rock without hitting a museum in DC, right? So I figured my chances were good at an opportunity. And I also had a place to stay. So that helped, but I need to pay the rent. So I got a temp places attempt at NASA Science Mission Directorate, and was done with my duties pretty early on in the day and being at NASA absolutely took advantage of walking around the third floor of headquarters, and meeting literal rocket scientists and astrophysicists and and and started sitting in and representing my boss who is the Associate Director of science mission on mission status meetings. And in one search meeting, there were rocket scientists moving Excel spreadsheet cells from red to amber to green, based on how their projects were progressing. And I thought there has to be a better way to use the brains of rocket scientists then Excel spreadsheet management and so I went to a friend of mine and asked her if we could automate this, this status process just for this one meeting. I'm sure enough there was and next thing i knew I was in charge of an IT project and I've been in it in technology ever since. So I'm that kind of that role at NASA parlayed into basically a little bit over a decade's long career in digital marketing, advertising and strategy for various agencies, both local and national. And that's where I really sort of parlayed kind of that the user experience and the narrative learned from my liberal arts background, to technology and really delight learning how to have emerging technology delight the consumer, whether it was at shelf, whether it was, you know, HTTP, relationships, whether it was online experiences, and so spent about a decade doing that, and then joined buyer six and a half years ago and really jumped all in to the deep end, during various reorganizations as digital and innovation and all those other buzzwords, started come becoming popular, and, and sort of found a really, really unique opportunity to get inspired every day, with startups and entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs within buyer as well, to help find internal opportunities, as well as external partnerships, where we could help advance buyers mission health, for all hunger for none, by taking advantage of these brilliant entrepreneurs, and their and their amazing companies to sort of leapfrog where emerging technology could take us in areas like clinical trials, expedition of clinical trials using machine learning algorithms, or drones, or satellite technology, and data information to help our growers have the optimal growing conditions, or, you know, views the best and the most precision, precision agriculture and precision points to to help their help their fields and help their products.

So it's interesting, so that that you've made the pivot, right, in many ways, your career has made a little bit of a pivot, which is which to me seems natural, right? I can script just because I know you a little bit. And I know that you know, you're not afraid to take risks, and you're not afraid to sort of step out of your comfort zone. What is that? What is the actual title of your role? And how does that operate in buyer so that everyone can understand that?

No, yeah, and it's a really important point, too. So my, my title, right now is senior technology prospector, which sounds, in some ways, a little kind of steampunk, and like I need to pick x.

Um, but

what we're doing now is we're responsible for identifying emerging technology that is three, five to 10 years out. And before I get into what that means, I think it'd be helpful to provide a larger context of how buyer does innovation generally. So the way I like to describe it is that we do it in basically three tiers. So we have corporate and buyer AG, headquarter sponsored initiatives, things like sustainability and our philanthropic arms that are looking also at external partnerships on how we can advance things advance huge leaps in on behalf of mankind. So they do venture investment. You know, we just invested in a company called on fold, which is focused on digital farming. We have CRISPR collaboration called sibiya. And we have about I think, last count was 26 portfolio companies under leaps, which is buyers venture arm, as well as this bear foundation that works on these philanthropic initiatives that all have to do with with external partnering and open innovation as well. So that's the first kind of mothership innovation approach that buyer takes. The second is divisional and functional and what that means is how do crop science, consumer health and pharmaceutical health identify external opportunities, partnership opportunities and internal improvement opportunities for basically, the return on the investments, things that are commercializable scalable within the next six 912 24 months, things, you know, products that are already on market that already have a consumer base, or a user base. And that that's done specifically within by people titled with innovation or digital, whether they're it associated with divisions, or whether it's divisional employees directly. And then the third way falls on technology prospecting, and we basically pick up where that divisional and functional layer stops, so like the 24 to 36 months. We call it horizon three. So we're looking at emerging technology that maybe doesn't even have a name. In some instances or in other instances, it's like quantum computing where people are just learning the new programming languages for quantum computers, and how we're trying to stay on top of a, what the various applications can be. And then be, you know, how can we anticipate, for example, to extend the quantum computing use case? How is quantum computing going to disrupt cloud? For example, another topic that we're working on, that's mine, my responsibility specifically, is the whole concept of space commercialization and all of the innovations that are going into the advancement of humankind's journey and back to the moon, and to Mars and beyond. And so what are the innovations that are going to require us to be successful? And how can we a contribute to mankind's humankind's Manifest Destiny up into up into the universe? But most importantly, for buyer and more practically for buyer? How can we bring those innovations back to rest really to benefit the consumer, the patient, and the farmer, others other topics that technology prospecting is responsible for is emerging technology and emerging markets? AR VR for clinical, clinical and health practices. We're looking at disruptive concepts like food as medicine. So how can prescription food for example, help an oncology patient during, pre during and post chemotherapy or radiation, make sure that they have the healthiest journey possible? So those are just a couple examples of how technology prospecting fits in that sort of third column of how buyer does innovation generally.

