During his appearance at the China Development Forum on March 18, Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky expressed marked optimism about both the future of healthcare in China and his own company’s role in it.
In the roughly 35 years since Johnson & Johnson entered the Chinese market, the company has massively expanded its regional business. As Gorsky pointed out during a panel discussion at the forum, Johnson & Johnson now employees 10,000 people in China, and also launched its Asia Pacific Innovation Center in 2014, which is located in Shanghai with satellite centers in Singapore, Australia and Japan. In addition, Gorsky alluded to future plans to invest almost $500 million in China to support innovation and research.
The panel discussion, held at the forum’s economic summit on March 18, focused primarily on the topics of innovation and industry in China. Throughout the discussion, and in an interview the next day with People's Daily Online (people.cn), Gorsky maintained that China is an essential component of Johnson & Johnson’s strategy for future innovative development.
"It starts with its 1.3 billion people. It’s one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. It’s a seminal hub for things like connectivity, mobility, the use of cell phones, internet connectivity, and so it’s just really incumbent upon a company like Johnson and Johnson, a global leader in healthcare, to be here participating in what’s going on," said Alex Gorsky.
Asked to rate the performance of the Shanghai innovation center, the CEO praised its special energy. Pointing out that the performance of any healthcare enterprise must be evaluated by how much it helps people to live longer, healthier lives, Gorsky remarked that he was “very impressed and encouraged” by the work being done by researchers in China.
“In fact, I think there is a pent-up ambition to want to move faster,” he said of the Chinese team. “There’s a sense of urgency, there’s a willingness to be even more agile than…in other perhaps more historical or developed markets.” Gorsky also pointed out that 75 percent of Johnson & Johnson employees in China are millenials, as opposed to the 35 percent in other markets. “China in many ways helps to set the pace,” he mused.
Along these same lines, Gorsky credits China with a willingness to embrace new technologies and an open mind when it comes to healthcare.
“I think emerging markets have a significant opportunity,” he explained during the panel, noting that healthcare systems in developing countries are less entrenched than they often are in developed countries. “So rather than…having anger because this is the way it’s been done for the last so many years, I think [these emerging markets] can actually be more enabled by some of the technology improvements that we’re talking about right now.”
So how to develop these technology improvements? During the interview, Gorsky described Johnson & Johnson’s method as “search and development” rather than the more typical research and development. He said that the company sources about half its innovation from outside by “making sure that we’re identifying, partnering, creating relationships with the very best new ideas, being agnostic about the actual source but ultimately focusing on the best solution.”
Despite uncertainty about what the future will bring, Gorsky, along with the other forum panelists, felt confident that the future of industry lies in technology.
“I think the fact that all of us are so impacted by technology is representative of the opportunity and potential it presents,” he reflected.