BHH Summit Sponsor’s Interview: Bayer

Anabel León is the IT Business Partner for Consumer Health and Pharma businesses at Bayer Spain

Good morning! Firstly, I’d like to thank you for your contribution as a Sponsor to our event, the Barcelona Health Hub Summit and in such context I will continue by asking you a few questions:

Could you explain what Bayer is focusing on? What is your role within Bayer?

Bayer is a company where innovation matters, but not only in our products, also in how we work, how we do: we innovate in what we do. That means empowering entrepreneurship among employees, connecting to the brightest minds, pushing boundaries of science and technology and, of course, with collaboration as a pillar. We have good examples: talking about entrepreneurship, here at Spain, we have developed global innovation programs, like Catalyst Box, to face local business challenges, putting Spanish Bayer employees working as startup, using Lean Startup methodology, to explore a business idea… and with good results: 7 real projects with trend technologies (RV, VR, …) are going to life. In the case of connecting outside (Open Innovation concept), we have 6 LifeHubs around the world, which offers the perfect base to springboard solutions at the intersection of health and nutrition. And, of course, our well-known G4A program, which aim is to connect to startups in the field of Digital Health to improve world Health. Our country, specifically Barcelona, have developed the program, offering mentoring to some startups. Regarding pushing boundaries, our flagship initiative is Leaps by Bayer, which is targeting the breakthroughs that could fundamentally change the world for the better, investing in joint ventures to explore disruptive technology beyond our core.

As IT Business Partner for Consumer Health and Pharma businesses at Spain, my main goal is identifying opportunities for technology that matches with business strategy. In my
second role as Digital Enabler, I am leading the Digital Transformation Accelerator in Iberia, with several goals like strengthen Digital Ecosystems and Partnerships, or fostering intrapreneurship between our more than 2.500 employees at Iberia.

This is how we are realizing our vision to create leading solutions in health and nutrition!

How is Bayer focusing on innovation to go ‘Beyond the Pill’?

If we talk about “Beyond the Pill” concept, I think we have to talk about our G4A (formerly known as Grants4Apps) program, which works with extraordinary people to develop new health solutions in the Digital world. It’s a team, from countries and global, of intra and entrepreneurs, enabling positive disruption in the Digital Health and care industry. We do this through new business opportunities and partnerships, focused in co-creating in different areas: cardiovascular, Digital Therapeutics, Global Health, Oncology, Ophtalmology, Pulmonology, Radiology, Dermatology, Neurotechnology, Voice-tech and Women Health.
But connecting with startups brought as other benefits. Talking about the local experience, when we developed G4A program with 5 selected startups: we offered mentoring and coaching, as well as contacts with investors, but we learned from them how they work: agility, flexibility, … we opened to new ideas, with the aim of integrate this learnings in our businesses, in our daily work, to assure we are ready to face current world challenges.

You have previously written about your work promoting STEAM careers to the younger generations and your concern about the decline in the demand of STEAM University Degrees. In Barcelona Health Hub, we have a variety of universities as partners and can facilitate for our members to hire a student as an intern. What do you think the sector could do to become more attractive to the younger generations as a potential career path?

As a sector which core is in science, we have the duty of promoting STEAM careers between new generations. Bayer is taken this responsibility very seriously and that’s why in Spain we participate in forums like “El País Con Tu Futuro”, an event organized by “El País” newspaper and which tries to guide young people in which career follow after finalizing High School. Another example is, as a reason for the 120 years of Bayer’s presence in Spain, the initiative “Cuestión de Ciencia: ¿te atreves a desafiar el futuro?”, developed together with “Big Van Ciencia“ and “Parc Científic de Barcelona”: with the goal of awakening scientific vocations among youngest generations, we challenge High School studients to answer some of the global major challenges in terms of Health and Nutrition. We also promote women referents between the young girls. The lack of girls in STEAM careers suppose a great lost of talent: they only represent 14% of the students in STEAM, but 54% of university students is female, but only the 26% are studying scientific or tech careers (data from Spanish Education Ministry). I am proud of working for a Company that takes seriously this, making visible in Bayer Hispania the job of our scientists and technologists in the International Day of Women and Girls in the Science (February the 11th), which I have participated several times: our young girls need these referents to be motivated and selecting this way, helping them to break stereotypes coming from culture and society.