So the Wait, so essentially, this space piece has come a little full circle for you.

It has, hasn't it yet.

So now you're bringing something many years later, that's gonna be really, really exciting. Right, but you were kicking this off back in DC, and now somehow, you've resumed, you know, some presence in that?

Well, and I think, yeah, definitely. And I love it. It's definitely the highlights of my day working on that topic. I have others. But to your question earlier, your your point earlier about the pivot, I think one of the things that's really interesting about not just my career, but but interestingly, careers at buyer in general, because we have such a huge organization, you know, you're able to really, if you have the, the drive, or the motivation to do so, really kind of carve out a space for where you would like to contribute. And so while for a lot of people aren't history, space, and I T are sort of very disparate topics. For me, I've really made an intentional I've been very intentional about the choices that I make, and the the focus that I get to have so that I can have this diversity of experience while still helping to make people's lives better.

Yeah, that's, that's just fabulous. That's fabulous on so many levels. So, you know, let's back up for a second. So you talked about this some investment portfolio. So if we could just go through a couple of those chunks of the organization, you mentioned that there's 26 portfolio companies, and you know, that in our region, people, so many entrepreneurs, there's so many entrepreneurs are doing so many things. Is there a methodology? Is there a way that entrepreneurs can get to know more about what they're interested in? Or maybe the opportunities there? Or is definitely one way street?

Um, no, no, definitely. So, um, there's, there's a whole slew of of ways that that local entrepreneurs can learn about opportunities. The leaps program, the venture arm is looking at the many, many, many zeros investments in companies. You know, we're talking in, I think, in the realm between 20 and 100 million dollars per investment. And you can find out all you need to know about them leap, stop, bear calm, shameless plug. So I definitely encourage you definitely encourage you to go there and check it out. For more, I hate to say smaller, but for sort of more smaller partnerships are kind of projects or one offs where entrepreneurs might be just looking for access to buyer data, of which we have, you know, petabytes, multiple petabytes. We have a range of what we call g for programs. So some of you may have met me under a previous role when I worked for a team called GE for a digital health that's focused specifically on pharma and pharmaceutical digital therapeutics and advancements in that in that divisional timeframe I mentioned so the 912 to 24 month timeframe. They just finished their annual call for applications for startups. But there are other g4 programs. And I can share the link, Adrienne Brian with you after this, you can share it out to the community, where we have a portal where entrepreneurs can go and basically look through all of the different g4 programs, and see what kind of challenges are out there, out there that they may or may have some sort of relevancy to the product solution or experience that they're in the process of building their company around.

Okay, so then, so then you also talk about this prospecting piece, right? In terms of prospecting, and that's part of your your world, right, in terms of things that are horizon free, as you mentioned. So what is that? How does that fold into the strategies of buyer and your

seller, so

no matter how far afield any of our current sort of horizon technologies are emerging technologies, we're looking at any digital or any innovation team within buyer, it always ensures that we have very close ties to the strategy, strategic objectives of whatever the division is, on whose behalf or prospecting or function. So, you know, I spend my time my colleagues and my peers in not just technology prospecting, but in sort of the digital transformation, and the more divisionally, specifically, divisionally focused, innovation teams are basically doing things like this, you know, out there and making sure that people know that we're more than just aspirin, we're more than just a pharma company. But that we're looking at looking for, you know, ai companies were looking for new ways to approach existing and new problems. And so a lot of our time is spent going to virtual conferences now that we're in COVID. I mentioned before I traveled a lot. So a lot of my prospecting was kind of boots on the ground, at conferences or doing city visits, I call them safaris, digital safaris. And so, but it's a it's a lot of in person networking. And I'm always willing to, to speak with an entrepreneur about their idea, and help them see if there's a fit. And also, you know, we also from a more kind of technical process oriented perspective, we also have, you know, strategic partnerships and relationships with people, like plug and play, for example, or CB insights that have, you know, huge databases of startups that, that help us kind of at least set the foundation for understanding what the landscape is in any in any given therapeutic area, or category or, or specific emerging technology.

