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Innovation and failure - it’s a healthy relationship

Posted by
Luke Healy, Neuroinflammation Research

The Oxford English dictionary defines ‘innovation’ as “the introduction of new things, ideas or ways of doing something.” Many industries strive to be innovative – to develop a new product which will steal the market. But perhaps nowhere is innovation as important as it is in the healthcare and medicine, where a new ‘thing’ could quite literally be the difference between life and death.

At UCB we are on a mission to pursue continuous innovation. It’s a bold mission, but an incredibly exciting one. To us, innovation comes from leveraging new technologies and new platforms, from a greater understanding of human biology and the diseases we treat and from being at the centre of a super network of collaborators, spanning industry, healthcare & academia.

But, perhaps counterintuitively, it can also come from failure. James Joyce, the Irish poet and novelist, famously wrote that “mistakes are our portals of discovery.” Whilst failure can be uncomfortable, it’s an essential part of scientific research and discovery. 

We observe, measure, hypothesize and then test. We’re working with incredibly complex biological systems, so our tests don’t always yield the results we hoped for, and our hypotheses are often wrong. However, we can always learn from why we didn’t get the results we wanted. We take these learnings, and we observe, measure, hypothesize and test again.

I’m proud to work for a company where ‘testing again’ is celebrated, where failure doesn’t reflect badly on the individuals involved. It is only in an environment like this where true innovation can flourish.

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