If you are interested in “Cuestión de Ciencia”, take a look to https://www.bayer.es/medios/noticias/corporativo/2019_05_23_120aniversario_presenta_cuestion_ciencia.php

As a woman, how do you feel about working in the sector?

I feel lucky to work in a company that in Spain has reached the gender parity in the management team (40% is composed by women), plus the gender distribution is 54% men vs 46% women. I have to say this is not a traditionally masculine sector, although there’s still work to do. Anyway, it’s true there are different situations depending on the sector, it’s a topic of society: there’s still much more to do a real and effective gender equality in all areas but it means we need to join effort and show a clear responsibility from the different areas impacting in this fact. Meanwhile I hope that raising awareness and making visible women in science helps young girls to have inspiring models.

You have recently won a certification as Innovation Champion from the Academy for Corporate Entrepreneurship, how do you attempt to keep up with the innovation taking place in the sector? How do you recommend for people to keep up-to-date with innovation happening in the sector?

I have to say it’s not so difficult working in a Company where innovation is in his core. Anyway, it’s all about practicing innovation skills, which only 1/3 is coming genetically and, the rest, by learning:

– Associating, as the ability of connecting unrelated questions.
– Questioning everything.
– Observing, gaining insights to do things in a different way.
– Experimenting, embracing the failure.
– Networking, but in the sense of meeting different ideas and perspectives.

And, of course, with openness, exploring innovation ecosystems, connecting with startups, …
That’s why in Bayer Hispania we participate and sponsor events like the BHH Summit, or create programs like G4A, or develop locally intrapreneurship programs like Catalyst Box.

Keep up-to-date in innovation is like “El Dorado” nowadays… just joking. Seriously, is all about practicing the innovation skills I mentioned. But, how? For me, the most important factor is the openness and participating in external initiatives, to extend my knowledge domains and, I have to say, not only in our sector: I am convinced most of the disruptions will come from others.

Bayer has its G4A Funding Programme for startups, is there some specific characteristics that Bayer looks in startups it collaborates with?

We look for startups that help us to face World Health Challenges, more concretely in the areas I mentioned before. Our aspiration is to help people improve their life situation, working with people passionate about that. Talking in a more practical way, we focus in different stages of solutions: Growth and Advance. In the first case, Growth track, it will be reserved for early stage startups with a minimal viable product with on going validation or published findings. In the case of Advance track, we look for companies which are more mature who have already products in the market. G4A Partnerships are a great opportunity to get your solution in front of Bayer executives and decision makers, and all the applications will be reviewed by key stakeholders who have global visibility and responsibility. Don’t miss to take a look to the website: https://www.g4a.health

What does Bayer offer to the startups it collaborates with? What are the advantages of collaborating with Bayer as opposed to another firm? Perhaps a competitor?

With these kind of programs Bayer aims to offer mentoring and coaching, financial support, office space, networking and partnerships. At the end, Bayer is considering different possible business models and collaboration relationships. The decision will be made on a one-to-one basis for each finalist companies.

Bayer was one of the 1st Life Sciences companies in creating an incubator, in Berlin in 2013, originally with the aim of funding healthcare mobile apps. So, we have a lot of experience and now we are more than 35 countries, and collaborate with startups and healthcare technology companies that are developing innovative solutions in health and care. But we have also expanded into Venture Design to drive new products and revenue streams using Behavioral Design. Fusing the best of both worlds, Bayer creates the partnerships of the future, leveraging our 150+ years of experience within the life sciences industry and the innovative force of the startup world. And, least but not last, the G4A team of intra and entrepreneurs works passionately for and with individuals to change the Experience of Health! I don’t think you can find better partners!

What are you looking for regarding the BHHSummit?

Bayer is always willing to connect with innovation ecosystems and being part of the BHH Summit is an example. In our meeting space, we will show to anyone what Bayer is looking for and what his innovation process is. On the other hand, we will meet with startups in order to find ways of collaboration, in the framework of our challenges. We have great expectations on the event, due to the extraordinary companies that will take part in and we are sure there will be great outcomes!

Thank you so much for your time.


Anabel León, IT Business Partner for Consumer Health & Pharma businesses at Bayer Spain