So what let's just reel back for one second, what's the presence in Pittsburgh? And is there any kind of you mentioned a little bit of a reorg? What do you know how many people are here? And

for technology, prospecting, it's me, um, I, the radiology group has some, some innovative, some innovation folks out of the Indian office that are doing similar things. There's a colleague of mine, who siddartha, who is responsible specifically for kind of the gray area in between where the divisions leave often where we pick up and so he's specifically responsible for for kind of that existing and emerging technology for radiology. Right.

So we have them on the phone.

Awesome. Yeah. So so so locally, there were a mighty few but globally there's there's a great there's a great deal of us I would say in the hundreds

so if you're you know it's very interesting there's someone here that said Yay, food is medicine, her mom was a food as medicine chef with that. So what what is that? Can you dig a little bit deeper in terms of some examples that you see in terms of some food trends?

Absolutely. So I inferred one I think in in in when I when I brought it up so when you think about the concept of of good in good out bad and bad out, right? What what are ways that we can look at food as a way to help with the overall health and wellness of us as individuals now for the fitness fanatics. This is not going to be new, but but using it as a as a medical sort of treatment for lack of a better word. I'll use the oncology example. So when going through anything Actually IBS or gastrointestinal might be even a better a better example. So, if you have, you know, IBD, or you have some other sort of digestive issue, rather than, quote, just taking a shot, for example, you could also possibly be prescribed a specific food regimen. And the reason why I use the word prescribed very intentionally is because right now a lot of people that suffer from from that and like, and similar conditions, basically just work with a nutritionist or they figure out you know, themselves how to make it work. But is there a world where when you are diagnosed with something that there are some people that don't need to take the shot? Because they're they are given a literal prescription for the food that they have to eat every day? And so how can how could we as a as a large organization, work with providers work with healthcare professionals and work with the patient's themselves to create this network where not only are people getting the support that they need, but they're also getting the food and the nutrition that they need? Through the same mechanism by which they would get medication, and then increasing, you would argue their quality of life because that food is being covered in some way, shape or form by their insurance, for example,

oh, that would be exciting, right? That's sort of an exciting transformation. And, you know, for those of us who are neurotic about our food, that doesn't surprise us. But needless to say, curative is quite fascinating. So during these last six plus months of COVID, and you're you know, you're still working, you're still involved in in scouting and innovation and working on things. Are you seeing any trends? Are you seeing any new trends in terms of innovation? Are there any new patterns, even anecdotally?

Um, I think the thing that's been most interesting to me is a transition from sort of single solution solutions to be redundant. to a more holistic look at how how you're treating a patient, how you're engaging the consumer, and taking, taking a step back and looking at what sort of that continuum? What's that narrative of that individual's experience? And how can we create a similar narrative or a single, similar lifeline of multiple products, multiple experiences multiple solutions for that individual to really help them through the different things that they're experiencing throughout their life. A great example of that the buyer is doing work on right now is in women's health, where we're looking at everything from, you know, pre pre menstrual pre teen all the way through to postmenopausal and everything in between, and how can we create a more holistic experience for the female consumer? So that, you know, we can be predictive and preventative in some things that also help them cope with sort of these milestones that come along with being female? So I'd say that's probably been the biggest, the biggest change in the past year or two is away from these single solutions to a more holistic approach of how can we personalize the journey for people, but be how can we take a look at their entire life and figure out how to create a lifelong solution or experience for those individuals as opposed to just you know, helping them with one individual challenge that they might be facing?

It's sort of like the age of integration. Yeah, that's a good way to put it. Yeah. Yeah, we went from democratization in silos to now the age of innovation. So what is it? Like you mentioned something about intrapreneurial. Right, in terms of activities that are going on inside? How, how has that worked with this time of people working remotely? how effective is there any lessons from that? Um,

