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Entrepreneur speech: Dietmar Siemssen, Gerresheimer AG

“It’s always important to disrupt.”


Dietmar Siemssen, CEO of Gerresheimer AG, rounded off proceedings in the final talk of the day. He began by reporting on a recent investment in the USA with a volume of EUR 90 million that received a grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services totalling USD 70 million. You could say that this is one way to promote innovation. But what does innovation mean to Gerresheimer? How does a pharmaceutical packaging specialist that has hardly grown for decades become a high-growth company with innovative products?

As an example, the company’s drug discovery unit is developing new methods for getting medication into patients. While the best-known method is traditionally an injection, things have since moved on. Sensors can now be used to retrace whether and when a patient has taken their medication, whether they have taken it the right way and at the correct dose, and whether the active ingredient has been taken up by their body at all. This even makes it possible to predict, for example, that a patient with Parkinson’s will have what is known as a “freeze” – a temporary bout of muscle rigidity – in the next 48 hours, opening up entirely new treatment options.

In addition to digitalisation, which enables these kinds of “smart” devices and processes, there are numerous other megatrends within the pharmaceutical sector that can be used as a basis for developing innovative new lines of business. These include access to healthcare in emerging economies, the growing importance of biotechnology, vaccines as a growth market, self-medication, personalised medicine, cosmetic healthcare, the ageing population and thus the prevalence of chronic illnesses, rising healthcare costs, stricter regulation, and sustainability.

Rising cost pressures are also providing inspiration. Siemssen expects the pharmaceutical industry to develop much like the automotive sector has been doing for years, with major providers increasingly surrounding themselves with systems providers such as Bosch and ZF in the automotive industry.

During the morning podium discussion, the participants discussed how far, if at all, it is possible for listed companies to bring new products and business models to the market at the expense of established products. According to Siemssen: “My investors, the owners, want to see cash flow. But new investments only start to deliver cash flows after a couple of years. Nevertheless, there is no turning back. It’s always important to disrupt... and ideally to disrupt yourself.