actually, so So I would say interestingly, it hasn't changed a great deal. I'm obviously not being able to do kind of the the post it note brainstorming has changed. But there are platforms that exist that that help with that now, that have made that transition pretty seamless. intrapreneurship at buyer happens through a couple different channels. We actually have some pretty mature programs that basically provide channels for buyer employees to submit ideas, to submit challenges that they're having. Whether it's in process improvement, whether it's in product supply, whether it's a recently, you know, a lab issue lab automation or or a research challenge that they're looking to have technology help them solve. So we have, you know, portals and places where people can enter all this information. And then we have a community of, I want to say 400, innovation coaches, mentors, and scouts, who, while it's not their full time job, they're kind of a volunteer army of innovation enthusiasts, that that go throughout the company, and help people do everything from from brainstorming using different innovation methodologies, like systematic inventive thinking, Human Centered Design, you know, the sprint methodology that became so so well known from Google. And so we have teams of people. And then we have programs actually that fund that fund these initiatives if they if they meet certain criteria. So it's a pretty mature program or series of programs that buyer has set up over the past kind of five or 6567 years. And because we're a global organization, and a lot of these challenges are global in and of themselves, the teams that solve them have always been global. And so we have been working remotely as virtual teams on these challenges since the very beginning. So for us having to make a pivot to have yet another zoom meeting, um, and having that be something new for us isn't in that sense, I think we're where COVID and the pandemic has impacted by or mostly, is in the sort of the collegial interactions you get with going to visit the mothership, for example, and sort of the in the importance of in person interactions that you get with colleagues. And then in my case, with the external ecosystem, and there are some things unfortunately, that even the most perfectly curated zoom or video conference call, you know, can't really sell supplements. I would say that's, that's the biggest takeaway.

So I think we have one question here, Jonathan, from Greg Shaw bright can actually see it. He says that fifth season is also doing great work on automated vertical farming and Braddock and East liberty, so he's kind of adding that to the conversation. Oh, cool. Thanks. Okay. That's great. So a last thing, how do you do work with other companies outside? So you talked about intra scouting, entrepreneurial? Do you also work in your role with other companies in terms of their innovations and, and potential partnerships or benchmarking?

Absolutely. I'm local to Pittsburgh, working with space commerce matters. On a an ISS experiment, working with Astrobotic as well, we have a, an NDA in place with them to work on some exciting opportunities.

nationally, and internationally.

We're working with Johns Hopkins, we're also working with Kaiser Permanente network, I've had conversations with UPMC. Um, so yeah, you know, of all of the all of the projects, our our team specifically is responsible for basically what we call pre tau types. Um, so we basically have these emerging technologies, and we don't do any of the technology ourselves, all of it is external partners. And so we find these startups that have these opportunities, or have these technologies that we want to leverage, do our, our proof point, so to speak, and then once that's successful, we then hand it over to the division to then do their prototype, more at scale with more data, more access, etc. And then once successful, they can then commercially, you know, they can then scale for their, for their product or what have you. But yeah, I could not do my job if it were not for the very many partnerships that we have, exclusively externally.

Well, listen, I I'm going to offer you an offer. First of all, thank you for spending the time with us. I know you are just absolutely slammed doing amazing. My pleasure changes. Is there anything that you're anything else that you think that is really important that our listeners need to know or should know. I mean, obviously, you know, you're working almost across everything. There isn't anything that I don't think you're touching. So it feels like there's lots of opportunities for partnerships and to be constantly but is there anything else that you'd really like to tell our audience? If you think maybe I overlooked

I No, not really. I would just welcome anyone if they have any additional comfort, you know, Additional questions or would like to have a conversation? One of the things that I have found most beneficial is general conversations. And one of the things I love about my job, or conversations with people that are just informational get to know each other, you know, what do you do? What do I have an example of that happening two years ago, and it turned into a really successful project about six months ago. And so, just wanted to give the takeaway that if people if you have an interest in learning more, even more about what buyers doing from an innovation perspective, or if you feel, you know, we absolutely need to know what you're working on, whether it's something now or a couple years from now. You know, having those connections and having that knowledge, especially of what's happening in the region is really, really important to me. So please reach out.

Listen, I You are a trailblazer, you're a trailblazer in terms of how you've navigated your career, and on your own terms and in your own way, and your Trailblazer inside a buyer as well. So I can't thank you enough for taking the time with us and just being just sharing just a little window into how you spend your time. Really appreciate that. And if you want to reach out to Priscilla, you can find her on LinkedIn, we put a couple of links out there so you can find out more about buyer including their leaps program. So thank you so much tomorrow, it's Friday can't believe it. And we actually have Augie carlino he is doing amazing work at the helm of rivers of steel. And you really need to join us put your seat belts on for that one because they're really doing some incredible things in a time of COVID looking at our waterways, looking at different ways for people to get engaged, pay attention to our heritage and look forward. So Priscilla, stay safe. great seeing you. Thank you. Thank you for joining. Thanks, Jonathan, for being here. And we will see you tomorrow.

Thanks everyone. Bye

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